Master, Fellows, students and staff

The head of the College is the Master, elected by the Fellows who are senior academics within the College. The Master chairs meetings of the Fellowship and most key College committees.

The Senior Tutor has overall responsibility for the day-to-day management of academic and pastoral matters and the Senior Bursar for financial and residential matters.

The Fellows of the College, of whom there are over 50, are actively involved (with differing degrees of emphasis) in research, teaching and administration. Fellows of Downing are designated as senior members of the College, whilst graduates and undergraduates are known as junior members.

College governance

The governance of the College is in the hands of the Governing Body, of which all Fellows are voting members.

Junior member representatives attend the Governing Body meetings and most other College committee meetings for unreserved business. Junior members can ask for items of business of concern to them to be included on the agenda for meetings of the Governing Body and the General Purposes Committee, one of the key College committees.

Studying and degrees

All undergraduates, including those reading science subjects, study for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree as their first qualification. Those who have taken the BA degree become entitled to proceed, without further examination, to the degree of Master of Arts (MA) after a further ten Terms.

Postgraduate degrees and qualifications may require one, two or three years of residence depending upon the degree or other qualification sought. To qualify for a first degree, it is necessary to be matriculated (formally admitted by the University), to be in residence for nine Terms, to pass the prescribed University examinations and to owe no monies to the College.

All new students are required to matriculate and do so early in their first Term of residence. Matriculation is arranged by the College and involves signing a declaration that the candidate promises "to observe the Statutes and Ordinances of the University as far as they concern me, and to pay due respect and obedience to the Chancellor and other officers of the University."

An equivalent affirmation is made in relation to the College Statutes and information contained in these web pages.

Undergraduates usually sit a University examination at the end of each year. These examinations are of two kinds: Tripos examinations which count towards an Honours degree, and Preliminary Examinations which do not, but which give an indication of a student’s progress.

To complete the examination requirements for an Honours BA degree it is necessary to be classed in at least two Tripos examinations. In a number of subjects three Tripos examinations must be taken.

Natural Science and Engineering students following four-year undergraduate courses take four Tripos examinations (one at the end of each year). They will obtain the qualification for the BA degree after the first three years (although will not graduate until the end of their fourth year) and the qualification for the MSci or MEng degree at the end of their final year.

The results of Tripos examinations are not cumulative: each Part of the Tripos is classed independently.

The Bursarial Team

The Bursarial side of the College is concerned with finance, the management of the buildings and all non-educational administrative and staff matters.

Its principal officer is the Senior Bursar who is responsible to the Governing Body for the income and expenditure of the College and gives guidance as to the financial implications of any policy that the Governing Body may consider. The Bursarial team are also responsible for the management of the Accounting, Conference, Information Technology, Accommodation, Catering, Gardening, Housekeeping, Maintenance and Porters' departments.

The Senior Bursar can be reached through the College Office on D staircase. 

The Tutorial and Admissions Team

The Tutorial and Admissions Team is headed by the Senior Tutor who is responsible for the daily management of the tutorial and pastoral side of the College.

Together with the Tutors the office team are able to help and advise students regarding:

  • admissions
  • grants and bursaries
  • examinations
  • matriculation
  • graduation
  • pastoral care
  • careers.

Residence and absence from Cambridge

Undergraduates, in addition to passing the required examinations, must reside in Cambridge for a certain number of nights for each of nine Terms in order to qualify for the BA Degree.

Lectures are given during an eight-week period known as Full Term, though there is a longer period known as Term which extends roughly seven to ten days before and after Full Term. Residence may be kept at any time during Term and the University Regulations require undergraduates to keep three-quarters of it.

This requirement is normally satisfied by residence during the whole of Full Term. In order that the College can certify that Terms have been kept, a book must be signed at the Porters’ Lodge on coming into residence and on leaving Cambridge at the end of each Term.

Students must also sign in and sign out with their Tutor at the start and end of each Term. Students who have doubts as to whether a particular Term has been kept should obtain advice from their Tutor.

Certificates of Residence will be sent to every undergraduate each term and must be completed and returned to the Tutorial and Admissions Office by the due date. Usually the necessary nine Terms of residence are kept consecutively, though in exceptional circumstances permission may be given for an intermission of residence, as is normal for those studying Modern and Medieval Languages who spend one year of their course abroad.

Any junior member of the College who wishes to be away from Cambridge overnight during Term must sign out in the Porters’ Lodge in advance, giving information about how they can be contacted in an emergency.

Those who wish to stay away for two or more consecutive nights must see their Tutors in advance to obtain written permission in the form of an exeat. This exeat must be handed in to the Porters’ Lodge before departure.

More information about intermitting.

Academic dress

Every junior member of the College must have access to a Downing College gown. New undergraduates may purchase new gowns through the Tutorial and Admissions Office prior to arrival.

The Tutorial and Admissions Office also has a limited number of good ex-hire BA and MA gowns available for purchase by new graduate students at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term.

There are different gowns for undergraduates and for those who have taken the BA degree or who have been granted the status of BA or MA.

Gowns are worn within College at dinner in Formal Hall and at evensong and special services in the Chapel. Gowns are also worn when attending University ceremonies in the University Church or in the Senate-House and at other times at which the Vice-Chancellor may by public notice direct that academic dress be worn.

It is advisable to have some formal clothing (plain dark suit, dress, skirt and/or trousers with jacket) at College.