Cambridge vs Oxford: 10 Differences Why I Should Choose One

Cambridge vs Oxford: 10 Differences Why I Should Choose One
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Is cambridge or oxford better

We understand that you are a bright student who wants to attend one of the best schools in the UK and you’re torn between Cambridge and Oxford. Which is better? Which should you attend?

The truth is, the Cambridge vs Oxford debate is an interesting one that will give you a fresh burst of insight you never knew. And with these insights, you’ll be able to make the best college choice.

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Oxford University and Cambridge University are the oldest universities in the UK. They are also universities with a larger than life reputation, which reflects in their admission rate. Yet students are not satisfied with the fact that these two are the best in the UK. One has to be better, right? Hence the Cambridge vs Oxford argument.

So, in this post, we will analyze both schools using ten (10) key points. These points will differentiate both schools for you, and we hope that you will get interesting facts while we discuss each point. Also, we will explain the term “Oxbridge” as well as answer several other questions people are asking on the subject.

The table of contents below highlights all points.

Why Cambridge University?

There is almost no basis for the Cambridge vs Oxford debate if you don’t know why you should attend any of these colleges. So, here’s a little background about Cambridge University that may convince you to attend the University.

Cambridge University is the second oldest university in the UK. It began operating as a public research university as far back as 1209. This means that most of the notable historical inventors from the UK either attended this university or the first university in the UK – Oxford.

Also, Cambridge has consistently maintained high academic standards, which blends with its wealth and rich history to make it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. By this, a degree from Cambridge is one of great value, which employers respect.

Furthermore, Cambridge has 31 constituent colleges and over 100 departments which offer quality programs in almost every field of study. Also, grooming great mathematicians like Sir Isaac Newton, Cambridge means to keep producing the best brains the world will ever have.

So, you should consider Cambridge if you fancy yourself making great exploits in the world.

Why Oxford University?

Oxford University is the first university in the UK. It is so old that historians can’t exactly place a particular date the university began operating as a public research university. They can only say, however, that teachings gave been going on at Oxford as far back as 1096.

However, the university grew rapidly from 1167 when Englishmen studying at the University of Paris returned to the UK from Henry II’s ban. From then, it grew to become one of the most prestigious universities in the world, with its strong history and great influence.

Furthermore, Oxford has over 30 colleges that control their individual affairs, as well as several departments, that offer quality education in almost every field of study. Also, the university has some of the best facilities and faculties that ensure that you become the best you can be in your chosen field.

Additionally, the genius writer, J.R.R Tolkein, who wrote Lord of the Rings, attended Oxford’s Exeter College. Coupled with the long list of very influential alumni from Oxford, you can also make your dream of becoming a world figure blossom to life by attending Oxford University.

What is Oxbridge?

You almost can’t talk about Cambridge vs Oxford without mentioning “Oxbridge.” By merely looking at the word, you can already imagine that it was coined from Oxford and Cambridge. You wouldn’t be wrong if you are thinking in this line.

Oxbridge is the collective term people use when they are talking about Oxford and Cambridge. Because both schools share a lot in common, people refer to both as Oxford. For example, you would explain to a friend who is comparing Oxford and Cambridge to other schools in the UK that Oxbridge is a highly competitive school compared to other UK colleges.

The name sprung up in 1850 in William Thackeray’s fictional novel “Pendennis.” In this novel, the main character attends the fictional college, “Boniface College, Oxbridge.” The name has stuck since then and people use it to refer to the features Cambridge and Oxford share in common.

So, in this post, you’ll see us use Oxbridge a lot.

What are the Similarities Between Cambridge and Oxford?

There is a list of features common to Oxbridge which sets them apart from other universities in the UK.

Here are the major similarities between Cambridge and Oxford.

Is Cambridge Bigger Than Oxford?

Oxford is bigger than Cambridge. And its campus is more livelier than Cambridge’s. With a student population of 150, 000 Oxford student community outnumbers Cambridge’s students -124, 000.

Cambridge vs Oxford

So, back to the battleground, which university would you choose between Oxford and Cambridge?

We will not tell you which you should attend, but we will give you their differences. Through the 10 differences which we provide you below, you’ll be able to make your decision.

Here are the ten (10) points through which we will discuss Cambridge vs Oxford:

#1. Global Ranking

While Oxford and Cambridge are arguably the two best universities in the UK, they also hold a high reputation globally. According to QS World University Rankings, The University of Oxford ranks 4th in the world while the University of Cambridge ranks 7th.

However, in the section for Academics and Employers, Oxford ranks 3rd while Cambridge ranks 2nd. Furthermore, based on students-to-faculty ratio, Oxford ranks 8th while Cambridge ranks 10th.

Additionally, going by Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, both universities go head-to-head on the top spot. Oxford is the first university in the world and Cambridge is the second. They are two out of the three UK universities occupying the top ten spot – Imperial College London is 9th on the list.

#2. Subject Strength

By subject strength, we mean the subjects these universities offer that is exceptional in the way they deliver them. QS World University has been consistently providing such rankings. So, in the QS World University Rankings by Subjects 2019, Oxbridge university is well represented.

Oxford comes first in the world for the following subjects:

While Oxford ranks 1st in these five subjects, it falls in the top ten spots for thirty (30) other subjects.

Cambridge, on the other hand, comes first in the world for Anatomy, and second for the following subjects:

While Cambridge ranks first and second in these five subjects, it maintains the top ten positions for thirty-three (33) other subjects.

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Find the full subject ranking table by QS for Oxford and Cambridge in the next section.

Oxbridge QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019

University of OxfordUniversity of Cambridge

To see the full 2019 QS Rankings by Subject, hit the button below:

#3. Notable Alumni

If there’s anything that stands out the most in the Oxford vs Cambridge argument, it is their notable alumni. You will want to attend the college your role model attended.

For example, if you fancy yourself becoming a fantasy writer as big as Tolkein, you would want to attend the same university he attended. Sit in the same hall he sat to listen to faculty members lecture, and walk the perimeters of the surroundings he spent four or more years of his youthful life.

Indeed, Tolkien’s fictional world was inspired by his immediate surroundings, which Oxford University may have been part of.

There’s the saying that goes, “Oxford is for learning, Cambridge is for wit.” You’ll agree or disagree with that in the next section where we will discuss the alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities by subjects.

Cambridge University’s Notable Alumni

From its inception till date, Cambridge has provided great alumni in both the academic field and the wider world. In total, the university has produced 117 Nobel price winners, and its faculty members, alumni, and researchers have won 11 Field Medals and 7 Turing Awards.

Here are Cambridge’s notable Alumni by subject:

Oxford University’s Notable Alumni

Oxford University has had its own fair share of notable alumni and you can call these alumni Oxonians. The university has produced a total of 69 Nobel prize-winners and three (3) Fields Medal (The Nobel Prize for Mathematics).

Here are Oxford’s notable Alumni by subject:

#4. Location

Location plays a very vital role in determining if you’ll attend a particular college. Is the college in an Urban or Rural are? What is the lifestyle of the people there? How close is the school’s campus to the housing facilities?

So, let’s go ahead and analyze oxford and Cambridge’s location.

University of OxfordUniversity of CambridgeAddressLocationType of SettlementPerception

Oxford and Cambridge are small and compact places to live if you’re studying in the UK. You can get to places in these locations easily on foot or by cycling (which is more popular). However, both locations are close to the UK capital, London.

Also, historically, Oxford has been a larger, more urban, and industrial city than Cambridge. It is at Oxford that you get the BMW motor industry. Cambridge is not left out, however. Natives call the area surrounding Cambridge Silicon Fen. This area houses companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon.

Nonetheless, people think Cambridge looks like an agricultural market town than a city, with its green scenery.

#5. Architecture

Another interesting aspect of the Cambridge vs Oxford argument is the architecture. Which is more beautiful between Cambridge and Oxford? This may be a worthless question for some but for others, aesthetics determines the kind of learning they get from college.

So, let’s see what Oxford and Cambridge look like that makes them highly sought universities.

Both Oxford and Cambridge stand near rivers. However, the one river which flows through Cambridge is more prominent than the two rivers – Thames and Cherwell – which flows about the center of Oxford.

Furthermore, Oxford and Cambridge have buildings as ancient as their history yet they differ in style and materials. Oxford’s buildings are uniform, built with local sandstone. On the other hand, Cambridge does not have such uniformity as Oxford. The building materials came from different sources. Thus Cambridge university does not look as ancient as Oxford.

For this reason, Classic European movies like Harry Potter had some of its scenes shot in Oxford – Shadowlands, to be specific. The movie “His Dark Material: Northern Lights” had some of its scenes set in Ratcliffe Square.

#6. Admission Requirements

In terms of admission requirements, there are more similarities in the Oxford vs Cambridge argument than differences. Yet, some differences exist even within their similarities.

First, let’s start with the similarities.

Oxbridge Admission Requirements

Generally, gaining admission to Oxford or Cambridge university is competitive and different from other colleges and universities in the UK. Both Oxford and Cambridge requires prospective students to complete the following requirement.

Oxford vs Cambridge Admission Requirements

Now we have seen the similarities in the Oxford vs Cambridge argument, let’s take a look at where they vary.

With the help of a table, we will examine the Oxford vs Cambridge Admission Requirement difference using some of the points for which they are similar.

University of OxfordUniversity of CambridgeGradesInternational Baccalaureate Admission TestInterviewAdditional Forms

#7. Tuition Fees: Is Oxford or Cambridge Cheaper ?

Oxbridge charges one of the highest tuition fees in the UK for their quality education, yes.

However, let’s compare Oxford’s and Cambridge’s fees for undergraduate and postgraduate UK/EU and Non-EU students.

Oxford’s Tuition Fees

If you’ll be joining Oxford for the October batch, here’s how much you’ll pay:

UK/EU StudentsOverseas StudentsUndergraduatesOverseas)Islands)Graduates(MSc)(DPhil). (MSc)(DPhil). Islands students

Cambridge’s Tuition Fees

Students joining Cambridge University in the 2022 academic year will be paying the following as tuition fees:

UK/EU StudentsOverseas StudentsUndergraduatesGraduates(MAst)(MPhil)(PhD). (MAst)(MPhil)(PhD).

#8. Financial Aid and Scholarships

Scholarships and financial aid are other basis students consider in the Oxford vs Cambridge debate. With the high tuition, especially for overseas students, do Oxford and Cambridge provide educational funding support?

Oxford Financial Aid and Scholarships

The University of Oxford provides a generous sum of around £8 million in the form of financial support to undergraduate students. However, these funds are majorly for UK and EU students.

Nonetheless, Overseas or International students at Oxford are not entirely stranded as regards scholarships. A few numbers of scholarships exist for them, especially for students from the Asia continent.

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See all the University of Oxford Scholarships and Bursaries for Undergraduates by clicking the button below.

Cambridge Financial Aid and Scholarships

The University of Cambridge, like Oxford, provides the majority of its scholarships for UK and EU students, especially UK students. Cambridge’s scholarships to undergraduate students are in the form of Government Financial Support and Cambridge Financial Support.

The government’s financial support is of four (4) types. Student Finance England and Non-UK Team, Student, Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), Student Finance Wales, and Student Finance NI.

Meanwhile, through the Cambridge Financial Support, students can be able to access financial aid. These scholarships are mostly those the individual college’s departments offer. However, these scholarships are usually based on academic achievements.

View all the University of Cambridge’s undergraduate scholarships by clicking on your preferred button below.

#9. Employability

One of the major advantages of attending Oxbridge is the preference it gives you when it comes to employment. Employers don’t place your CV above others based on mere sentiments. No, they understand the quality of education you have acquired and years of employing Oxford graduates like you who delivered is enough to sway them to your favour.

Meanwhile, let’s discuss it; who is more employable between the Oxford and Cambridge graduate?

In 2018, Times Higher Education (THE) in their Top Universities in the UK Ranked by Employers ranked Cambridge University first and Oxford second.

They attributed Cambridge’s position to the large network of influential alumni worldwide in addition to the university’s teaching system.

For Oxford, their ranking came from the university’s commitment to developing digital technology and communication. Thus, Oxford’s graduates are exposed to important research and innovations that are highly beneficial to the workplace.

Furthermore, QS while giving both universities’ graduates a 100% employability rate, the University of Cambridge ranks 8th in their employability ranking, while the University of Oxford ranks 10th in the world.

#10. Extra-curricular Activities

You know, it’s not all academics in Oxbridge. In fact, extra-curricular activities are at the heart of Oxbridge education. with its large student body. However, you may have to involve in curricular activities related to your course of study. Like, if you’re majoring in mathematics, you should regularly participate in the mathematics olympiad.

Cambridge Extra-Curricular Activities

There are tons of extra-curricular activities at Cambridge University that students can involve themselves in to cool off the steam of academics. These activities are in the categories of sports, political societies, academic societies, and Drama Societies. There are also student unions, miscellaneous societies, college clubs and societies, and leisure activities.

Generally, however, the Rowing and Boat Clubs are the most prominent extracurricular activities in Cambridge. There are a lot of Boat Clubs by the Cambridge Colleges participating in Boat Races.

Also, another highlight of Cambridge (and Oxford) extra-curricular activities is the Varsity Match. This is an annual match for each Cambridge sports team against each sports team from the University of Oxford.

Oxford Extra-Curricular Activities

At the University of Oxford, there are over 400 clubs and society stretched over a wide variety of students interest. These activities are in the following categories:

You see, there’s a place for every kind of Oxford student, even the newcomers.

However, like Cambridge, a major extra-curricular highlight is the annual Boat Race, where Oxford University competes with Cambridge University.

Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race

The Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race is a competition that Oxbridge students look forward to every year. Since its inception in 1829, it seems the competition gets more interesting each new year.

The competition involves Cambridge University Boat club competing against Oxford University Boat Club over a four-mile (6km) stretch of the River Thames, one of the rivers flowing around the two cities.

The University of Oxford won the first edition of the race, but as it is predicted in the Bible, the first has become the last in the overall win. Not with a large margin, anyway. Cambridge leads on the overall win with 83 wins while Oxford follows closely behind with 80 wins.

Just as the overall win has is with a small margin, so has the winning margin in the recent races been. In 2003, Oxford won the race by the shortest margin ever of 1-foot (0.30 m). The following year, however, Cambridge snatched the title back from them with Oxford screaming foul.

The excitement never ends with the Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race and you too can participate in the next boat race once you decide on the Oxbridge side to enroll in.

Oxbridge Collegiate System

Like we explained earlier, both Oxford and Cambridge operate a Collegiate System of learning. In this system, the university has several independent colleges that form the university.

These colleges are more like academic communities where Oxbridge students have their tutorials. But they are more than tutorial colleges. Each Oxbridge college has its own own dining hall, bar, common room and library, and lots of college groups and societies.

So, how many colleges do the University of Oxford have? and how many colleges make up the University of Cambridge?

The University of Cambridge has 31 Colleges, while the University of Oxford has 33 colleges.

In the next section, you will see the full list of these colleges with the links to visit the college embedded on their names. All you have to do is click on the name of each college to explore.

List of Oxbridge Colleges

See the table below for a list of Oxbridge Colleges.

The University of Cambridge The University of Oxford Christ’s College Balliol College Churchill College Brasenose College Clare College Christ Church Clare Hall Corpus Christi College Corpus Christi College Exeter College Darwin College Harris Manchester College Downing College Hertford College Emmanuel College Jesus College Fitzwilliam College Keble College Girton College Lady Margaret Hall Gonville & Caius College Lincoln College Homerton College Magdalen College Hughes Hall Mansfield College Jesus College Merton College King’s College New College Lucy Cavendish College Oriel College Magdalene College Pembroke College Murray Edwards College The Queen’s College Newnham College Regent’s Park College Pembroke College St Anne’s College Peterhouse St Benet’s Hall Queens’ College St Catherine’s College Robinson College St Edmund Hall Selwyn College St Hilda’s College Sidney Sussex College St Hugh’s College St Catharine’s College Somerville College Wolfson College St Peter’s College Trinity College St John’s College St John’s College Wycliffe Hall Trinity Hall University College St Edmund’s College Wadham College Worcester College Trinity College

Oxford or Cambridge FAQs


Cambridge and Oxford are undoubtedly one of the best universities to attend in the UK. However, they are very competitive universities which don’t allow students to apply to them in the same academic cycle. So, you will have to choose which you will apply for come October.

To aid your decision, however, weigh both universities based on their world ranking, subject strength, alumni network, employability, and even their extra-curricular activities. We believe that this Oxford vs Cambridge battle of ours which you’ve just read will guide you to select the best for your career development.

We wish you the best of luck in your application!

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