Demystifying Oxbridge: 10 things you may not know about Oxbridge

Demystifying Oxbridge: 10 things you may not know about Oxbridge

Oxbridge is the collective term used to identify two of the most prestigious universities in the UK and in the world, namely the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

Along with prestige, these are two of the most selective universities in the world. They receive thousands of undergraduate applications from all around the world every year. Here are 10 interesting facts about Oxbridge:

  • They are two of the oldest universities in the UK and in the world. Both were founded more than 800 years ago, with Oxford being founded in 1096 and Cambridge in 1208. They have educated a large number of Britain’s most prominent scientists, writers and politicians throughout history, as well as other notable figures from all around the world.
  • The rivalry between the two universities has a long and interesting history. These two universities have a famous rivalry that started centuries ago. The University of Cambridge was actually founded by scholars taking refuge from hostile Oxford townsmen, and so they never got along. Today, this antagonism is more of a friendly competition and is celebrated every year in varsity matches such as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. 
  • You will need three or four solid As or A*s to get in. Most people do 3 or 4 A-levels and just a few do more than that. But to get into Oxbridge, it is the quality of A-levels that really matter, not the quantity. The typical course at these universities will require at least A*AA results.
  • It does not cost more to go to Oxbridge. Most people think that studying at Oxbridge is more expensive than any other university. However, the cost is pretty much the same as other universities. Furthermore, all colleges provide on-site accommodation for at least part of your course and both universities offer financial support packages for students from low-income backgrounds.
  • Oxbridge actually admits more state school pupils than independent school pupils. It is interesting to note that both Oxford and Cambridge admit more state school pupils (57.7% and 63% of undergraduate admissions in 2011 respectively) compared to independent or private school pupils.
  • Applicants, students and staff come from many different backgrounds. Many people assume that you will only be accepted into Oxbridge if you come from a prestigious or wealthy background. In actual fact, Oxford and Cambridge are populated by students, tutors and staff from a whole variety of backgrounds, races, classes, cultures and nationalities. 
  • The interview is probably not as tough as you think. It is true that some students spend a lot of time practising for their interview and some even attend special classes to help them prepare. But many students are able to pass the interview without attending special classes since what really matters is that the interviewers can see how you think and if you show an interest and enthusiasm for your subject. 
  • You will definitely need to start preparing early. Many parents that think about their child going to Oxbridge start preparing them from a young age – some as early as 3 years old! You probably don’t have to start that early, but it is advisable to start from the age of 10 or 11. You need to work hard and get good SAT grades, making it easier to get good As and A*s at GCSE level in secondary school. This, in turn, will make it easier for you to get As and A*s at A-level. 
  • You will need to apply and choose your course early. The application date for Oxbridge is usually very early in the academic year of Year 13. Thus, you will probably want to use the summer at the end of Year 12 to prepare your personal statement and do as much research as possible about which university and course you want to apply for. As mentioned, competition for Oxbridge is very high, so make sure you choose four or five other universities as a backup plan.
  • There are other universities in the world that are probably just as good. Remember that there are dozens of other really good universities in the UK and abroad. If you are studying a specialist subject, you may prefer to apply to a specialist college or university. There is also the Russell Group universities and the Ivy League universities that are known to be some of the best in the UK and US respectively. If you look at university league tables from across the world, you will find that Oxford and Cambridge are not always in the first spot – so stay open minded.


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