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Fitzwilliam opened in 1869 to undergraduate students who wanted to study, but could not afford the costs of attending a specific college at Cambridge University. The institution operated as a non-collegiate organization until 1966 when it received the Royal Charter to establish officially as Fitzwilliam College.
The institution of Fitzwilliam, sometimes referred to as “Fitz”, supported the Cambridge education and wanted to open the university’s doors to those who had the academic qualifications even though they lacked the financial wealth. As more grants appeared in later years with the establishment of equal education in the United Kingdom, Cambridge University considered closing Fitzwilliam. However, the community support inspired the campaign to gain the Royal Charter as a college.
Taking from the Earl of Fitzwilliam’s crest, the Fitzwilliam College coat of arms represents the family name. It received official permission to use the coat of arms in 1974. To wear the crest of the Fitzwilliam family and the college, click here.
Unlike the architecture of some Cambridge University college buildings that date to the 17th Century, Fitzwilliam College’s buildings boast a modern look. The Grove house, where Emma Darwin lived after her husband Charles Darwin’s death, takes on the 19th Century architecture, but Fitzwilliam built the remaining structures in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Of the colleges at Cambridge University that maintain financial strength from years of endowments and support, Fitzwilliam College remains low in wealth. Students that attend Fitzwilliam, however, draw interest from the college’s modern styles and elite academic approach associated with Cambridge.
Fiztwilliam’s college mascot has informally taken shape as a billygoat. Students sometimes refer to the college members as the “Fitzbillies” or “Billygoats.”