The University of Cambridge is world-famous, and as expected attracts plenty of students to its halls. Founded in 1209, It is one of the most renowned universities globally and is the third oldest university in continuous operation in the world, after the University of Bologna in Italy and Oxford University. If you have an offer to go here, you may be joining a university with such a rich, wide-ranging alumni list as Cambridge does. I mean, what else do Isaac Newton, Tom Hiddleston, Matt Hancock and the Queen of Denmark Margrethe the second have in common? (Hint: they all went to Cambridge). But, you may also be wondering, how many students are there at Cambridge University? 

Acceptance rate

University of Cambridge

The acceptance rate to Cambridge in 2015 was a little over a fifth at 21%, which is surprisingly high compared to what you would expect. In the same year, Oxford admitted 17.5% of all applicants, meaning that Cambridge is the “easier” of the Oxbridge universities to get into (it’s still not that easy). Although in comparison to other Russell Group universities, it is significantly harder to get in, as you would expect. Using 2021 figures, two thirds of applicants (67%) to the University of Bristol were accepted, three quarters (75%) to the University of Nottingham, 57% to UCL and 51% to the University of Edinburgh, for instance. That just goes to show how much more competitive getting into Cambridge can be – for every five applicants, only one is getting in. 

Overall size

How many students are there at Cambridge University?
Source: University of Cambridge

Using the university’s 2020-2021 figures, there were 24,270 students in total enrolled at Cambridge University. There were slightly more undergrad students (12,940) than postgrad students (11,330). It’s the slightly smaller of the two Oxbridge universities, as Oxford has 26,455 students in total (December 2021). In comparison to other Russell Group universities, the student body at Cambridge is generally about 10,000 students smaller. For instance, at Bristol, there were 37,990 students (21-22), 42,890 students at the University of Glasgow (21-22) and 34,480 students at the University of Nottingham (20-21). However, it is not the smallest Russell Group university. That goes to LSE, which, as a specialist social sciences university, may not be surprising. Its student body was a little under thirteen thousand (12,975) for the 2021-2022 academic year.


How many students are there at Cambridge University?
Source: The Cambridge Placebook

For those who may not know, both Oxbridge schools have ‘colleges’. Each college comes with a complex where you’ll find student accommodation, common rooms, cafes/bars and computer/library facilities. It’s basically like a regular student hall that you’ll see on any other campus, except a bit fancier. There are 39 colleges at Oxford, but 32 colleges at Cambridge. Each college will have its own criteria for admission – some may only admit mature students/postgrad students, some are women only, etc. The number of students within each college naturally varies between them – using 2017-2018 numbers, the largest college had 1192 students (Homerton) and the smallest had 249 (Clare Hall). So that’s something else to think about if you are applying: do you want to be part of a large college or a smaller one? 


So, to answer the question, how many students are there at Cambridge University? Well, the simple answer is a lot, but not as many as other Russell Group universities. That’s not surprising though. You would expect that a university with the world-renowned international reputation of somewhere like Cambridge would be smaller and more selective in terms of admissions. 

If you’re wondering what the UK university with the best reputation is, check out this list to find out (the top answer is not what you’re expecting!).