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2.2 Teaching


In Selwyn, as throughout Cambridge, your teaching is divided between the parts organised by the College (mainly supervisions and small classes) and lectures, practicals, seminars and other activities run by the University’s various Faculties and Departments. The two aspects of your academic training combine to provide a unique, supportive and exciting academic environment. Make the most of it.

2.2.1 College Teaching – Supervisions

Supervisions are the distinctive feature of College teaching, a key element in teaching and learning at Cambridge. In coming here you have implicitly undertaken to abide by certain expectations concerning supervisions. It is crucial that you do the work for all your supervisions, meet deadlines for handing it in, and participate actively rather than just listening passively. The more you put in to your supervisions, the more you will get out of them. They are designed to be interactive and will not provide the full benefit for you if you do not work at them. Supervisors will expect you to participate actively. In most arts subjects, the supervision, for which the supervisee writes an essay in advance, constitutes the main core activity. In science subjects, where the supervision is typically organised around a problems sheet, it is a very important complement to the lecture courses.

You will usually have between one and three hours of supervision a week, typically in groups of between one and four students. The session is likely to begin with the supervisor commenting on the written work you have produced. It is also an occasion for discussion and academic debate. You should be ready to contribute your own ideas and to be prepared to think on your feet when new ways of looking at things are put to you. The supervision is an opportunity for you to seek clarification on any aspect of the topic when, like all students, you have found something difficult. You should be open about any lack of understanding. The latter may well be due to your realizing that there is more to the question than meets the eye. Even if it is not, you can be confident that others will also have found the question difficult.

Attendance at supervisions is compulsory. You must let your supervisor know beforehand if you are ill or, for other good reason, cannot attend a supervision. You will be charged for supervisions missed without good reason. They inconvenience both other students and those teaching you. Changes of supervision time without very good reason will not normally be permitted. Some of your supervisions may be with your Director of Studies. Otherwise, they will be with supervisors recruited by your DoS, either from within Selwyn or from the University at large. Generally speaking, the more your course requires you to specialise, the more likely you are to find yourself being supervised outside the College, just as the Fellows of Selwyn supervise students from the rest of the University in their own specialised areas.

2.2.2 Faculty Teaching

In all subjects, the University is responsible for providing lectures relating to the advertised syllabus and, where appropriate, practical classes or other forms of large-group learning. Timetables for lectures and classes are available from your Faculty or Department. You can also find them online at the University’s timetable web resource. Your DoS will advise you on the relevance of the various lecture courses to the papers you are taking, but it is worth noting that you are entitled to attend virtually any University lecture, not just those in your own subject.

2.2.3 Feedback

Supervisions are a wonderful opportunity for you to interact with experts in the field they teach, often scholars who are at the cutting edge of research in that discipline. You should make the most of the opportunity and should participate actively. The dialogue will provide both a stimulus to the development of your own ideas and, crucially, a good way of receiving detailed feedback on your work that goes beyond written comments and questions. Pay close attention to feedback from your supervisors and integrate it with the knowledge and ideas that you receive through lectures, reading, classes and researching your supervision work. You should take notes both of what your supervisor says in supervisions and of what you say and think in response.

Your supervisors are asked to report termly on your progress and to tell the College sooner than that if there are serious problems emerging. These reports constitute a key aspect of feedback on your progress and are shared with your DoS and your Tutor, and one or both will wish to discuss these with you at your regular individual beginning and end of term meetings. There may also be discussion of your time management, work habits and of any feedback that you have provided.

Significantly, feedback on supervisions is a two-way process. Your evaluations of your learning and of those who teach you constitute important elements in your DoS’s evaluation of your progress. During the second (Lent) Term you will be given a Student Questionnaire to complete. It is crucial that you should return it before the end of the Term. It asks for your own view of your progress and invites you to indicate whether you are satisfied with your various supervisors. This will only take a few minutes to complete and the time spent will be most worthwhile. At your end of term interview, you should expect your DoS to take up with you any concerns you have raised on your form. It is, of course, entirely appropriate to raise any concerns you have about your supervisors with your DoS or your Tutor rather than relying solely on the questionnaire. Since we strive to ensure that Selwyn students receive the very best supervision available, and since it is important to identify and address any problems at an early stage, we take such monitoring very seriously. Please make every effort to complete the questionnaire as it forms a key part of the monitoring and evaluation of teaching quality.

2.2.4 Accessing your Supervision Reports

  1. Go to the CamCORS home page ( Click ‘log in’ at top right of screen.
  2. On the Raven sign-in page, put CRSiD (the beginning part of your Cambridge email address) as your username.
  3. Type in your password.
  4. Click ‘Main Menu’.
  5. Click ‘View Supervision Reports’.
  6. You need to make sure that the University Term selected in the drop-down list is the one you want. You can put in other criteria, but this isn’t necessary for a simple search for all the reports available to you.
  7. Click ‘Search for Reports’.
  8. A summary list of the reports will appear. Click the ‘View’ button beneath the list. You will only be able to view comments on reports which have been submitted by the supervisor. A very few supervisors submit supervision reports on paper rather than using CamCORS.
  9. To get back to the summary list, click ‘Cancel/Go Back’ at the bottom of the screen (instead of the usual back button you might use).
  10. If you want to print your reports, click ‘Display PDF’ and then print.
  11. If you have any questions or concerns about your reports, please do not hesitate to contact your Director of Studies or your Tutor as appropriate. One option for doing so is the email button on the summary page.
  12. 12. If you experience any difficulty using the system, please consult the manual for students available on the CamCORS home page or email the Tutorial Office (

2.2.5 Your Vacations (Studying or Getting a Job)

Teaching and exams are arranged on the assumption that you will do a considerable amount of academic work during the vacations, especially at Christmas and at Easter. You are strongly advised not to take paid work for more than is strictly necessary in these two vacations. Any student who is prevented by their financial circumstances from devoting a sufficient amount of time during the vacations to their academic work should discuss with their Tutor the possibility of an application being made on their behalf to the College’s student support funds. The College is committed to ensuring that no student’s academic progress is adversely affected by financial difficulties.

‘Publicly-funded’ home students who are required to undertake compulsory courses or fieldwork during vacations may qualify for financial support through their Department. In most cases this support will cover the full cost of the required travel or other costs. Where students may need financial support for course-related or other vacation travel and study, they may apply to the College for a grant. Please see ‘Grants and Funds‘ for more information.