Oxford Pathways: Year 12 Study Days on 17, 18, 19 March
The Oxford Pathways Programme is now taking bookings for its Year 12 Study Days, which take place on 17, 18 and 19 March. Subjects on offer range from Biomedical Sciences to Earth Sciences, History to Economics and Management, and Classics to German. The Study Days are open to Year 12 students, at non-selective state schools or colleges in the UK, who have the potential to make a competitive application to Oxford University. See a sample timetable and book online. There is some accommodation available, free of charge, for those who are travelling furthest: make your request on the booking form. Applications close this Friday 30 January, so act swiftly!
Teesside University Psychology Sixth Form Conference
Teesside University is holding a Psychology Sixth Form Conference next Wednesday (4 February). Teesside staff and students will introduce you to diverse and topical aspects of psychology, including forensic psychology, counselling, educational psychology, and sports psychology. Year 12s and 13s (and mature students) can sign up online now, either as individuals or in school groups.
Year 12 Studying Music Taster Days
The Faculty of Music here in Cambridge is running Studying Music Taster Days for Year 12s on Monday 2 March and Friday 13 March. You will experience the teaching and facilities on offer at the Faculty, whilst meeting fellow Music students from across the UK. The day will include a sample lecture, a tour of a college, a practical session and a Q&A session with current undergraduates.
Whether or not you decide to study Music at Cambridge, there is a very active and diverse Music scene across the University and its colleges, with opportunities for every interest and standard!
VetCam 2015: introduction to Veterinary Science at Cambridge University
The Department of Veterinary Science is running a two-day residential course for year 12 students from Monday 30 - Tuesday 31 March in Cambridge. It is intended to provide an insight into both the preclinical and clinical courses and will include a mix of lectures, discussions, demonstrations and tours. Please see the Department website for more details and email
for details of how to book a place.
The course costs £160, but there are a limited number of bursaries available for students from backgrounds with little or no experience of higher education, which will cover both the cost of the course and transport to and from Cambridge. Please email
asap for more information, as the deadline for applying for bursaries is 30 January.
Year 12 Residential visits at Robinson and Trinity Hall Colleges
All students at Cambridge are both part of the University and part of one of the Colleges. You can read about this collegiate system on the university website, and each College also has its own website, like King's.
Would you like to find out more about living and studying in a Cambridge College? There are places available on Year 12 (or equivalent) residential visits at Robinson College and at Trinity Hall College. Visiting any College will give you a good sense of what being part of a collegiate university is like and what is most important to you when you later choose a College. It will also help you to develop your course interests and find out more about how you will be taught at Cambridge.
Classics & Ancient History Essay Competition
St John's College, Oxford is running an essay competition for UK students in Year 12 (or equivalent) who are interested in Classics & Ancient History.
The essay titles include:
- Is it possible to write ancient Greek or Roman history without cities at its centre?
- Who and /or what are missing from our archaeological record of the ancient world? Consider what types of objects survive and who they represent.
If you are interested in thinking about these kinds of questions or researching and writing an essay for the competition, do go to the St John's College Oxford website, where you will find a full list of titles and the submission details for the competition. The deadline for submissions is 4 pm on Thursday 26th February 2015.
Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools
Booking is open for the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools in Cambridge! These are very popular subject-specific residentials in July and August for students in Year 12 (or equivalent) at state-maintained schools in the UK. The programme includes lectures, seminars, discussion groups, practical work and social activities, as well as the opportunity to meet current staff and students and to live in a Cambridge College. The residentials are free of charge.
For full information and booking, please go to the Cambridge Admissions website.
The Sutton Trust Summer Schools provide a very useful insight into what it is like to study at Cambridge so do apply for a place if you are interested. Equally, please be aware that we receive far more applications than we have places available. It is important to read the detailed criteria for selection.
The application deadline is 9 March 2015. Good luck!
Year 12 Subject Masterclasses in Cambridge
Subject-specific sample lectures are available. Credit: Horia Varlan
Booking is open for some subject masterclasses organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office. These masterclasses take place on Saturdays in February and are for students in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school).
The subjects are:
- Genetics and Biochemistry
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
...and if the course you want to study is not in that list, don't worry because further masterclasses will be announced later this year.
For more detail, please read the information about Subject Masterclasses on the Cambridge Admissions website. If you would like to book a place, he link is available in the table on that page.
Going deeper into Mathematics
If you like (or dislike!) mathematics, what is it about the subject that makes you feel this way? What does studying mathematics at unviersity level involve, and how can you work out if you will enjoy it?
We advise students who are curious about maths (and subjects related to maths) to read the following explanation of rich mathematics:
If the kind of maths that makes you think and encourages you to go deeper inside the subject appeals to you, make sure you explore the NRICH Mathematics website:
- Stage 5 material is for students in the last two years of school (normally aged 16-18).
- Stage 4 material is for students in Year 10 and Year 11 (normally aged 14-16)
- If you have a particular interest, you may also find the curriculum content section helpful
- Or have a go at some of the live problems and see if you can get your solution published!
Year 12 Science / Medicine Essay Competition
- How has astronomy benefited society?
- Suppose you could create a new checmical element. What physical and chemical properties would you ascribe to it, and what uses could this element be put to?
- If you could take one item, which must fit in your pocket, back to the year 1800 with the goal of advancing science or medicine, what would it be and what would you do with it?
- Is it more important to save tropical forests or the world's oceans? Why?
- How far is it to the moon?
- "Free health care at the point of delivery trivialises the service." Discuss.
These are the questions that Peterhouse College is asking Year 12 students to think about for this year's Kelvin Science Prize. If you are interested in researching and writing one of these essays, please read the information carefully on the Peterhouse College website (see especially the Kelvin Science Prize pdf here, which contains full details of the questions and how to enter). The deadline is 20 March 2015.
History Virtual Classroom
What role can a historical novel play in the study of History?
Credit: Martha Garvey
If you enjoy studying History and want to know more about what it is like at university level, make sure that you have a look at the History Faculty's virtual classroom:
OpenCampus at the University of Hull
The University of Hull's OpenCampus programme offers an informal and friendly way for you to learn at your local university.
- Drop into the Culture Café, which this term is focusing on Literature and Creative Writing. On Saturday 6 December at 11am, Dr. Daniel Weston, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature, is discussing 'Poetry for the City? Philip Larkin and Others.' This is part of the North and South Project, a collaboration betwen the University of Hull and the University of Southampton to explore what unites and divides their respective port cities. Next term's programme for the Culture Café is already available here.
- Join a Tea-Time Talk, a series which launched this term around the theme of Society and Culture. On Tuesday 2 December at 6.15pm, Dr. Simon Green, Senior Lecturer in Community Justice and Criminology, explores 'Deviancy, destitution and moral degeneracy.' Why, he asks, do politicians and commentators increasingly explain crime and disorder with reference to moral character, instead of socio-economic conditions?
Places are limited, so booking is essential. To find out more and book a place, please contact the OpenCampus team directly.
Can science make a cyclist faster?
Prof Tony Purnell will be giving the next lecture in the Cambridge Physics Lecture Series for Year 12 and Year 13 students at 6pm on Tuesday 2 December.
Please see the details and directions.
The lecture will provide an overview of how science and engineering contribute to the raw speed of all Olympic cycling disciplines.
No need to book - just turn up!
Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside
University taster events show you what studying a subject in depth at university-level would be like. Credit: John Robinson
The Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside is an exciting collaboration between the universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to provide enrichment events through the year for students who have been identified as high achieving by their schools or colleges.
Look at the list of upcoming Subject Taster Events.
The events are open to students across the UK. You can apply to attend the events as an individual, or one of your teachers can apply for a group from your school to attend. Priority for places is given to students who meet one of the criteria below, then the remaining places are given to students who do not meet the criteria. Some events are for Year 12 students, others are for younger students.
- eligible to receive free school meals.
- no history of higher education (studying at university level) in your immediate family (including any siblings).
- living in local authority care.
Do keep an eye on this project. Further events will be advertised on the Excellence Hub website in due course.
Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition
Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:
- Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
- Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
- Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
- Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
- Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?
Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?
If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.
Year 12 STEP Correspondence Project
Cambridge (funded by the Department for Education) is offering a pilot correspondence course to Year 12 prospective mathematicians from UK state schools. This course is designed for students who would not normally receive much support for STEP Mathematics exams in Year 13.
In order to be eligible to take part, you must be:
- studying at a state-maintained school or academy in the UK
- taking, or about to take, Further Mathematics at A-level (or equivalent).
Please see the STEP Correspondence Project webpage for full details and the application forms.
The deadline for applications is Monday 1st December 2014
Both the student application form and the teacher support statement must be submitted by this date.
Cambridge Sculpture Trails
Double Helix sculpture in Clare College. Credit: Nige Brown
Did you know that Cambridge has lots of 20th and 21st century sculptures in and around the city? You will find both pieces by major international figures and work by up-and-coming sculptors.
Come and explore for yourself! There are three Sculpture trails that you can use, and if you follow the links and information on the website, you can find out more about the sculptors and their work.
Cambridge Year 12 Law Conference
Lectures take place in the Faculty of Law.
Credit: Chris Huang
The annual Year 12 Cambridge Law Conference will take place from 16-19 March 2015.
Students on the conference have accommodation in one of the Cambridge Colleges. The mornings will be lectures with Cambridge University lecturers and speakers from the legal profession, then in the afternoons there are workshops run by City Law Firms and Barristers Chambers, helping you to develop relevant skills such as debating, advocay and negotiation. You will also be taken on a tour of Cambridge, attend a session on applying for Law at Cambridge, and have chance to visit some of the Colleges. The first evening is a social event, and later during the week there is a debate in the Cambridge Union between high-profile barristers and a mock trial.
There is a charge for this conference: it costs £150, which includes all meals, accommodation, lectures , workshops and tours. If you need advice on funding for this, there is an email address to write to so do look into it on the applications page.
Interested? Please read the full details and fill in the application form on the Cambridge Law Conference website (do read the Student Reviews in particular!).
Hot air balloon problem
A hot air balloon of mass 350 kg is carrying 5 people each of mass 70kg. The total volume of the baloon is 2800m3.
The balloon flies horizontally in dry air 1km above sea level. The atmopheric pressure at this altitude is 89.9kPa and the surrounding temperature is 9ºC. Given that the molar mass of dry air is 28.97g/mol, work out the temperature of the heated air inside the balloon. (You can take gas constant R=8.31J/mol K and you may assume that air behaves as an ideal gas).
General and problem-specific hints are available.
This is one of the problems on I-want-to-study-engineering.org, a resource from Cambridge University Engineering Department with more than 200 problems to help you to practice problem solving skills relevant to Engineering. The website also provides general advice such as how to get onto a good Engineering course (whether at Cambridge or elsewhere).
Physics. You work it out.
The Rutherford Physics Partnership runs an online platform for prospective Physicists, Engineers, and Mathematicians called Isaac Physics. It will help you to bridge the gap between your A Level and undergraduate studies by working through problems online.
Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.
Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?
- History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
- Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
- Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
- Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
- Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
- Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.
Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.
If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.
The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics
Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard
At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.
The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).
Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:
- A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
- B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
- C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
- D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
- E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]
The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives. If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.
For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.
Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.
Cambridge Physics Lectures
The Cambridge Physics department runs a series of lectures through the year for Year 12 and Year 13 students. These are free to attend and you can just turn up (no need to book).
The first lecture this year is on Tues 14 October 2014, when Dr Colin Wright will speak on the Physics of Juggling. For further information about this and future lectures, please see the details on the department website:
If you live within range of a University, why not go on their website to see if there are any public lectures or lectures for sixth formers that might be interesting?
If you're aged 14-18 and you enjoy Chemistry, why not join the Royal Society of Chemistry's Chemnet? It offers free support and advice for all Chemistry students including:
The link to join Chemnet is here.
Freshers' reading groups
There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.
Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:
Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?
If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?
Literature & Languages at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events with relevance to language and literature subjects include:
Year 12 Shadowing Scheme 2015
Find out for yourself what living and studying at Cambridge is really like
If you are in Year 12 at a UK school and nobody from your family has studied at university / not many from your school have got places at Oxford and Cambridge, you might like to find out more by applying for a place on the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
If you get a place, you would be invited to spend a few days in Cambridge, living in one of the Colleges and "shadowing" a current student studying the subject that you are interested in, that is, going to lectures, supervisions, social activities etc with them. It's a really good way to get a taste of what studying here is really like so do read the details if you think that you might be eligible to apply.
Social Sciences at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events in the social sciences include:
Posted: 13 September 2014
Law in Action
If you are interested in studying Law at university, it can be helpful to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland).
Even the very highest and grandest courts, such as the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and the Supreme Court (Parliament Square), are open to the public.
Law Virtual Classroom
If you want to study Law at university and have not studied the subject formally before, you might enjoy Pembroke College's virtual classroom.
Through exercises in the Understanding Law and Legal Skills sections, this resource aims to give you a better understanding of the nature and function of law, as well as some of the debates that surround the law. It will also help you to develop some of the skills involved in studying and practising law.
How Chemistry Changed the First World War (Cambridge, 11 September)
If you are interested in History and/or Chemistry and live close to Cambridge, you might be interested to attend Michael Freemantle's public lecture on how “The Great War” was a Chemists’ War.
The lecture will discuss how Chemistry underpinned military strategy and determined the shape, duration and outcome of the First World War. Chemistry was not only a destructive instrument of war but also protected troops, and healed the sick and wounded. From bullets to bombs, poison gases to anaesthetics, khaki to cordite, Chemistry played a pivotal role in the trenches, in the casualty clearing stations and military hospitals, in the tunnelling operations in the air, and at sea.
Michael Freemantle is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is the author of Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! How Chemistry Changed the First World War (History Press, 2014).
- 7pm on 11 September 2014
- Pfizer Lecture Theatre, Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, Cambridge (map)
- Please see this website for further details.
If you live too far away to visit Cambridge
Different people need different facilities. This is one of the treadmills in the King's Vaults gym.
It is not unusual to make a successful application without ever having set foot in Cambridge. Don't worry if it is not practical for you to visit as there is no requirement to do so.
Since we welcome applicants who live a long way from Cambridge, we do our best to ensure that all the infomation that you need to make a strong application is on our website (see the relevant subject page and how to apply in particular), as well as virtual tours and the life and facilities sections so that you can get a sense of King's as a place:
We also have a dedicated page for if you don't feel very well supported for your application, and the student perspectives are particularly useful.
AS / A2 Level Travel Writing Competition (for students in the South of England)
Sign outside a restaurant in Lugano, Italian-speaking Switzerland. Credit: Eric Andresen
Routes into Languages (South Consortium) are running a travel writing competition for students currently taking AS or A2 Levels in the South of England.
Based on your travel experiences, write a feature article of no more than 500 words in your chosen target language (French, German, Spanish, or Italian). You could win a £50 Amazon voucher for your efforts! The closing date for the competition is 1 September and the winners will announced on the European Day of Languages (26 September).
For more information, please see the competition website.
Languages Summer School at Sidney Sussex College - places available!
Sidney Sussex College is running a residential summer school for Language-based subjects on 18-20 August this year. If you are in Year 12 and considering an application to study languages at Cambridge, please do apply for this opportunity!
This course is suitable for students interested in studying:
Through sample lectures, classes and small group tuition you will have the opportunity to see what it is like studying languages at university level, find out more about languages and cultures themselves, and mix with other students from all over the country who share your interests. You will also experience the College environment, which will be helpful whichever Cambridge College you eventually apply to.
There is no charge for the summer school. If you are eligible for free school meals, Sidney Sussex may be able to help with travel costs.
If you are interested in attending the summer school, please email Carly Walsh at Sidney Sussex College for further details.
One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477
We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.
We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!
The Rise, Rise, and Rise of Chemical Engineering
Everyday Plastics. Art Exhibition in Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Credit: Geof Wilson
The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 100,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) simply to sustain its existing industries. So Geoff Maitland, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), is right to celebrate the rise in the numbers of applications for Engineering in general, and Chemical Engineering in particular.
Are you thinking of studying Engineering at university? Why not Chemical Engineering? IChemE explains:
Chemical engineering is all about changing raw materials into useful products you use everyday in a safe and cost effective way. For example petrol, plastics and synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, all come from oil. Chemical engineers understand how to alter the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance, to create everything from face creams to fuels.
Girl Summit 2014
The Girl Summit 2014 was held in London yesterday, focusing on domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
World Health Organisation factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change
Girl Summit 2014:
How should an anthropologist study female genital mutilation?
- Edward J. Hedican, 'Genital Mutilation: The Relativist Dilema' in Edward J. Hedican, Social Anthropology: Canadian Perspectives on Culture and Society (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2012), pp. 18-20.
- New World Encyclopedia contributors, 'Ethnography', in New World Encyclopedia (3 April 2008)
- Ellen Gruenbaum, The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)
- Joy Hendry and Simon Underdown, Anthropology: A Beginner's Guide (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2012)
Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition (Year 12)
If you have just finished Year 12 and are looking for some Philosophy questions to get your teeth into during the summer, you may be interested in the 2014 Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition which is being held by St Peter's College, Oxford.
You are asked to choose one of the following two questions:
- Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
- Could you be a bad person and yet do the right thing all the time?
The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2014, there's a word limit of 2000 words, and you will notice that the judges are looking for clarity of thought and expression and cogency in your arguments in particular. Do read the full details on the St Peter's College website before you start your research!
The Euro and Its Impact
What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?
This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.
If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.
Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)
What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide
If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.
Here are just a few of them:
- What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
- Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
- What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
- What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
- How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
- Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
- ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
- To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
- Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?
If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.
Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?
For Bourdieu, cultural consumption is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking
How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:
Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.
Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:
Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.
If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?
Engineering - how to prepare for an application
A bulk superconductor over a magnet
King's Electrical Engineer, Mark Ainslie, is looking at how superconductors can make electric motors work better, and is part of a team that has just broken the world record for the strongest trapped magnetic field in a bulk high-temperature superconductor:
Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.
Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange
In his 1917 essay, 'Art as Technique', Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky argues that often we don't notice things because they are familiar to us. However, art (a term that Shklovsky uses in a broad sense to include literary writing) can present things in a strange or unfamiliar way, which makes us look at them for longer:
Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." [Shklovsky is quoting Tolstoy's diary] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object.
You might like to read the full text of 'Art as Technique', which was published in English translation in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. by L,T. Lemon and M, J. Reis, pages 3 - 24.
What do you think of Shklovsky's description of the purpose of literary writing? Does his argument apply to all literary texts? Are there genres where you would expect to find this technique more frequently? Can you think of any examples in texts you have read / are reading where something is presented in a strange way that makes you notice it? And can you think of any limitations to Shklovsky's argument?
Medicine essay competition (Year 12)
'I have three supervisions every two weeks, requiring me to write an essay for each.' Shedeh (Medicine).
Photo credit: rhodesj
Are you interested in studying Medicine? As well as needing a strong grounding in your sciences/maths subjects (which is likely to need most of your focus), it's worth remembering that the course requires you to write regular short essays for supervisions. Robinson College is holding an essay competition for prospective Medicine students. The deadline for entries is 1 August 2014, and you can choose between three essay titles.
Architecture - Exploring spaces
What catches your eye? If you're thinking of studying Architecture at university, the summer is a great time to practice your drawing skills, to have a go at capturing your interests with a camera, and to think about the spaces and effects that you notice around you through explorative work in a range of media.
You can do this very well on your own, following your interests. You might like to read the information about portfolios if you would like some advice about work that you can later use in an application to Cambridge, and there are also some examples of application portfolios available - see Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2.
If you are looking for events to attend, as well as any websites about what is on in your local area, RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has a good What's On? page for events up and down the UK, or you can look up events all over the world on the e-architect website.
Last chance to book for Cambridge Law Open Day!
The Law Faculty reception area
If you'd like to book a place on a Cambridge Law Faculty Open morning or afternoon on Wednesday 2 July, do send your booking form as soon as possible. The deadline for the faculty to receive your form is Wednesday 25 June (you need to post or email the information).
The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!
The large Cambridge Open Days are on Thurs 3 and Fri 4 July. This event is for students who are considering an application in September/October 2014.
Do explore the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme for details of course presentations and sample lectures in your subject, College opening times and locations. If you are interested in visiting a particular College, their website will normally have more detail. At King's, we're open from 9 until 5.30pm as part of the Cambridge Open Days, and we invite you to join tours of the College, subject meetings (students only for those) and chat with current students and admissions staff. See the details for Thurs 3 July and for Fri 4 July.
Booking is required. Although there are no general places left for the Cambridge Open Days, there are still plenty of places available for students who book to attend a College Open Day (you will also be able to attend Cambridge Open Day events in the afternoon) or a North East Welcome Event (please email us for details if you're from the North East). Please see the information about how to attend the Cambridge Open Days now that registration has closed.
We hope to see you there! If you can't attend, don't worry though, as the information that you need to make a successful application is also available online, and you are welcome to email us with any questions.
Are you going to a UCAS Higher Education Convention?
There are lots of UCAS Higher Education Conventions on at the moment. These are a great opportunity to talk to reps from different universities and explore your options further. There will be a lot of people there, so our advice is to make a list of the universities that you particularly want to talk to, and also to think about what questions you will ask them before the event. Good luck!
English Literature essay competition (Year 12)
It's important not just to read, but to think about the books.
Credit: Robert (cropped)
Essay titles from Trinity College:
- 'Homer and the other poets... composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.' (Plato); 'Now, for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.' (Philip Sidney). Discuss any aspect of the relationship between literature and lying, with detailed reference to at least one work.
- 'The only advice, indeed, that one can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.' (Virginia Woolf). How much is reading a matter of instinct, how much is it a matter of reason, and does reading ever bring instinct and reason into conflict? Discuss with reference to one or more works.
These are just two of the six possible essay titles that Trinity College, Cambridge has set for students who would like to enter their Gould Prize for essays in English Literature (open to students in Year 12). See the Trinity College website for full details (including the rest of the possible essay titles). The submission deadline is 1 August 2014. Good luck to those who enter!
Summer Science Exhibition in London (1-6 July)
The Royal Society has an annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK, including everything from artifical intelligence and car crash investigation to tropical storms, ultrasonic waves, and immune-bacterial interactions
Do make a note if you live close enough to visit. The dates are 1-6 July this year, and the exhibition will take place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG (near Charring Cross tube station).
See the exhibition website, which includes details of the events and exhibits.
Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?
A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.
In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!
What's on Radio 4?
If you're interested in economics, politics or sociology, recent programmes available on bbc iplayer radio include:
To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.
Are you struggling to access Radio 4? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.
Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics - Saturday 21 June
If you're considering an application for Classics at Cambridge and you've never studied Latin at school or college, we invite you to book a place on a free taster day in Cambridge on Saturday 21 June. Fifty travel bursaries of up to £50.00 are available on a first come, first served basis.
Please see the Classics Faculty website and further information for details of the event and how to book your place.
Treating MS - science and clinical trials
When a patient has MS (Multiple Sclerosis), the immune system begins to attack the body's own healthy nerve cells. The disease strips away their protective sheath, and prevents electrical signals from moving effectively between the brain and the body.
Researchers at Cambridge have been working on a treatment for MS for some time, and the drug that they have developed was recently approved for use in people with MS. The following film explains the science and clinical trials behind this:
Illustration from The Pickwick Papers. Credit: Sue Clark
Have you read a book by Charles Dickens?
The University of Warwick have a Celebrating Dickens website, on which you can access articles, videos, podcasts, and a documentary about different aspects of the work of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era in which he lived. There's also a mobile app if you prefer.
Problem-solving website for Engineering
Connel Bridge in Scotland
When you're doing exercises in maths and physics, how much do you feel like you're relying on previous examples that you have memorised, and how much time do you spend problem solving, or working on a kind of question that requires more thought?
Cambridge University Engineering Department has a website designed for developing and practicing problem solving in many contexts - do explore this resource:
Subject Conferences at the University of York
Booking is open for Year 12 subject conferences at the University of York, offering an insight into degree-level study in specific subjects.
- 27 June - Philosophy Conference
- 11 July - Chemistry Conference
See the York University website for details and booking.
Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)
Cambridge University Library
What sort of books do you think were published in France just after the liberation of Paris in 1944? This website and film are part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library exploring the first writings of French authors on their experiences in the War, occupation and liberation.
Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, there was no more censorship. Books were published even while the War was still being fought in some parts of France.
If you're near enough to also visit, this free exhibition is open from 7 May until 11 October. See details for visiting.