Skip to main content
Study Architecture at the University of Cambridge


Fact File

Magdalene Campus code: M
UCAS code: K100
Course duration: Three years – BA (Hons)
Typical offer: A-level: A*AA, IB: 41-42 points
Essential subjects: None
Useful subjects: Art, Mathematics, Physics

Architecture, by its nature, is a demanding subject. At Cambridge, however, students are encouraged to push their creative boundaries by acquiring a solid foundation of knowledge in the humanities (history and theory) and the sciences (construction, environmental design and structures).

Design is at the core of architectural education at Cambridge and the Studio forms the major activity throughout the course. The design studio is closely integrated with lecture courses in the technical and humanity subjects with an emphasis on sustainability. In the third year, students have an opportunity to pursue their own individual interest through a dissertation, encouraging them to link work in the studios with the ideas and issues raised in lectures, seminars and supervisions, bringing the entire Tripos course into context.


At Cambridge
At Magdalene
What we are looking for
Subject Requirements
Teaching Staff

The three-year Architecture Tripos course provides a basic grounding in Architecture and exemption from the Part I exam of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). All of the teaching arranged by the Department takes place there and is supplemented by weekly small-group or one-to-one supervisions provided by the College.

A more detailed account of the course and an indication of the nature of the studio design projects can be found on the Department's website. This website also contains the latest details of any additional course costs associated with the study of Architecture at Cambridge (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

At Magdalene, we pride ourselves on being one of the most successful colleges for Architecture. Over the years, we have trained our students to become socially responsible architects and/or built environment specialists who are proficient in both the sciences and the arts of architecture. 

We understand the needs of our Architecture students. Rooms offered to our first year students will have larger desks to accommodate the subject’s space requirements. We are one of the few colleges that offer large-scale drawing plotting service in-house, which is indispensable for studio projects. Our constantly expanding library is well-stocked with architectural textbooks, providing good coverage for the Tripos education and beyond. At Magdalene, our students' academic development and performance are our priorities. We are committed to providing Architecture students a strong supportive environment for their studies. 

A high proportion of Magdalene's Architecture graduates proceed, through postgraduate study in Cambridge or elsewhere, into architecture practice. Of those who replied to a recent request for information, about 70% were either in architecture practice or completing post-graduate degrees in architecture. Many of those who graduated from Magdalene a decade or more ago are Partners or Principals in leading Architecture practices, for example Bernard Hunt (1963) is Chairman of HTA, Robin Nicholson (1963) is a Partner in Edward Cullinan Architects and John Bushell (1984) is a Director at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

A significant number of Magdalene graduates in Architecture have also become writers and teachers, among whom Nicholas Temple (1980) is Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, Matthew Barac (1985) is Senior Lecturer at South Bank University, and Chair of the Charity Architecture sans Frontieres (UK), and Emily Smyth (nee Hadden, 1991) is Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Ulster.

Also among distinguished Magdalene alumni are HRH the Duke of Gloucester (1963), now an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene, Professor Lionel March (1955) former Head of Architecture at UCLA, and Sherban Cantacuzino CBE (1947), architectural historian and conservationist.

Architectural students need to be able convey their ideas convincingly through drawing, calculations and by oral and written arguments. At Magdalene, we seek students who are inquisitive, fully committed to the subject and willing to work hard. There is no prescribed route of studies leading to Architecture though students with a background in both the arts and the sciences have done well. The three main requirements are an excellent result at A-level or equivalent, a good portfolio and commitment to the discipline.

Portfolio of Design

To prepare a portfolio, A-level Art can be helpful, although, depending on each individual's background and ability, formal art education may not be necessary. The aim of a portfolio is to showcase the candidate's abilities on aspects relevant to Architecture. It should demonstrate the candidate's creativity, artistic skills, and ability to explore, interpret and communicate ideas. Work should be recent, although a sketchbook kept over a period of time is useful to demonstrate the candidate's thoughts and progress over time. The candidate should be prepared to describe and explain the motivation behind each piece of work. Photographs may be submitted as part of the portfolio if they represent work other than photography; for example, photographs of large-scale or fragile sculptures or paintings, or scans of graphics work may be submitted instead of the originals. Guidance on work suitable for inclusion in the portfolio may be found in the University Department of Architecture Admissions Prospectus (BA Tripos), available on its website or directly from the Department: 01223 33 29 50.

For A-level candidates the normal offer is A*AA on three subjects. Occasionally, the subjects on which A*s are required are specified. Candidates will be expected to achieve or have achieved good AS-level and GCSE grades. A-level Mathematics and/or Physics can be of advantage.

Typical grades in the IB are 41-42 points overall, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.

Interviews, Written Work and Assessments

Submitted Work:  

Candidates invited for an interview are required to submit a PDF (6 A4 pages, and less than 15MB in size) of their own artwork prior to the interview.  The selection of images should, in part, reflect material you might bring to interview as part of your portfolio. We want to see a range of subject matter that illustrates your personal interests, experience, imagination, and ability in the visual and material arts.  

We are keen to see your informal and preparatory work, as well as more formal work, so we can better understand how you observe the world around you, and test and develop ideas.  We strongly encourage including drawings from life.  We do not want to see professional architectural work (such as plans and sections) nor an edited  ‘architectural’ portfolio.  Original drawings and paintings usually form the basis of portfolios, but work can be in any media; large physical models and sculptures can be shown in a series of photographs. The artwork should be submitted to the Academic Office via the Applicant Documents Upload Form by early November 2023. Please visit the Undergraduate Study Architecture page for more information.

Admissions Assessment:

Applicants invited for interview will also take a written assessment. The assessment for Architecture is a Cambridge College-registered assessment. This means you will not need to register for this assessment in advance and the College will provide details directly to you. More information about the assessment (along with some sample questions) is available on the Undergraduate Study Architecture Entry requirements tab.

The assessment consists of two sections each lasting about 30 minutes: a handwritten essay response to a specified question, and a sketching assignment. Neither assessment requires any preparation for a specific topic. Please note that your performance in the written assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

We are looking for creative, highly motivated, and committed individuals with outstanding artistic ability, a strong three-dimensional sense, excellent writing skills, and a solid grounding in mathematics or physics.    

Admissions Interviews:

Further information regarding interview dates and arrangements can be found on the Undergraduate Study Interviews page and the Magdalene Interviews page

Professor Emily So

College positions: Official Fellow, Director of Studies in Architecture

Professor Emily So is Professor of Architectural Engineering in the Department of Architecture and Director of the Cambridge University Centre for Risk in the Built Environment (CURBE).


Read more