The Tab’s Alternative Prospectus

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Alcohol colleges English english student essay failure Gardies Libraries nihilism praise Sleep subjects supervisons supervisor

Welcome to Cambridge.

Ah, Cambridge. The very name conjures up a world of learned discussion and famed academics, of bicycles ridden down cobbled streets, of gowns and books, and of alcohol that is drunk at formal dinners rather than in the middle of a field (I grew up in Essex, okay).

It is a place which perfectly balances scholarship and decadence, and both your CV and your Instagram account will be eternally grateful if you gain a place to study here.

Calm waters and clear skies.

Or so some would have us believe.

In the spirit of the Tab’s current Best Bums campaign, I’m going to strip off the lies in the official Cambridge prospectus to reveal a more realistic picture of what life at our dear university is like:

Cambridge boasts 97% student satisfaction with their library and IT resources (National Student Survey 2015).

The Colleges

Part of what distinguishes Cambridge from most of the other universities in the world is its collegiate structure. There are 29 undergraduate colleges, all of which facilitate individual teaching, supervisions and pastoral care – but in reality what this boils down to is an environment in which a load of highly-strung and hormonal people are constantly trying to steal each other’s milk and get off with everybody. Sometimes simultaneously.

On the pull, post mental breakdown.

The Subjects

We are told in the official prospectus that the Tripos system at Cambridge exists to allow for greater flexibility within your degree, although personally I don’t really think this is necessary – after all, I do enough mental gymnastics trying to decipher what exactly the fuck is going on in my Medieval literature paper as it is.

Regardless of whether a Cambridge student reads English, Medicine or Compsci, there is one thing that almost everybody has in common. If you were going to say ‘a deep love and respect for their subject’ then you’re wrong. It’s a sense of nihilism.

Never has a piece of stationery summed up my university life more accurately than this highlighter.


Supervisions are the jewel in the Cambridge crown. The opportunity to discuss your work with a world-class academic on a regular basis means that you’re never allowed to forget just how far you’re falling behind, and the real test of a Cantabrigian is how well they are able to adapt to this permanent new sense of crushing inadequacy and foreboding.

My weekly supervisions represented through the mode of physical theatre.

The quickest way to adapt is to replace sleep with alcohol, and just hold out for the golden moments that your supervisor actually offers you praise. This happened a grand total of once in my first term last year, after I finally impressed my supervisor with the news that I’d drunk so much wine at our college subject drinks that I’d spent the entirety of the next day throwing up.

Who needs supervisions when you can discuss quasi-dimensional analytic functions in Gardies with a townie at 2am?


There are over 100 libraries in Cambridge, which in theory should mean that you’re unlikely ever to have to run to the expense of buying your own books. However, it would probably be more cost-effective to build a time machine, track down a Medieval monk, and pay him to transcribe whatever text you need than it is to risk having to pay a Cambridge library fine.

The blurriness of this photo is 100% representative of how I saw it through my outraged tears.

This isn’t to say that libraries are completely without purpose, though.

They’re certainly worth a visit, if only to take advantage of the privacy of the more obscure sections in order to stage your Best Bum photo.

Another shameless plug there. No pun intended.