The vast majority of postdocs are not affiliated to a college during their time in Cambridge. This means that most postdocs do not have the benefits of access to inter-department contacts or college facilities, and often remain on the edges of University life. One of PdOC's main aims is to work with the university authorities to try to improve this situation. This is a big challenge and will not happen overnight. Nonetheless we are gradually seeing improvements year on year. Many senior figures in the university have made it clear that they welcome the assistance of PdOC in exploring how to continue to improve the situation. If you would like to help, get in touch with the PdOC committee.
Download our Affiliation for Cambridge Postdocs: Information on Current Schemes (last updated February 2010).
Guide to postdoc college affiliation
Jennifer Clark, Frank Sobott
Postdocs may become full college fellows ('Senior Research Fellows') on recommendation by a member of the college, for example their departmental supervisor or head of department. This is usually after they have been in Cambridge long enough to settle in and get to know people a bit. They should also have a proven track record in student supervision, and obtained a 'senior' status. The position carries various obligations. Fellows are responsible for the finances of the college, must attend council meetings and fulfill particular roles within the college, e.g., help to run college events.
Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships
This could be seen as an alternative to a normal postdoc position, but Ph.D. students in their last year do also qualify. Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs) usually last for two or three years, and the JRF is paid by the college and may sometimes live and work in college. The salary is usually considerably lower than for an externally funded postdoc position, but free accommodation and meals can well make up for that. In the sciences and some other disciplines it may depend on the postdoc being offered space in the relevant department. Dining rights (at High Table, if they have one) are usually included and the postdoc will be invited to take part in all college activities. Teaching is optional, but usually up to 6 hours of supervisions per week may be undertaken, with separate payment. Much less is required of a JRF than of a senior fellow.
Non-stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships
As above but with no stipend. Accommodation is usually offered, or a living- out allowance of about £3000. Probably ideal for postdocs who already have their own funding or are paid externally through a research project.
These are less competitive than fellowships and offer fewer advantages that differ from college to college. Invariably, however, a postdoctoral associateship at a college will make you a member of both the college and the University. That is, you will get a University card and an online RAVEN password that will give you access to numerous university facilities (including the libraries, societies and the Language centre) and online resources - as well as opportunities to socialise with college members. Depending on the college, you will belong to either the Fellows' or Postgraduates' community (ie, Senior vs Middle combination room, High vs Low table at dinners etc).
The deadlines for associateship applications are usually later than for fellowships. An application would normally require submitting a CV, a statement of purpose (which would expect you to list the benefits of the interdisciplinary environment at the college on your research), academic references and possibly followed by an interview. Openings are advertised in The Reporter as well as on the college websites.
For example, Trinity Hall (a small college in the centre of town, one of the oldest and adhering to traditions, but unpretentious) offers a relatively large number of postdoctoral fellowships that incur a termly fee of £50. Postdocs at Trinity Hall are a largely community of their own, but belong to the MCR (together with Postgraduates) and maintain good links with the postgraduates.
At Clare, a prestigious college located just next to Trinity Hall, postdocs are expected to take an active part in supervising undergraduates - and applications are judged primarily on that merit. The associates there have limited dining rights at the High Table (ie, with the Fellows).
How to Apply
Jennifer Clark, Frank Sobott
There are a limited number of stipendiary and non-stipendiary places available every year, always with stiff competition, especially for the more prestigious colleges. The best way to find out about these is by looking in the University Reporter (see below, go to 'weekly numbers'). Posts for the next academic year, i.e. beginning the following October, are advertised any time between late summer and just after Christmas the previous year, so it is well worth planning in advance! 'College Notices' are towards the bottom of each issue of the Reporter, but please note that fellowships are only advertised once—which unfortunately means sifting through all relevant issues! The adverts can also be found on the college webpages http://www.cam.ac.uk/colleges/ (see also below). For many colleges, prospective JRFs should be under the age of 30 and not have spent more than 4 or 5 years in research. For the application a short research proposal is usually required, along with two references which have to be sent in at the time of application. The majority of awards are made in December, but a few colleges differ in this and make awards in spring.
In case you have not yet met the Reporter, it is a newspaper that is printed by the University. It is used to advertise all vacancies, and also to discuss possible changes in the way the University works. Possible changes are advertised in advance, and all members of the Regent House (employees of the university, including all postdocs) are free to comment on, or object to, the proposals. If few objections are received, then it is assumed that we all approve, and the new rules are implemented. If you would like to read it then you can find it in University and college libraries, in the University centre, and on the Reporter webpage http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/.
Is there any likelihood of all postdocs becoming affiliated to colleges?
Some Colleges are also starting to accept additional postdocs into College affiliation with various different conditions. This means that more postdocs can be involved, with less expenditure on the part of the College, and with less responsibility for the postdoc. This also has advantages for the colleges as it enriches their social sphere, and provides a large pool of potential supervisors for the undergraduates members. An example of this is in Wolfson College.
The PdOC colleges committee
In Cambridge, postdoctoral college membership is not generally available yet. The PdOC colleges committee has been formed in the hope that, with our help, more and more colleges will also begin to welcome postdocs on these kinds of terms. We have already contacted all colleges to collect information and suggest some level of affiliation, and the current situation for each college is listed below. The Pro Vice Chancellor responsible for contract research staff (postdocs), in close collaboration with PdOC is currently exploring more widespread possibilities for college affiliation. New information will be added as soon as it becomes available.
For information about Stipendiary and Non-stipendiary Research Fellowships, Teaching Bye-Fellowships and Senior Studentships, see the regularly updated information on the webpages of the individual College, and the University Reporter http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/.
Complete list of colleges and some additional information:
Cambridge history: http://www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/pubs/history/
Cambridge Map: http://www.cam.ac.uk/map/
College foundation dates: http://www.quns.cam.ac.uk/Queens/Misc/Coll-Dates-Cam.html