Classics is among the oldest degrees at Cambridge, and has been studied at Emmanuel continuously since its foundation. Nowadays it is one of the broadest subjects among the humanities, encompassing all aspects of an ancient Mediterranean culture stretching over more than a millennium – languages, literature, political and social history, philosophy, art, architecture – as well as the ‘reception’ of Classics up to the modern day.

Cambridge is an acknowledged centre for the study of Classics, with one of the largest and most distinguished concentrations of expert teachers and researchers in the world, and a departmental library unrivalled in the UK. Learning to read Greek and Latin literature in the original language remains central to the undergraduate degree (a feature now unique among British courses). Most undergraduates that have A-level Latin or equivalent (with or without Greek), follow a three-year course, but around 15% take the four-year course, which begins with a ‘Preliminary’ year of intensive Latin study. The Classics Faculty website has full information about both degree programmes and the wide range of options available within them.

Why Emmanuel?

While the Classics Faculty is responsible for providing lectures and classes and for setting exams, the tuition known as ‘supervisions’ – a distinctive and immensely valuable part of the Cambridge experience – is organised by Colleges. Typically this means one hour each week one-on-one or in a group of two or three students, ahead of which you will have written an essay on a Latin or Greek text or on a topic in history, philosophy, art, archaeology or linguistics. In the first two years (or the second and third years of the four-year degree), known as ‘Part I’, Emmanuel students also receive weekly language supervisions in Greek and Latin, as well as optional supervisions in prose (or verse) composition.

Emmanuel is fortunate to be able to provide most of this teaching ‘in house’, with three Fellows in Classics, all of whom also hold University posts. The Director of Studies is Professor Christopher Whitton, Professor of Latin Literature whose research is focused on Latin prose of the early Empire, especially Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. Dr Nigel Spivey is a Senior Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology. He is an expert on Etruscan art, and has made several television series as well as writing books including Greek Art, Enduring Creation and The Ancient Olympics. Professor Stephen Oakley FBA is the Kennedy Professor of Latin and a renowned expert on Livy, Roman history and the editing of classical texts. Between them the three Fellows cover the large majority of language and literature supervisions for Emmanuel students, as well as those in art and archaeology. For other topics, as is usual at Cambridge, the Director of Studies organises supervisors as appropriate from other Colleges.

Classics at Emmanuel typifies the distinctive ethos of the College as a whole, combining academic excellence with a friendly and happy atmosphere. Classics students regularly meet for social occasions, though social lives are by no means restricted according to subject. They also benefit from the College’s excellent accommodation and facilities, from the sixteenth-century dining hall and the Wren chapel to music practice rooms, playing fields and the open-air swimming pool. The recently refurbished College library has an exceptional collection of Classics books and journals, and students have access to generous grants and prizes from the College and the Faculty for language courses and travel to Classical lands. A visit to Cambridge and Emmanuel is highly recommended, ideally on a University or College open day. You can also send a general enquiry by email to the Admissions Office.

Applying to Emmanuel

Emmanuel welcomes applications for both the three-year course (for students with A-level Latin or equivalent) and the four-year course, as well as from prospective students wishing to study Latin or Greek as part of the Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) degree. As in the university as a whole, around half our students have A2 Greek. The other half follow a programme called ‘Intensive Greek’ during their first two years, with extra tuition and a modified syllabus in Greek language and literature. Typically we admit two or three students each year to the three-year course, often alongside a four-year and/or MML student. There are usually two to three applicants for each place offered, but thanks to Cambridge’s ‘pool’ system strong applicants who do not gain a place at Emmanuel routinely get offers from other Colleges. For more information about the College’s application procedure, see below.

Admissions Information

Standard Offer: A-level - A*AA; IB - 776 at Higher Level, 41 or 42 points overall; Advanced Highers: A1A2A2; other exam systems.
Course Requirements: For the 3-year course you must have A2 or equivalent Latin. There is no subject requirement for the 4-year course, but experience of foreign languages is desirable.
Course Outline: Further details are available on the Classics Faculty website.
Applying: For information on how to apply: University application process and Emmanuel application timeline.
Submitted Work:

Applicants will be asked – following receipt of their application – to submit two pieces of written work. These should be in essay format with a word limit of up to 2,000 words per sample and be part of your normal preparation towards exams in either Latin or Greek (four year course applicants, who are not taking Latin or Greek, should send samples from their essay-based subjects). The work can be extracted from coursework or an EPQ. All work must be original and not re-written or corrected for Cambridge. The deadline for submission will be early November.

Admissions Assessment: All applicants, who are shortlisted for interview, will take a written assessment. For the 3-year course, candidates will take a translation exercise and the 4-year applicants will sit a Language (or GCSE Latin) assessment, following a teaching session. An assessment specification is available online. The College's Admissions Officer will register applicants for the assessment.
Interviews: Candidates should normally expect two interviews. The interviews will take place during the period Monday 4 - Wednesday 13 December 2023. Specific subject dates will be emailed to applicants in November.
Course Enquiries: Emmanuel Admissions Office