Classics is the study of the Greeks, the Romans and their neighbours, and the modern reception of their culture. It is the most broad-ranging of humanities degrees: you can study literature, language, philosophy, history, art, archaeology, linguistics and much more (although you are not of course compelled to take all of those options). Our students go on to all sorts of careers, including journalism, IT, finance, the civil service, law and teaching.
St John's has a long and enviable tradition in Classics. In the seventeenth century, Richard Bentley, the most famous British classicist of all time, studied here; today also you will find St John’s Classics graduates in lectureships and professorships in many universities (including in Cambridge). We teach our students to be thoughtful, energetic, engaged, innovative and progressive, while maintaining a strong grounding in fundamental knowledge. There is no particular mould for John’s Classicists: we just want dynamic, passionate, intelligent people who are willing to push themselves – and their teachers too.
We are fortunate in having several Classics Fellows and research associates: Professor Emily Gowers, Professor Geoff Horrocks, Professor Malcolm Schofield, Dr Benedek Kruchio and Dr Jordan Miller. Much of the supervision for Parts IA and IB, the first two years of the degree, is organised within the College. Part II courses tend to be more specialised, and the supervision teaching is often co-ordinated centrally by the relevant Course Directors (appointed by the Faculty of Classics).
The Faculty arranges lectures and classes, and houses its own library and the Museum of Classical Archaeology, but the College also provides excellent facilities for those studying the subject. The library is well stocked with the books and periodicals recommended by the Faculty for its courses, and the College provides a generous book grant to enable you to purchase the essential texts.
St John’s has an active College Classical Society that organises talks and social events, and there are also a number of College prizes for Classicists. We have recently introduced a new series, the annual Newell Classics Event, to bring interesting figures in the public eye to Cambridge and get them to share their enthusiasm. Recent speakers have included Emily Wilson (classicist and translator of the Odyssey), Tom Holland (historian), A.C. Grayling (philosopher), Ali Smith (novelist) and Charlotte Higgins (the Guardian's chief culture writer).
Anyone can study Classics at Cambridge: there are no subject-specific A-level requirements. There are two pathways: the three-year option (for people who have at least one classical language up to A-level standard) and the four-year option (for people who do not). In addition, you can study Classics jointly with Modern Languages.
UCAS Code: Q800
Typical Minimum Entry Requirements
A Level: A*AA
International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Essential Subjects (three-year course): A Level or IB Higher in Latin or Classical Greek
Essential Subjects (four-year course): None
Desirable Subjects: A Level/IB Higher Level English Literature, History and/or modern languages may be helpful, but are by no means necessary. Evidence of language learning is an advantage.
Submitted Work: Two pieces of written work (essays or translations, including if possible an essay on a Classical subject)
Admissions Assessment for three-year course (Cambridge College registered): Latin (or Greek) skills assessment interview conducted as part of the standard interview process
Admissions Assessment for four-year course (Cambridge College registered): Language aptitude assessment interview conducted as part of the standard interview process
There are two 20-25 minute admissions interviews for Classics, each held by two Classics Fellows on Zoom. The purpose of the interviews is to assess your aptitude for studying Classics at Cambridge.
We conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner: we appreciate that you will probably be feeling quite nervous, and will do our best to help you settle comfortably into conversation with us. The interviews will focus mainly on your knowledge and ambitions in the field of Classics. Here the discussion is likely to take as its starting point the written work you have submitted, the language test you have taken, and the information about your interests and experience in Classics that you have included in the application. We would hope that conversation will range quite widely, offering you plenty of opportunity to show us your strengths.
Discussion may get quite detailed at some points, particularly where the focus is on written work or texts you have been studying for examination. But the interview is not a test of memory or of detailed factual knowledge – there will emphatically be no attempt to ‘catch you out’, and no special preparation is necessary or indeed desirable. We are more concerned with exploring your sense of intellectual curiosity, and your ability to think your way clearly and critically through and around some particular problem or question emerging from the subjects you are studying or the reading you have been doing. There will be a chance at the end of the interview for you to ask us questions or to draw our attention to anything relevant to your interest in Classics not so far touched on in the conversation.
Further information about the course and about attending the various open days organised by the Faculty is available here, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a hard-copy prospectus (Classics at Cambridge), copies of which can be obtained at open days or from The Secretary, Faculty of Classics, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA.
The Classics Fellows of St John’s are very happy to visit schools to talk about Classical topics, and to give further information about the course and the College. If you are interested, please ask your Head of Department to email Professor Gowers at email@example.com or Professor Whitmarsh firstname.lastname@example.org.