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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. To receive an occasional digest of this news please add your name to the monthly Collegiate Way mailing list.

Ring a Bell for Cambridge Tonight

[Arms of Cambridge University] — The universities of Oxford and Cambridge in Great Britain are the archetypal collegiate universities. Each institution is a federation of more than 30 independent residential colleges, and every student of higher education should be familiar with their history and organization.

This year Cambridge University is celebrating its 800th anniversary, and Collegiate Way colleague Frank Cranmer has just pointed me to a new Cambridge website that outlines all the events taking place in the coming weeks and months to honor that anniversary. (Is octocentenary a word? It looks like it is. In the adolescent United States we rarely have occasion to count that high.)

Today, January 17th, is the first day of the university’s Lent Term, and the celebrations begin this evening with the ringing of bells all through the city in a pattern of 800 changes composed for the occasion by Clare College alumnus Phil Earis. Campanological friends of the university all around the world are participating as well, so wherever you may be today why not ring a bell, clink a glass, or bang on a nearby radiator in honor of one of the great Ur-parents of the collegiate way of living.

And if you’re still struggling to establish residential colleges at your university, you can use this occasion to take heart. Although Cambridge dates its origin to 1209, the oldest of its existing colleges, Peterhouse, wasn’t founded until 75 years later. For a while even Cambridge wandered in darkness.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2014