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The age-old question for many high-achieving academics: do you apply for Oxford or Cambridge university?

Deciding between Oxford or Cambridge

The age-old question for many high-achieving academics: do you apply for Oxford or Cambridge university?


Picking between these two historic institutions will be a very personal decision only you can make. Knowing why you want to apply for your chosen university will also help improve your application, as we all know, you cannot apply for both. This blog is designed to make the decision a little easier for you by dissecting the two options and discussing what each one can offer their students. Hopefully, by the time you have finished reading, you will have a better idea of what path you want to take.


Is one harder to get into than the other?

People may determine the quality of education at a university based on the number of applicants. Keep reading if you are curious about where Oxford and Cambridge sit in these categories.

Oxford has not yet released its application report for the year 2022, so we will be looking at admissions for 2021.

In 2021, just over 24,000 applications were made to Oxford University, just topping applications for Cambridge at 23,000. Of these applications, Oxford offered 3,555 places, and Cambridge offered places to 4260 applicants. The statistics imply Oxford is the more competitive university, but with only a fraction of the difference, there is not much of an argument for this case.

It is worth noting that to be considered for either institution, applicants need a bulletproof academic record, with 95% of students offered a place at Oxford achieving A*A*A or higher, and 97% of Cambridge offer holders receiving A*AA atA-Level.



What does each university offer in courses?

When choosing which institution to apply to, one of the first pieces of research you should conduct is a) what course you want to study at the university, and b) does either university offer it.

Despite their prestigious standing, neither university offers every kind of degree, so it is important to consider what you want to study as this will largely contribute to your choice of university.

You might make your decision based on the reputation of your chosen subject, and this is not a bad place to start. Oxford is best known for its humanities education and Cambridge is renowned for the sciences.

Researching the tutors available within each institution is also a good idea. Many of the world’s leading academics will be teaching at Oxbridge, adding to the prestigiousness of your education. You want to research the interests and specialities of the tutors available as you may find a match to your own interests.

While both universities offer a range of degree subjects, certain degree choices are unique to each institution. For instance, those pursuing a degree in education are unable to do so at Oxford. Each university will differ in how they deliver and assess their courses so it is important to compare the two if your course of choice is offered at both and decide which best fits your interests.

For example, both Oxford and Cambridge offer English degrees. However, studying English at Oxford will entail mandatory modules in medieval literature, Victorian Literature, and modern literature. On the other hand, Cambridge only enforces ‘Contexts 1300-1500’ as a compulsory module. This means that although the content might overlap in places, students at Cambridge will have far more autonomy in their studies than Oxford students.



If choosing a university isn’t hard enough, because Oxford and Cambridge are collegiate universities, you have to make the further decision of which college is right for you. There are many factors that may contribute to your college choice, but generally, applicants base their decision on reputation, tutors, and academics, or simply your personal interests align with a particular college. There are many factors that go into choosing a college.

If it interests you, Oxford has created a resource to help you decide.

We could make a whole blog about choosing a college so we will not spend too much time discussing it here. But, do remember, it is another decision you will have to make no matter your choice of university.



Which one is more diverse?

Accurate figures on diversity within universities are often hard to achieve, particularly as nearly 5% of Oxford applicants chose not to declare their ethnicity in their UCAS application in 2019 and 2020. Oxford’s latest figures state that 25% of the 2021 cohort were BAME students. Cambridge topped this figure with 35% BAME students.

However, Oxford tops Cambridge when it comes to gender, with 55% of 2021 Oxford graduates being female, compared to 49% at Cambridge. Both institutions have reports which are available for you to access, should this intrigue you.


If you base your decision on the aesthetic beauty of a university, you will have a hard decision picking between the two. Both offer historical beauty within their walls and are equally unique in their architecture.

Although, we know you are probably not going to base your decision solely on the aesthetic of a building and you are probably more concerned about what the area has to offer.

Oxford is better known for its nightlife and lively town, whereas Cambridge is thought to be more of a relaxed town. Of course, if you asked a Cambridge student, they would probably argue against this!

A note from Neon Edu

For all our learners at Neon Edu aspiring for a place at Oxbridge. We pride ourselves on making the application as smooth as possible. Our specialised mentors are on hand to support UCAS applications, examinations, and interviews to help our students reach their potential and gain acceptance to their chosen institutions.

So, now you have all the facts. What side are you on, Oxford or Cambridge? Let us know in the comments!

Relevant Links

1 A-Z of courses | University of Oxford

2 Courses for 2023 entry | Undergraduate Study (cam.ac.uk)

3 Oxford University – How to choose a college – Undergraduate Admissions (archived) – YouTube

4 Ethnicity | University of Oxford

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