Overall ranking: It beat Oxford to the number one spot in this year's Complete University Guide.

History: Cambridge dates back to 1209 when a group of medieval scholars, driven out by townsmen in Oxford, migrated there. The city has retained much of its ancient architecture. Peterhouse, for example, is the oldest college in Cambridge, dating back to 1284.

Address: Difficult to miss. The university and its 31 colleges dominate an increasingly congested, bicycle-thronged city.

Ambience: Cambridge retains a medieval atmosphere, with narrow winding lanes, church spires and landscaped lawns known as the Backs. A dynamic approach to exploiting research discoveries has led to "the Cambridge phenomenon", high-tech developments triggered by the university.

Who's the boss? Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz became the 345th vice-chancellor in October 2010.

Prospectus: 01223 333 308 or download one here .

UCAS code: C05

What you need to know

Easy to get into? Definitely not! This is a place for the brightest of sparks: students need top grades and an impressive interview technique.

Vital statistics: With over 18,000 students, from 136 countries, more than 9,000 staff, 31 colleges and 150 departments, Cambridge is one of the top universities in the world for research.  Many students went to private school but the university has been aiming to widen participation in recent years with 10% of its intake coming from households with an income less than £15,000. Cambridge is one of 24 Russell Group universities, dedicated to the highest levels of academic excellence.

Added value: Its reputation as a leading university worldwide attracts top students and academics, while the collegiate system maintains the tradition of one-to-one or small group tutorials. The university is regularly ranked as one of the top five universities in the world, and is at the international forefront of excellence in teaching and research. Interestingly, with the university library's status as a copyright library, by law it receives a copy of every single book published in the UK.

Teaching: Ranked 12th out of 126 for student satisfaction in the Complete University Guide.

Graduate prospects: Ranked 3rd out of 126, with 88.3 per cent of students finding graduate-level employment.

Any accommodation? Cambridge guarantees most students college-owned accommodation for 3 years. The starting price is £2850 a year , including bills but not catering.

Cheap to live there? A mixture. Student bars abound and are cheap as chips, but expect to pay anything onwards of £80 a week for a shared flat.

Transport links: London is one hour by train. Easy access by road. Half an hour from Stansted Airport.

Fees: £9,000 per year for full-time UK/EU undergrads starting on any course in 2014. Fees for overseas students vary.

Bursaries: The Cambridge Bursary Scheme offers UK and EU students non-repayable Bursaries of up to £10,500 over three years or £14,000 over four years to help with living costs. The value of each Bursary is dependent on household income, with the maximum award in 2015-16 being £3,500. If a student is eligible for a government Maintenance Grant (full or partial) they are also eligible for a Cambridge Bursary. A higher Bursary of £5,600 per year is available to UK mature students with family incomes of £25,000 per year or less who are also resident in Cambridge throughout the year. There’s no limit to the number of Bursaries available – every eligible student who applies will receive one. See the website for more details.

The fun stuff

Nightlife: Arts and cinema are excellent, as are popular college entertainments such as bops and pub quizzes. There are over one hundred pubs and a few clubs in the town centre: Fez Club offers a range of themed student nights but head to Ballare for great cocktails and a large dancefloor.

Price of a pint: You're looking at around £3.50.

Sporting reputation: Not bad at 14th in the BUCS league.

Calendar highlight: May Week follows the end of exams when students celebrate with decadent balls and traditional garden parties.

Notable societies: The Cambridge Union is the largest, with a worldwide reputation for open debate. For something a little more light-hearted, join Pembroke College's Winnie the Pooh Society on their pilgrimage to the real Hundred Acre Wood.

Glittering alumni: Oliver Cromwell, Charles Darwin, Samuel Pepys and Lord Byron. More recently Prince Charles, David Attenborough, Clare Balding, John Cleese, Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie, Sacha Baron-Cohen (Ali G) and Jeremy Paxman.