Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year


Average number of applicants per year


Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Tripos (ASNC) concerns the different peoples of the British Isles and Scandinavia, mainly from the fifth to the eleventh century during the early Middle Ages and their:

  • history
  • material culture
  • languages
  • literature

The course will appeal to anyone with a special interest in early languages, medieval literature or medieval history. It requires the eagerness to investigate the unknown and the determination to pursue matters into the darkest corners.

Only about thirty students per year across the whole University are admitted to study ASNC. This encourages strong ties between fellow students, creating a valuable network of contacts between undergraduates at different colleges.

Teaching is mostly provided in the form of lectures, classes and individual supervisions by the Department of ASNC, located on the Sidgwick Site. At College level, the academic welfare of students is overseen by their Director of Studies, whose responsibilities include interviewing applicants, offering advice on the selection of papers, suggesting which lectures and classes to attend and making arrangements for weekly supervisions.

Downing is fortunate in this respect in having an internal Director of Studies who is also a Fellow of the College, Dr David Pratt, a specialist in Anglo–Saxon history. Dr Pratt is also Director of Studies in History for Downing. His book, on texts attributed to the Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, was published in 2007.

The range of options in the ASNC Tripos is not available in any course offered by any other university. This gives the course three advantages:

It is cross–cultural. ASNC students study the history, languages and literatures of various peoples active in different parts of northern Europe, separately and in relation to each other. The main areas in question are:

  • Anglo-Saxon England
  • the Celtic lands (Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany)
  • Viking Scandinavia (with Iceland, Orkney, Shetland, etc.)

Secondly, it is interdisciplinary. The ASNC course provides the interested student with an opportunity to acquire expertise in:

  • early languages and literature
  • early medieval history
  • the skills involved in handling medieval manuscripts.

Thirdly, it is source-based. The course is founded on the premise that studies are best pursued through direct analysis of the original texts.

Within the wider scope of the Tripos, students are free to place the focus of their studies where they please. Most will select a combination of historical and literary options. It is also possible to select a range of historical courses, to select a range of literary and linguistic courses, or to concentrate on either the Celtic or the Germanic (Anglo–Saxon and Scandinavian) peoples.

Further information about the ASNC Tripos can be obtained from the ASNC department website.

Prospective applications to study the ASNC Tripos can be supported by a wide variety of sixth-form subject choices, including English Literature, History, German, French or Latin. There is no specific language requirement for admission, but some evidence of linguistic ability is generally desirable.

In general, no specific study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic material itself is expected or required, but prospective students are strongly encouraged to read as widely as they can before committing themselves to the subject.

In advance of interviews, we ask to see some of the written work you have produced during the course of your studies and this will provide some of the basis for discussion. There is no need to bring material along to the interview.

Anglo–Saxon, Norse and Celtic applicants receive two half–hour interviews on the same day, each with either one or two interviewers. The interviews are an attempt to assess the nature, rather than limits, of your knowledge and interests. Both interviews are largely subject–based, although more general questions may also be asked.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

An Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic introductory reading list can be found here.

These titles are given as a guide to help applicants gain a better understanding of the subject matter. They are not intended as preparatory reading and interviewers will not expect candidates necessarily to have read any of these titles.

Further details of the Anglo–Saxon, Norse, and Celtic course at the University of Cambridge can also be found at the departmental website.