Varsity (Cambridge)

Varsity (Cambridge)

Infobox Newspaper
name = Varsity

type = Weekly newspaper
format = Compact
foundation = 1931
owners = Varsity Publications Ltd
political = None
price = Free in colleges and shops of Cambridge
headquarters = Old Examination Hall, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RF, UK
circulation = 10,000
editor = Patrick Kingsley
ISSN = 1758-4442
website = []

"Varsity" is the older of Cambridge University's main student newspapers ("The Cambridge Student" being the other).


"Varsity" is one of Britain's oldest student newspapers. Its first edition was published in 1931 as "Varsity: the Cambridge University Illustrated" (later "The Varsity Weekly", and then the "Cambridge Varsity Post"). [cite web |url=|title=Bibliographic record for "Varsity"|publisher=Cambridge University Library] However, the first few years saw Varsity get off to a shaky start. In 1932 controversy about some of the stories resulted in the editor being challenged to a duel, and the following year the paper went bankrupt with losses of £100.

A variety of attempts to revive "Varsity" led to the paper resurfacing periodically over the following decade, but it was not until 1947 that the paper was re-established permanently in its current form. Harry Newman (1921 - 2001), a graduate from Harvard and the Harvard Business School, then studying for a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, decided that Cambridge needed a proper American-style campus newspaper modeled on the "Crimson". [cite journal
last = Starr
first = Kevin
year = 1994-1995
title = Judge John T. Noonan, Jr.: A Brief Biography
journal = Journal of Law and Religion
volume = Vol. 11
issue = 1
pages = pp. 151–176
issn = 0748-0814
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-01
doi = 10.2307/1051628
] 'Varsity', the name of an obsolete publication, was used due to a post-war ration on newsprint. Only publications that had existed before the War could be allocated paper. On 19th April 1947 Varsity reappeared again, with the first issue headlining the coming visit of the then Princess Elizabeth to the University. Unfortunately the visit never took place. In the mid-1970s, it merged with the radical campaigning student paper "Stop Press".

In 1955, a one-off Oxford edition of the paper was produced by the then editor Michael Winner. Since then the paper has concentrated on the Cambridge audience.

Famous contributions

Many of those who wrote for the paper during their student days have since gone on to achieve distinction in later life. Famous ex-editors include the BBC news presenters Jeremy Paxman and David Frost, film director Michael Winner, the late television presenter Richard Whiteley, "Financial Times" editor Andrew Gowers, novelist Robert Harris, historian Jonathan Spence and BBC1's "EastEnders" executive producer Matthew Robinson. "International Herald Tribune" fashion writer and author Suzy Menkes was the newspaper's first female editor.

Some of Sylvia Plath's earliest poems and J G Ballard's first published story were written for the paper. Meanwhile, legendary comic Peter Cook met his first wife while posing for a Varsity May Ball photo shoot.

Naturally, the paper has also launched the careers of many news journalists, including in recent times "Observer" Political Editor Gaby Hinsliff, "Guardian" New York correspondent Oliver Burkeman, "Guardian" music critic Alexis Petridis, News of the World reporter Luke Layfield,"Independent" reporters Oliver Duff and Amol Rajan and "Independent" columnist Johann Hari. Controversial BBC and "Evening Standard" reporter Andrew Gilligan, later famed for a row with 10 Downing Street, was once a news editor. Other notable contributors who have had later success in other fields include Michael Frayn, Germaine Greer, Clive James and even the Prince of Wales.

Stories first revealed in "Varsity" have often gone on to receive coverage in the UK's national press. In recent years reports to capture wider attention have included the leak of the name of Cambridge's latest vice-Chancellor, news about student protests concerning higher education funding, and a host of lighter reports about undergraduate excesses.

Other stories have had a more lasting significance. In May 1953, "Varsity" may have been the first newspaper in the world to carry a report on James Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. [cite journal
last = de Chadarevian
first = Soraya
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2003
month = April
title = Perceptions in Science: The Making of an Icon
journal = Science
volume = Vol. 300. no. 5617,
issue = 11
pages = pp. 255–257
doi = 10.1126/science.1081133
id =
url =
format =
accessdate = 2006-05-22
pmid = 12690175


"Varsity" is published by Varsity Publications Ltd, a not-for-profit company which directly funds " [ The Varsity Trust] ", a UK registered charity with the principal object of furthering the education of students in journalism. [ [ Extract from the Register of Charities maintained by the Charity Commission for England and Wales] ] The company also produces a number of other student publications such as " [ BlueSci] " - a student science magazine - and the "The Mays" - a collection of short stories and poems by Cambridge and Oxford students. The "Mays" have been published annually since 1992 and are most famous for launching the career of novelist Zadie Smith. She was first noticed by literary agencies after her short story "Private Tutor" appeared in the 1997 collection.

Advertising in "Varsity" has traditionally been seen as highly useful by graduate recruiters hoping to attract Cambridge students. As a result the newspaper is able to distribute free copies to members of the university without relying on student union funding and it was the first student newspaper in the UK to produce a colour section. "Varsity"'s management and funding structure means that it is independent from both the University and Cambridge University Students' Union. In this respect it is unlike the vast majority of similar publications in other UK universities. The only other student newspapers to operate similarly are Oxford's "Cherwell", "The Defender" at the University of Lincoln, and "The Saint" of the University of St Andrews.

Unlike most student newspapers, the design of the newspaper is allowed to change radically with the arrival of new student editors.

"Varsity" has always claimed to follow the Press Complaints Commission's Code of Practice, however, from May 2008 it now contributes to the levy raised by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PRESSBOF). [cite web |url= |title=Pressbof] This now allows the PCC to take complaints under the code about the editorial content of "Varsity".The effectiveness of "Varsity"'s own complaints procedure prior to recently coming under the Commission's jurisdiction has been criticised by some Cambridge students, who claimed the publication was unwilling to investigate allegations of journalistic misconduct. [cite web |url= |title=Seriously Irresponsible Journalism |publisher= Vivid Publications |accessdate=2008-05-25 ]


The paper was successful in the Guardian Student Media Awards 2004 where it won the prize for best columnist (Archie Bland) and came runner-up in best sports writer category (Sam Richardson). [cite web |url= |title=Student Media Awards 2004 |publisher= The Guardian |accessdate=2008-04-29 ] In 2005 Varsity writer Sam Richardson won the Guardian's Student Diversity Writer of the Year award. [cite web |url= |title=Student Media Awards 2005 |publisher= The Guardian |accessdate=2008-04-29 ] In 2006, Sophie Pickford was the runner-up for best sports writer of the year. [cite web |url= |title=Student Media Awards 2006 |publisher= The Guardian |accessdate=2008-04-29 ]

In 2007, Varsity won the Guardian Student Media Awards for the best Student Publication Design of the Year. [cite web |url=,,2272414,00.html |title=Student Media Awards 2007 |publisher= The Guardian |accessdate=2008-04-29 ]

Recent editors

* Michaelmas 2008: Patrick Kingsley
* May Week 2008: Anna Trench, Verity Simpson and Dylan Spencer-Davidson
* Lent 2008: Tom Bird and George Grist
* Michaelmas 2007: Lizzie Mitchell and Elliot Ross
* May Week 2007: Jamie Munk and Was Yaqoob
* Lent 2007: Joseph Gosden and Hermione Buckland-Hoby (Issue 1), Joseph Gosden and Natalie Woolman (Issue 2-9)
* Michaelmas 2006: Emily Stokes (Issues 1-2), Mary Bowers and Jonny Ensall (Issue 3-9)
* May Week 2006: Raj Bavishi and Rachel Divall
* Lent 2006: Jon Swaine and Amy Goodwin
* Michaelmas 2005: James Dacre
* May Week 2005: Henry Bowen
* Lent 2005: Amol Rajan
* Michaelmas 2004: Archie Bland
* May Week 2004: Ellen E Jones
* Lent 2004: Reggie Vettasseri and Laura-Jane Foley
* Michaelmas 2003: Tom Ebbutt
* May Week 2003: Tori Flower, Dan Cliffe and Emma Charlton
* Lent 2003: Oliver Duff and Luke Layfield
* Michaelmas 2002: Katy Long
* Lent 2002: Rob Sharp
* Michaelmas 2001: Adam Joseph and Julian Blake
* Lent 2001: Tom Royston and Sarah Brealey
* Michaelmas 2000: Ed Hall
* Lent 2000: Jonti Small
* Michaelmas 1999: David Peter

The Lent term editor also edits a single edition at the start of Easter term, and a separate editor controls a special edition May Week issue at the end of the academic year.


Although Varsity's editors are not paid, they are supported by a full-time Business Manager and Company Secretary (responsible for sourcing advertising to fund the publications, running the office on a day-to-day basis, finance, accounts, tax and administration).

The current Business Manager and Company Secretary is Michael Derringer.

Recent Business Managers:

* 2007-2009: Michael Derringer
* 2006-2007: Adam Edelshain
* 2005-2006: Chris Adams
* 2004-2005: Eve Williams
* 2003-2004: Sam Gallagher
* 2002-2003: Tim Nixon
* 2001-2002: Ed Hall
* 2000-2001: Kate Norgrove
* 1999-2000: Rachel Flowerday
* 1998-1999: Suzanne Arnold
* 1997-1998: Madeleine McTernan
* 1996-1997: Emma Horton
* 1995-1996: Dylan Jones
* 1994-1995: David Nicolson
* 1992-1994: Rebecca Thompson
* 1990-1992: Peter Davis
* 1987-1990: Scott Ross

Varsity also has a Board of Directors made up of University academics, long-term associates of the newspaper and student members. The current Chairman is Dr Mike Franklin.


Varsity is now based at the Old Examination Hall on New Museums Site in the former Godwin Laboratory. Previously, Varsity was based at 11-12 Trumpington Street for over 16 years. The newspaper's move from this 'temporary' home to the new offices occurred in August 2007.


External links

* [ "Varsity"]
* [ "BlueSci"]
* [ "The Varsity Trust"]

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