Vision for Sport at Cambridge

"Sport unites us as a community — it breaks down barriers and builds friendships. It provides a conduit for self-expression and teaches skills and resilience to support wellbeing and academic endeavour. It enriches the student experience and lays the foundations for fulfilling and successful lives beyond University.

Supporting participation in sport is a priority for the University. We want to ensure that sport and physical exercise at Cambridge are fully inclusive, accessible to all, and representative of the student demographic.

Students at Cambridge remain as competitive as ever, with the desire to push themselves intellectually, physically and mentally. All at Cambridge take great pride in our sporting success and heritage. We must now make sure that future generations have the same opportunities."

Professor Graham Virgo QC (Hon), Senior Pro-Vice- Chancellor, Education

Our priorities are to:

  • Support and develop the University sports clubs to create better conditions for competitive and high performance student athletes to excel and achieve their full sporting potential at Cambridge
  • Increase pathways into physical activity at all levels to provide a truly well-rounded student experience, and support integration and wellbeing by:

removing barriers to access

reinvigorating the inter-collegiate sports ecosystem

  • Revitalise and expand Cambridge’s sports facilities to meet the expectations of today’s student

Vision for Sport

Nick Brooking, Director of Sport

Our heritage: excellence and endeavour

Sport at the University of Cambridge has a rich history and is globally renowned. Few institutions can claim more than 250 male and female Olympians and over 1,000 full internationals among their alumni. Every year, people worldwide tune into coverage of The Boat Race and The Varsity Rugby Match at Twickenham.

Everyone who has been involved in sport at any level at Cambridge will have unforgettable stories and memories. It could be the winning goal in a Varsity Match, clinching a BUCS league decider, maybe a late selection for their first Cuppers final or a slightly chaotic, first college match where you hardly knew your teammates.

Close to 3,000 students become members of University sports clubs each year, and over 150 Varsity contests take place, involving more than 80 clubs ranging from Athletics to Modern Pentathlon to Yachting. In addition, around 50 teams travel regionally and nationally every week to represent Cambridge in inter-university competition and over 1,000 students enter individual competitions annually. It is a significant enterprise.

    Our ambition

    Much has been achieved in recent years to sustain this inspiring and enriching experience for students, but we need to do more.

    We want all our students to explore their true potential and ambition, and to benefit from and treasure their experience.

    Engagement with collegiate University sport and physical activity nurtures a sense of belonging and encourages friendships to flourish, while also improving attainment and graduate outcomes.

    It is our ambition to ensure sport and physical activity is affordable and accessible for all, whether at entry level, playing for your college team, or competing for the University.

    New programmes and ways to support sport at Cambridge, detailed below, will help us deliver this ambition.

      The creation of The University Sports Club Support Programme upholds our commitment to enhancing the quality of the student experience in sport; increasing competitiveness in Varsity, BUCS and other competitions; and providing equal opportunities and affordable access to increase participation. Crucially, it enables the Sports Service and the University Sports Committee to identify key components of support and provide greater resource to strengthen and nurture our clubs and individual athletes; thereby allowing them to focus on competing and succeeding at the highest level possible. This Programme aspires to double our current financial provision for clubs and individual athletes.

      Our new Collegiate Sport and Physical Activity Programme aims to work more closely with Colleges and Departments to reinvigorate inter-collegiate sport. It seeks to engage students in physical activity to support healthy, active lifestyles and wellbeing, and make it an essential part of their university experience and life. The Cambridge Students' Union Loneliness Report (2020) highlights the prevalence of students at Cambridge who do not feel meaningful connections to those around them, but suggests that those involved in sport and physical exercise have, overall, more meaningful and dependable connections with their peers. The Collegiate Sport and Physical Activity Programme will improve the quality and quantity of sport and physical activity opportunities for all students at the University, regardless of their college, or individual circumstances.

      These are exciting times for sport at Cambridge and yet, to realise our vision of providing life-changing opportunities for students, we need your support.

      The establishment of the new University of Cambridge Sports Endowment Trust, with funds invested in the University Endowment Fund, will support philanthropic gifts to these programmes as well as endowment gifts to individual clubs or other sports programmes.

      Our sights are set on ensuring the University of Cambridge remains among the best in the world by providing a sustainable, competitive and supportive sporting environment for all its students. The University, its clubs and athletes invite our sporting alumni community to join us in delivering this exciting vision.

        "Playing sport has made me much more well-rounded. I've developed my leadership and communication skills; and I've become efficient at balancing sport with my studies. I think the values we appreciate in sport — like hard work, motivation, determination — are really useful preparation for life beyond (and within) academics."
        — Olivia Shears, (Jesus 2013, PhD Geography) 20/21 Ospreys Secretary, hockey club member.


        Our vision is to revitalise the existing sports facilities and add complementary new facilities to the west of Cambridge to create a dedicated ‘Sports Quarter’.

        Significant capital projects have been undertaken to improve and increase sporting facilities, including the University Sports Centre, Ely Boathouse, Wilberforce Road hockey pitches and Cambridge Ice Arena.

        As the University and city continue to expand west, a dedicated Sports Quarter connecting ‘old’ and ‘new’ Cambridge will play a crucial role in meeting the demand for sports and leisure facilities.

        West Cambridge is the realisation of the University’s plan to bring together its world-class science and technology expertise. It will be home to the new Cavendish Physics Laboratory and other state-of-the- art facilities for both academic research and collaboration with the University’s commercial partners.

        The Sports Quarter will provide an important focal
        point for the University community and Cambridge
        residents. To support sport at a competitive high level and physical activity at all levels, it is hoped new facilities will include a 3G pitch at Grange Road Sports Ground (World Rugby compliant), indoor lawn tennis and padel tennis courts, and an indoor swimming pool.

        Increasing engagement with the wider Cambridge community will be an important measure of success, ensuring year-round use of the University’s facilities and their sustainability, as well as supporting the University’s broader mission to contribute to society.

        "Sport has completely shaped my experience at Cambridge. The feeling of belonging and shared effort, all working hard towards the same goal, is incredibly powerful and rewarding. No matter the level, sport is a brilliant way to de-stress. Without it, and the support and advice of teammates, I’m not sure I’d have been able to cope with the academic demands of my course."
        — Katy Edwards, (Jesus 2015, Veterinary Medicine) University football and athletics and various college sports.

        Philanthropic opportunities

        Cambridge seeks the engagement and support of individuals and organisations that believe in the power of sport and its ability to unite and fulfil us.

        Every contribution, regardless of size, has impact. In addition to the University and Collegiate Programmes and the revitalisation of facilities, you can support individual clubs via online portals, The Hawks' and The Ospreys (the University clubs representing sporting excellence), or you can make an unrestricted or endowment gift (see below), allowing us to direct support where it is most needed.

        To find out more, please contact:

        Derek Wilson, Senior Associate Director — Sports, Clubs & Societies

        +44 (0)7710 376604

        Legacies for sport

        Legacies are vital for every part of the Cambridge experience and are as important today as they have ever been. A gift to sport could enable students to fulfil their athletic potential, encourage disadvantaged students to take up enriching activities and support the mental health and wellbeing of students.

        If you are thinking about how you can make a difference — a lasting impression — then please consider making a bequest to sport.

        University of Cambridge Sports Endowment Trust

        An endowment legacy to this new trust can support the University Sports Club Support Programme, the Collegiate Sport and Physical Activity Programme or if you would like to restrict your gift to a specific sports programme or club, this too can sit within the Endowment Trust and be used as per your wishes.

         If you would prefer to leave an unrestricted gift to sport, this will be added to the Sports Endowment Trust to ensure we can continue to support the sports, clubs or students with the greatest need.

         To find out more about leaving a legacy to Cambridge, please see our legacy brochure.