Oxford or Cambridge: Which University To Choose?

3 min read

Oxford University and Cambridge University are two of the most famous and world-renowned institutes in the world. But when it comes to deciding which university will be a better fit for you, where does one start? Which one is better, Oxford or Cambridge? When it comes to the question of is Cambridge better than Oxford, it is hard to answer. They share many qualities. For example, both are collegiate and both offer personalised teaching times with Cambridge and Oxford tutors. Both are also highly competitive for aspiring college students. However, there are distinct differences between the Oxford and Cambridge universities which sets them apart. Unfortunately, you cannot apply to both. But, by the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of both institutes. This should help you make a decision as to which university to apply to, Oxford vs Cambridge.

Consider your subject, Oxford vs Cambridge

is cambridge better than oxford?

Although both Oxford and Cambridge score highly in rankings for world universities, ranking them in terms of subjects may differ. Firstly, the universities offer different courses to each other. This is not to say that the difference is completely vast, but the subjects may differ. Is Oxford or Cambridge better?

For example, according to their website, Oxford ranks number one in the world for English Language and Literature, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Geography. Oxford University does well in human sciences, life sciences, and medicine. 

Cambridge University ranks above Oxford University in several subjects including Natural sciences, Engineering, Materials sciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. 

Workload

Additionally, the type of degree and workload differs. At Oxford, if you choose to study science, you are unable to combine your science degree with another subject of your choice. But there are joint degrees available. The assessment layout is that you are informally assessed for work produced for tutors. However, students undergo the bulk of their exams in their final year. Around 30 hours of exams determine your degree classification.

At Cambridge, students are able to undertake flexible natural science degrees. This allows them to combine the biological or physical sciences of their choice to create their degree. Similar to Oxford, students are assessed informally throughout their time at Cambridge. However, exams are taken every year rather than in the final year like in Oxford.

To conclude Cambridge vs Oxford, academics are a very good differentiator between Oxford and Cambridge. It would be useful to research your course specifics and compare them between both universities. As well as this, ‘Open Days’ are held by both institutions during the summertime. Here, students are able to talk to current students and lecturers in relation to their aspiring degrees.

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Location, Oxford vs Cambridge

Oxford or Cambridge

Although the main focus of the university is higher education, it is still highly advisable to consider the city that you will call home for the next 3 years at least. Is Oxford or Cambridge better?

Oxford University

Oxford is located in the South of England and is easy to access from the major cities of England, even though there is only one railway station, and this is because of the number of direct trains and buses available. 

The city has stunning architecture with many historic buildings, parks, and museums to visit. Oxford is a very walkable city and almost everyone owns a bicycle. 

Apart from the ease of getting around, the city has a vibrant nightlife with pubs, bars and clubs frequently visited by Oxford and Oxford Brookes students. 

There is a new shopping centre, Westgate, which allows students the ease of in-person shopping for high street brands. Oxford is well known for its culture, and for those who don’t drink, there’s a wide array of jazz nights and theatre nights that are great for relaxing with friends. 

However, the city is not without expenses as the university has calculated that living costs can reach between £1,215-£1,755 per month in the academic year 2022-23. These costs include food, accommodation, personal items, social activities, study costs, and miscellaneous expenses.

Cambridge University

Cambridge is also located in the South of England but is a little closer to London in comparison to Oxford. Like Oxford, it is easily accessible from the major cities in the North and South. Cambridge is considerably smaller than Oxford, and as a result, it is easier to get around the city by foot and public transport.

The city is famous for punting and you’ll often see people on the River Cam against a backdrop of the city’s beautiful architecture. 

Since the city is smaller, there is a more student-feel to it and the pubs, clubs, and museums are often inhabited by students. The student theatre scene is impressionable with many famous comedians having performed in Cambridge. 

Living costs in Cambridge are slightly cheaper than in Oxford, as the University predicts that costs will be approximately £10,170 for students in the academic year 2022-23. These costs include food, accommodation, personal items, social activities, study costs, and miscellaneous expenses. 

To conclude Cambridge vs Oxford, if you prefer a bigger city that is more urban with the university being only one part of it then Oxford University is the university for you. If you prefer a smaller but more student-dominated city, then Cambridge University is the correct university choice for you.

Entry Requirements, Oxford vs Cambridge

why cambridge is better than oxford

UCAS has an early deadline for those applying to Oxbridge which coincides with the medicine and dentistry deadlines of October. Is Oxford or Cambridge better?

As with all courses, students have to write a Personal Statement which Admissions Tutors will read thoroughly. Some courses provide key features which could give you a clearer idea of appropriateness on their respective websites. 

Typical offers at Oxford range between A*A*A and AAA at A-level or 38-40 in the IB, depending on the subject. 

Cambridge is slightly higher with offers ranging from A*A*A for Science courses, and A*AA for Arts courses, and scores of around 40-42 in the IB. 

It would be worth looking up the specific subject requirements for certain courses as they can vary from College to College. 

Admission tests are required for most courses at both Universities; these are held before the interview. Cambridge may also ask students to take written tests on the day of your interview. 

Oxford interviews around 20% to 40% of applicants, whilst Cambridge interviews a much larger 80% of applicants. Additional requirements at Cambridge include questionnaires and different applications for international students. Oxford doesn’t tend to ask students to complete additional forms.

To conclude Cambridge vs Oxford, the application process is more rigorous at Cambridge with a higher chance of being interviewed prior to allocation of place, having higher entry requirements and, possibly completing extra tests than at Oxford.

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Tutorials, Oxford vs Cambridge

Oxford vs Cambridge

Oxford and Cambridge universities have very similar teaching styles and numbers of students and tutors. There is one tutor to every 10 students at both universities, approximately, which allows for a focused teaching and learning experience.  Is Oxford or Cambridge better?

Terms consist of 8 weeks for 3 terms which are considerably shorter than other universities, but the timetable is very busy. Teaching consists of lectures, classes, other work, and personalised teaching sessions- ‘tutorials’ at Oxford, and ‘supervisions’ at Cambridge. 

At Oxford, tutorials consist of a teaching session where the tutor meets with 3-4 students for an hour to discuss a topic in greater detail. These take place on a weekly basis but students may have several tutors, meaning there could be 1-3 tutorials in a week. Students are encouraged to critically think and develop opinions around a question that the tutor poses. Work is set ahead of time to prepare students for the tutorial and this ranges from research to writing essays. 

At Cambridge, the layout is very similar, although some subjects involve seminars rather than supervisions, which are with 10-20 people, rather than a smaller group of 3-4. The timings vary but pre-work is always set which consists of essays for writing degrees such as literature or history, and worksheets for STEM degrees. 

To conclude Cambridge vs Oxford, the concept is similar for both universities, and the tutorials/supervisions differ between subjects. However, the workload is great and the deadline is tight for both universities. Visiting ‘Open Days’ will give you a better indicator of the type of work you’ll be expected to produce at each respective university.

So- which is the right choice for you? Is Oxford or Cambridge better?

Hopefully, after reading this oxford vs Cambridge article, you have a clearer image of the ambience of both Oxford and Cambridge universities and are leaning towards picking one over the other. Research your subject of choice on both websites and visit both ‘Open Days’ to get a taste of university life and what you can expect.

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