This is a glossary of some Cambridge words that you may see on the website or in other materials. For a more detailed list of Cambridge terminology, see the University Library's glossary.

Academic year

This extends from 1 October to 30 September. It is divided into three Terms, two vacations and the Research Period.


Undergraduate students are selected and admitted by the Colleges, through the agency of the Cambridge Admissions Office. Graduate students apply through the Graduate Admissions Office, which helps to arrange admission to a College.


A meeting of the Regent House for the formal conduct of certain items of University business, principally admission of degrees. Congregations take place in the Senate House regularly throughout the year.


Discussions are the forum where University members can comment publicly on University business. They take place on Tuesdays at 2pm and are usually held in the Senate House.


A term applied to a Vice-Chancellor, Professor, Reader or holder of certain other senior positions, who has retired after the age of 60. In Cambridge, the term is not conferred as an individual mark of distinction.

Esquire Bedells

Two officials whose duties are ceremonial. They have certain important responsibilities at congregations. The Senior Esquire Bedell has a general responsibility for the correct formulation and wearing of academical dress.


A senior member of a College, elected to a particular position of authority and responsibility in relation to the academic work and government of the College.

Full Term

The central portion of each Term during which teaching takes place. Members of the University are normally expected to be in residence during Full Term.

General Admission

Congregations held towards the end of June each year are termed ‘Days of General Admission to Degrees’. These are the occasions on which the majority of undergraduates who have completed their final year proceed in person to their first degrees. Degrees are also conferred at eight other congregations in the course of the year.

Long Vacation

The three Terms are separated by vacations during which undergraduate teaching is suspended. These vacations are Christmas, Easter and the Long Vacation. The Long Vacation is also known as the Research Period.

Master of Arts

In most UK universities, the Master of Arts is a degree awarded by examination. At Cambridge, the MA is conferred by right on holders of the BA degree of the University and on certain other senior members. It is not available as a postgraduate qualification.


New students of the University matriculate (or join the roll) when they enrol or register at their College. This involves signing a declaration that they will obey the University regulations. There has been no formal University ceremony since 1962.


The Council’s response to remarks made in a Discussion is given in a Notice published in the Reporter. A Notice normally ends with the submission of a Grace to the Regent House, incorporating any amendments made following the Discussion.


The University Statutes allow the University to make regulations for the proper conduct of its affairs. These regulations are known as Ordinances. They are made either by Regent House, the Senate or the General Board.


Most students and academic staff are required to be in residence during each period of Full Term. Staff and students must live within a prescribed radius of Great St Mary's Church unless specially exempted. Students may not generally proceed to their degrees unless their Colleges certify that they have 'kept terms' by being in residence.

Scarlet Day

Days on which Doctors of the University are required to wear in public their festal or scarlet gowns. The permanent list of such days is defined by Ordinance. The Vice-Chancellor may prescribe additional scarlet days. For example, these could be days of national rejoicing or celebration, or of special importance to the University.


The Senate elects the Chancellor and the High Steward. It consists of all those holding the degree of Master of Arts or any other higher degree. Membership confers senior status and certain privileges such as borrowing books from the University Library. Until 1926, the Senate was the governing body of the University.


The academic year is divided into three Terms. Michaelmas term is from October to early December. Lent term is from January to early March. Easter term is from April to mid-June.


A University examination, passing which qualifies a candidate partly or wholly for admission to an Honours Degree.