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The University Archives is responsible for the selection, transfer and preservation of the internal, administrative records of the University of Cambridge, dating from 1266 to the present, and for making them available for administrative and research purposes. The University Archives aims to provide a full and richly varied picture over time of the University's organisation and governance, its key functions and activities, major developments and achievements. From modest beginnings, housed alongside other valuables in the University chest, the archives now occupy more than 3500 metres of shelving at the University Library.

What we hold

The archives are as diverse as the activities - self-governance, teaching and research, property management, administration of justice, external relations - the University has pursued down the centuries. They include charters, statutes and title deeds, records of its legislative and executive bodies, central administration, Syndicates and committees, departments and faculties, law courts, staff and students. Certain groups are significant in their own right, others complement collections elsewhere in the Department of Archives and Modern Manuscripts at the University Library.

The University Archives broadly comprise the following divisions of records:

  • Corporate management records: Royal Charters, letters patent and other grants of privilege (from 1266); the records of the central decision-making bodies, University officers such as the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrary, and their administrative support; formal decisions (Graces) of the University.
  • Teaching, learning and research records: records relating to curriculum delivery and examination, further research and the award of degrees; General Board minutes and papers; records of individual faculties and departments, and related institutions such as laboratories, the Botanic Garden and University Library.
  • Assets records: records of buildings and property, endowments, and employees.
  • Judicial administration records: records of four University courts, including Vice-Chancellor’s Court (from 1550) and Commissary’s Court (from 1580).
  • Student administration and support records: records of matriculation (from 1544); records relating to the student admissions process at all levels; records of the Appointments Board and the Board of Graduate Studies; records of clubs and societies.
  • External relations records: relations with the Crown, central government, the city of Cambridge and the Colleges; records of University-initiated outreach, adult education, teacher-training, school examining, and alumni relations.

The records of the constituent Colleges of the University are not part of the University Archives. With very few exceptions, historic records of the Colleges continue to be held by the Colleges themselves, to whom request should be made for further information and access. Contact details of the Colleges can be found here.

How to search and consult the University Archives

Catalogues of the University Archives are available to browse and search online as part of Janus, the internet resource for catalogues of Cambridge archives.

The University Archives are available for consultation in the Manuscripts Reading Room on the third floor of Cambridge University Library. Access to some of the records is limited, for a term of years, under data protection legislation.

A small but growing number of records have been digitised and are online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library. The selection includes the earliest grace book, Liber Gratiarum Alpha (UA Grace Book Alpha), recording proposals for decision by the University’s governing body 1454-89, the two volume Book of privileges and liberties of the University of Cambridge commissioned by Robert Hare in ca 1590 (UA Hare, A.I, II) and Capability Brown’s unrealised plan for laying out The Backs, 1779 (UA P.I.3). 

Enquiries

Contact: Jacqueline Cox, Keeper of the University Archives
Email: jc10021@cam.ac.uk
Tel: 01223 333147