Student Advice

What is Oxbridge?

Ben Maples  · Sep 14th 2023  · 6 min

Oxbridge remains one of the most desirable sets of universities in the UK. Aside from being two of the oldest academic institutions in existence, they are also part of the coveted Russell Group of Universities.


Generally considered to be the gold standard of academic excellence, Oxbridge looms large for students looking to go to university. They are universities with exceptionally high entry requirements, large reputations, and has educated some of the most intelligent scientists, doctors, politicians and media personalities in the world.

What is Oxbridge?

What is Oxbridge?

Oxbridge is a portmanteau of Oxford and Cambridge. The word collectively describes the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, both of which are a part of the Russell Group of Universities.

Oxbridge are considered to be two of the best universities in the world. They are long-standing pillars of the educational community and have earned an enviable international reputation as the two most popular universities in the UK.

Which is better for me, Oxford or Cambridge?

This, ultimately, comes down to you and what you want out of university. Neither are bad choices in and of themselves, however, both do offer their own unique experiences. In the Uni Compare top 100 rankings, Cambridge ranked 38th overall, while Oxford ranked 6th.

Both universities are considered leaders in their fields, but this does not mean they are the perfect place to study. As a student, the important thing for you is to find the university that best represents what you want; this is why university open days are so important.

Just because Oxbridge may have the best facilities does not make it the best for you. You need to ask if either university meets your needs as a student, before you commit to one or the other. Who knows, you may even find that a university that isn’t part of Oxbridge is a better fit for you in the long run.

Why is Oxbridge so important?

The overall importance of either institution is also down to individuals. Overall, Oxbridge has produced some of the most iconic British academics, such as Adam Smith, Oscar Wilde, Tim Berners-Lee and Stephen Hawking. The two universities also have a long reputation for producing comedians, such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Richard Herring and Olivia Colman among others.

Besides this, their standing as the gold standard of educational research is also highly regarded. Cambridge is home to the discovery of IVF treatment, penicillin and the early stages of insulin discovery.

Both are considered to be important British institutes. Generally, when speaking about the UK, Oxbridge tend to feature prominently as some of the main attractions and their idyllic locations in Cambridge and Oxford.

When are the Oxbridge application deadlines?

Oxbridge has a slightly earlier application deadline than other universities. Generally, students have until January 31st to submit their applications for university, however, Oxbridge is much sooner.

For 2024 entry, students will need to have their Oxbridge applications in by the 16th of October 2023. Dentistry courses also have similarly early application deadlines too.

How to apply to Oxbridge

What is the Oxbridge Collegiate System?

Oxbridge operates under a slightly different college system than most other universities. Their collegiate system has been running for hundreds of years. Under the collegiate system, students usually choose which college to join. There are more than 40 colleges at Oxford, and over 30 at Cambridge.

The colleges at the University of Oxford are:

  • Balliol College
  • Brasenose College
  • Christ Church
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Exeter College
  • Harris Manchester College
  • Hertford College
  • Jesus College
  • Keble College
  • Lady Margaret Hall
  • Lincoln College
  • Magdalen College
  • Mansfield College
  • Merton College
  • New College
  • Oriel College
  • Pembroke College
  • The Queen's College
  • Regent's Park College
  • Somerville College
  • St. Anne's College
  • St. Catherine's College
  • St. Edmund Hall
  • St. Hilda's College
  • St. Hugh's College
  • St. John's College
  • St. Peter's College
  • Trinity College
  • University College
  • Wadham College
  • Worcester College
  • Wycliffe Hall

The colleges at the University of Cambridge are:

  • Christ’s College
  • Churchill College
  • Clare College
  • Clare Hall
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Darwin College
  • Downing College
  • Emmanuel College
  • Fitzwilliam College
  • Girton College
  • Gonville and Caius College
  • Homerton College
  • Hughes Hall
  • Jesus College
  • King’s College
  • Lucy Cavendish College
  • Magdalene College
  • Murray Edwards College
  • Newnham College
  • Pembroke College
  • Peterhouse
  • Queens’ College
  • Robinson College
  • Selwyn College
  • Sidney Sussex College
  • St. Catharine’s College
  • St. Edmund’s College
  • St. John’s College
  • Trinity College
  • Trinity Hall
  • Wolfson College

Oxbridge students are affiliated with three different areas of the universities: the university itself, their subject department and their colleges. The college a student belongs to will be like their home, similar to houses at school. The colleges will have common rooms, accommodation, cafes, bars and library facilities.

What are the different colleges at Oxbridge?

What is the Norrington Table?

The Norrington Table is an internal ranking system used by the University of Oxford to rank their colleges. Unlike usual university rankings, which are generally used to show how desirable certain universities are by category, the Norrington Table earns its classifications from the academic performance of each college.

The system is developed by awarding individual students in each college points for their degrees. The methodology is:

  • 1st degree: 5 points.
  • 2:1: 3 points.
  • 2:2: 2 points.
  • Third: 1 point.

The total of these is then divided by the maximum possible score. These scores are also added to each college’s mean score for the future.

The table has come under a fair amount of criticism over the years, however. The table is often believed to be slightly biased in favour of students who are studying science-based subjects, where first-class classifications are more common.

What is the Tompkins Table?

The Tompkins Table is a ranking of colleges at the University of Cambridge. The table specifically ranks colleges at the university based on their undergraduate performances. Colleges that do not accept undergraduates are not included on the list.

The system is developed by awarding colleges points for their degrees. The methodology is:

  • 1st degree: 5 points.
  • Upper second: 3 points.
  • Second undivided: 2.5 points.
  • Lower second: 2 points.
  • Third: 1 point.

The rankings table is not an official ranking by the university, just as Oxford does not recognise the Norrington table. Those who do not achieve a degree, or are not candidates for an honour’s degree are discounted from the rankings.

What are the A-Level requirements for Oxbridge?

The university entry requirements for Oxbridge will depend on the course you are applying for. Most will tell you that you will need A*A*A* to be able to apply to Oxbridge, but they have been known to accept lower.

As for international students, you will need to have high scores. Those sitting the International Baccalaureate, for example, will have to achieve 40-42 overall, with 7s in specific subjects. You may be asked to achieve a 770 in Higher Level subjects.

A common myth is that Oxbridge does not accept applicants with BTECs. This is not true. Oxbridge are unlikely to accept students with only BTECS, however, they are likely to accept if it is supplemented with A Levels. T Levels are not accepted.

Oxbridge university

What are some of the societies at Oxbridge?

Many Oxbridge university societies are exceptionally famous. From Footlights at the University of Cambridge, the university’s comedy and drama society, to the secret Bullingdon Club at the University of Oxford.

Both universities also have their own internal student newspapers. At Oxford, there are Cherwell, the oldest student newspaper in Oxford and The Oxford Student. Meanwhile, at Cambridge, there is Varsity.

Does Oxbridge have any admissions tests? Oxbridge will usually have an admissions test for their subjects. Of course, not all subjects necessarily require them, however, most do.

The most common admissions tests for students attending Oxbridge is:

You may also be asked to sit a Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), which is needed at other universities too. The results of these tests will generally feed into you being offered a university interview, or may need to be sat as part of it.

Will I need to attend an interview for Oxbridge?

This will depend on what you are applying for and when you are applying. Oxbridge interviews more or less work the same as they do at other universities in that they are not a requirement for entry but may be used if there is a large volume of applications for that subject or that year.

The quality of your application is often taken into account too. A high-quality application may well usurp the need for an interview altogether, as well as your performance in any of the aforementioned admissions tests.

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