Difference Between Oxford And Cambridge

Oxford and Cambridge are two of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. They have been two of the foremost universities in the UK ever since their establishment in the 11th and 13th centuries, respectively. Although they both offer courses of study that are considered to be among the best in the world, there are some significant differences between Oxford and Cambridge. This article will explore these differences in detail, outlining their differences in teaching methods, entry requirements, subject specializations, and more.

Location and Size

The first key difference between Oxford and Cambridge is their location. Oxford is situated in the city of Oxford in the county of Oxfordshire, and Cambridge is located in the city of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire. Although they are roughly the same size, Oxford is slightly more sprawling whereas Cambridge has a more centralized layout. Cambridge also has slightly more students than Oxford, with around 20,000 undergraduates and 8,000 postgraduates compared to Oxford’s 15,000 undergraduates and 6,000 postgraduates.

Furthermore, Cambridge has over a hundred colleges whereas Oxford has only thirty-nine. This means that students at Cambridge are more spread out and can access resources, such as libraries, more easily than their Oxford counterparts. Additionally, Oxford has fewer colleges, making it easier for students to form closer relationships with their peers.

Subject Specializations

Oxford and Cambridge have different subject specializations. Oxford is particularly renowned for its strength in the Humanities, especially philosophy, and is also home to some of the best medical and engineering faculties. Cambridge, on the other hand, is known for its notable advances in sciences, and also excels in mathematics, and other STEM subjects such as computer science and physics.

Furthermore, Oxford places a lot of emphasis on the tutorial system, which means that lectures are supplemented with smaller web-based meetings to facilitate discussion and debate. This allows students to develop their skills in critical thinking and debate, something which is not necessarily encouraged at Cambridge, where lectures tend to be more lecture-based.

Entry Requirements

Oxford and Cambridge also have different entry requirements. Generally speaking, Cambridge requires students to have achieved a higher standard of grades in their A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) than Oxford does. Additionally, Cambridge does not accept applications from transfer students and only considers applications from students applying from other universities after the first year of study. Oxford, on the other hand, allows transfer applications and are more flexible in regard to their entry requirements.

Cambridge also offers a more diverse range of selection tests, such as the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) and the CE (Cambridge English Test) whereas Oxford tend to rely more heavily on personal statements and essays. Additionally, Cambridge applicants will have to attend an interview at their college of choice, something that Oxford do not necessarily require.

Tuition Fees

Oxford and Cambridge have very similar tuition fees, but differences can be found in the costs of accommodation and other living expenses. Living costs at Cambridge are slightly higher than at Oxford, which is typically offset by the lower tuition fees. For most degree courses, the cost of tuition fees is the same at both Oxford and Cambridge. However, some subjects may be more expensive at one university than the other – for example, medical and science subjects tend to be cheaper at Oxford while law courses tend to be more expensive at Cambridge.

Additionally, there are various funding sources open to students at both Oxford and Cambridge, including scholarships and bursaries for a variety of academic and extracurricular activities.


Oxford can trace its origins back as far as 1096, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. Cambridge, in comparison, was founded in 1209, making it one of the youngest universities in the country. Oxford was established by various religious groups, including the Cistercians, Cluniacs, and Friars, while Cambridge was established by Oxford scholars who were dissatisfied with the teaching methods of their predecessors.

Both Oxford and Cambridge utilise a collegiate system, whereby students are grouped in to college communities, which are self-governed by students and staff. These colleges provide a supportive environment, enabling students to make friends, form support networks, and socialise.


Oxford and Cambridge also differ in their approach to graduation. Oxford students receive their degrees at the University’s annual Encaenia ceremony – a ritual which is traditionally held in the Sheldonian Theatre in June each year. Cambridge, in contrast, holds no formal graduation ceremony and instead awards certificates upon completion of the student’s course.

Despite this, Cambridge does offer programs such as the Gowns Ceremony and the Public Orations, which offer students the chance to celebrate their academic successes in the presence of their peers, families and friends.


Oxford and Cambridge are widely regarded as two of the best universities in the world, yet there are some key differences between them. While Oxford’s Humanities and medical and engineering faculties are renowned, Cambridge excels in the sciences and mathematics. Additionally, entry requirements and tuition fees vary between the two universities, as well as graduation ceremonies, with Oxford holding one and Cambridge awarding certificates instead. Ultimately, despite the similarities and differences between Oxford and Cambridge, they both offer a world-class education and remain two of the most prestigious universities in the world.

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