Oxford vs Cambridge University: Which One to Choose?

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Reem Mohamed

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26 July, 2023

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11 mins read

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University Life

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Studying at a prestigious university is a life goal for many around the world, and if they’ve chosen the United Kingdom as their destination of choice, then the age-old question presents itself: Oxford or Cambridge? 

As two of the country’s oldest and most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom particularly, and in the world as a whole, students often find themselves drawn to getting their degree from either Oxford or Cambridge University. Both universities are known for their high quality of education, world-renowned degree programmes, and high employability rates. Additionally, both universities are competitive and require effort to get into, this is where the choice becomes even harder. 

Since you can not apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same academic year and in an effort to help you settle the Oxford vs Cambridge uni debate, we’ve done our thorough research and are here to tell you all the key differences between the two universities. So, get your notepad and start drafting a pros and cons list as we go through this article together! 

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: An Overview

An important factor to keep in mind when deciding between Oxford and Cambridge is why you should study at either institution. Get to know both universities with us! 

University of Cambridge 

The fourth oldest university in the world, the University of Cambridge, was established in 1209. It is a public research institution that is situated in the centre of ancient Cambridge, 50 miles from London. On average, there are around  20,000 students at the University of Cambridge who are either local students from the United Kingdom or international students from around 140 different countries across the globe. 

The University of Cambridge's mission is to contribute to society through pursuing education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. 

As for the university's core values, they are rooted in freedom, both in thought and expression, as well as freedom from discrimination. Cambridge encourages students to question things through education by offering high-quality and in-depth education through various resources and across a wide range of majors and disciplines.

The University of Cambridge is a very vibrant place to study, live, and socialise; it has a great diversity of students from different parts of the world. Thanks to King's College Chapel, the masterpiece done by the infamous architect Reginald Ely, the university campus plays a vital role in the city's breathtaking architectural design.

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is one of the oldest universities in the world. Located in the city of Oxford, England, it is a collegiate research university in Oxford that has evidence of teaching that goes all the way back to as early as 1096. This makes the University of Oxford the oldest teaching university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation.

The University has won the admiration of kings and popes for its antiquity, curriculum, doctrine, and privileges. It started establishing academic halls for women in 1878 and allowed them to enrol fully in 1920. 

Many universities followed in their footsteps and allowed women to enrol. By 1974, five all-male colleges had started allowing women to enrol. Since then, all colleges have changed their status to start admitting both women and men. During the 20th and early 21st centuries, Oxford added a significant new research capacity to its humanistic core in the natural and applied sciences, including medicine. 

The university is one of the best in almost all majors. Not only is it the oldest British university, but it has also strongly held its position among other universities ever since its foundation! So it is no surprise that the University of Oxford is always the top choice for all students.

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Rankings

As two of the highest-ranked universities in the world, rankings are not usually the deciding factor when it comes to choosing between Oxford and Cambridge, however, it helps to know! 

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has a prestigious reputation and a highly-ranked position among universities in the UK and the world. According to the QS World Ranking for Universities 2024, the University of Cambridge is ranked second. Cambridge is also ranked eighth in the Best Global Universities. 

University of Oxford

According to the QS World Ranking for Universities 2024, the University of Oxford is ranked third. The university has also been named the best university in the world for a record seventh consecutive year in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2023.

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Acceptance Rate

As the designated most competitive universities in the UK, and possibly the world, acceptance rates matter at both Cambridge and Oxford universities, especially since you can only apply to one each academic year. So, here are the acceptance rates at both universities to help with your odds of landing your dream university. 

University of Cambridge

Cambridge University is quite competitive. The acceptance rate falls around 21%, meaning applicants must be extra prepared before applying for their field of choice at the University of Cambridge. 

University of Oxford

Oxford University is slightly more competitive than Cambridge, with an acceptance rate of just 17.5%, which makes it one of the most competitive universities in the United Kingdom and one you need to prepare harder before applying. Check out our guide on how to get into Oxford University for all the tips and tricks! 

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Tuition Fees

Factoring your budget into your choice is an important step in your decision-making process. Below are the average tuition fees for Oxford and Cambridge universities that you need to keep in mind before applying. 

University of Cambridge

Tuition fees for the University of Cambridge average between £25,000 and £65,000 depending on the type of course and study programme. Scholarships and financial aid programmes are available for students who may need them. 

University of Oxford

The average tuition fees per course at the University of Oxford fall between £9,000 and £45,000 per course depending on the course type, duration, and whether the student is local or international. 

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Schools and Colleges

Oxford University and Cambridge University are home to a number of specialised schools, colleges, and departments that help deliver high-quality educational content. Below are the schools found in both universities.

University of Cambridge

There are around 30 colleges at the University of Cambridge, including the following:

  • Christ's College

  • Churchill College

  • Clare College

  • Corpus Christi College

  • Jesus College

  • King's College

  • Queens' College

  • Downing College

  • St Catharine's College

  • St Edmund's College

  • St John's College

  • Trinity College

  • Trinity Hall

University of Oxford

There are over 30 colleges and schools at the University of Oxford, including the following:

  • All Souls College

  • Balliol College

  • Blackfriars

  • Brasenose College

  • Campion Hall

  • Christ Church

  • Corpus Christi College

  • Exeter College

  • Green Templeton College

  • Harris Manchester College

  • Hertford College

  • Jesus College

  • Keble College

  • Kellogg College

  • Magdalen College

  • Mansfield College

  • Merton College

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Subject Areas

Both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge have a wide range of disciplines and fields of study that students can choose to major in. Whatever your interests may be and wherever your passion lies, you will probably find a course or a degree programme that aligns with your needs at both universities. Here are a few examples of the subjects covered at both learning institutions. 

University of Cambridge

The university's colleges provide undergraduate, postgraduate, and continuing education courses across a wide range of subject areas, including the following:

  • Archaeology

  • Architecture

  • Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

  • Classics

  • Computer Science

  • Law

  • Medicine

  • Engineering

  • English

  • Economics

  • Philosophy

  • Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

  • Veterinary Medicine

University of Oxford

Schools and colleges at the University of Oxford offer undergraduate degree programmes, postgraduate degree programmes, and continuing education degree programmes for adult learners among others. These degree programmes are offered in several subject areas, including the following:

  • Art

  • Classics

  • English Language and Literature

  • History of Art

  • Music

  • Theology and Religion 

  • Philosophy 

  • Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics

  • Biology 

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Computer Science

  • Clinical Medicine 

  • Oncology 

  • Pathology

  • Archaeology 

  • Business

  • Law

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Research

Both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge prioritise research and provide their students with the necessary research facilities and resources to excel in their chosen fields. Here is a quick overview of both universities’ research areas and institutions. 

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has dedicated research teams and facilities that work across the following disciplines: 

  • Arts and Humanities

  • Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Clinical Medicine

  • Technology

  • Physical Sciences

  • Biological Sciences

University of Oxford

Oxford University was ranked number one in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for the sixth year running for its successful and ground-breaking research and innovation. Below are some of the research centres where students can pursue research at the University of Oxford. 

  • Centre for Gender, Identity, and Subjectivity

  • Centre for the History of Childhood

  • Oxford Centre for European History 

  • Oxford Centre for Global History 

  • Oxford Centre for Economics and Social History 

  • Oxford Centre for History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Facilities and Resources

Having properly-equipped campuses that have all the necessary resources and facilities for students to have a successful study experience is a crucial part of your decision-making process. This is why it’s important to note down what facilities you might need during your study period and choose the university that best suits your needs. Here are some of the most notable facilities and resources available at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge provides its students with all the necessary facilities and resources to help them thrive academically as well as excel socially, intellectually, emotionally, and professionally after graduation. Cambridge's resources include everything from academic support to sports and recreation facilities. Here are some of the most prominent facilities found at the University of Cambridge.


Cambridge has more than 100 libraries divided into college libraries, faculty and department libraries, and the main university library. To ensure that you benefit from the libraries, make sure to sign up for a library tour. You can also access the libraries online through the Cambridge Libraries Directory

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni

Language Centres

You can study more than 180 languages in the language centres at the University of Cambridge. Moreover, the university is well-known for its support of international students; therefore, it runs conversation classes with natives to ensure students maintain their English proficiency levels. You can also access multiple online resources to learn the language you like through the language centre website


Because of its historical importance as one of the oldest universities globally, the University of Cambridge houses museums that are open to students and the general public. These museums include the Museum of Zoology, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Museum of Classical Archaeology, and Fitzwilliam Museum.


The University of Cambridge prioritises physical activity and sports and provides its students with the facilities needed to practise their favourite sports. The facilities available at Cambridge include the following: 

  • Gym

  • Strength & Conditioning Room

  • Multi-Purpose Room

  • Sports Hall

  • Squash Courts

  • Team Training Room

  • Fives Courts

  • Athletics Track

  • Hockey Ground

  • Indoor Cricket School

  • Pavilion & Conferencing Facilities at Wilberforce Road

  • Cricket Ground

  • Tennis Ground

The sports and fitness activities that students can take part in at the University of Cambridge include the following: 

  • Cricket

  • Tennis 

  • Hockey

  • Squash 

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Golf

  • Running

University of Oxford

The university provides centralized student services that include careers and counselling and resources such as laboratories, libraries, and museums. Colleges provide libraries, accommodation, social spaces, pastoral care, catering, and other facilities for their students. 

The Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is the main research library at the University of Oxford. It’s also one of the oldest libraries in Europe. The library has over 13 million printed items, as it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library. It offers a quiet, suitable environment for studying. 

Welfare Advice

Students’ overall welfare and wellbeing are a priority at the University of Oxford and the welfare office provides the following services:

  • Student wellbeing 

  • Exam wellbeing 

  • Welfare support

  • University counselling services

  • History welfare

  • Disability support services

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Student Accommodation

On and off-campus student accommodation is also a must-know before you apply for either university. Here are some of the options for both on-campus and off-campus accommodation at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

University of Cambridge

On-Campus University of Cambridge Accommodation

The University of Cambridge provides its students with on-campus student accommodation facilities enabling students to live on campus and have a more inclusive learning experience that saves them time and money on their daily commute. There are options for undergraduate and postgraduate student accommodation on the university campus; here is a detailed overview of those options. 

Cambridge Student Accommodation for Undergraduate Students

Cambridge accommodation has a lot to offer! The on-campus accommodation has many self-contained flats and studios. Additionally, 1-3 bedroom houses with shared bathrooms and kitchens are available. All accommodation options are within a short distance from the faculties and colleges, and you are expected to book a room for at least a year to qualify for on-campus accommodation. Short-term stays are only available during the summer holidays, with limited availability in Christmas and Easter holidays. 

Accommodation price starts around £850 per month, excluding the bills. The houses include only the main appliances like refrigerators and cookers; however, small appliances such as kettles and microwaves are not included. 

Once you get an offer to stay on one of the university's campuses, you have only 48 hours to accept it, so make sure you read the tenancy agreement sample in advance to agree as soon as you can. 

Cambridge Student Accommodation For Graduate Students 

Although most colleges welcome postgraduate students to their student accommodations, not all students find a place in the on-campus student accommodation. The University of Cambridge has specific postgraduate hostels and flats that you could seek; however, if you are still looking for a place in these hostels, ask the accommodation services team for recommended private accommodations. 

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Off-Campus Cambridge Student Accommodation

There are plenty of options for University of Cambridge accommodation for students to choose from. Whatever your needs and preferences may be, there is a Cambridge student accommodation that fits the bill. Below are some of the best University of Cambridge accommodation options that are located mere minutes away from the university's campus. 

University of Oxford

On-Campus University of Oxford Accommodation

Colleges at Oxford provide private student accommodation for all undergraduate students during their first year of study, and an additional year can be allowed if the student faces some trouble. Many colleges are able to provide accommodation to graduate students, as well. 

Oxford University Accommodation for Undergraduate Students 

All first-year students are offered University of Oxford student accommodation at the main premises of their college or at a nearby college extension. All colleges usually offer an additional year of student accommodation, and some offer accommodation for the whole duration of the degree. After the first year, you can choose whether to continue living at the University of Oxford student accommodation or arrange your own accommodation outside of the university. Students who decide to move off-campus still have access to all their college’s facilities, including meals and washing machines. Additionally, the University of Oxford Students Union (Oxford SU) provides assistance on living off-campus and helps students if they have questions or concerns about off-campus accommodation. 

Oxford Student Accommodation for Graduate Students

Colleges provide a wide range of university accommodations. Some colleges offer a variety of options, and other colleges have exclusive blocks dedicated to graduate students. Some colleges are able to provide student accommodation in Oxford for their incoming graduate students, while others are only able to offer accommodation to a proportion of their graduates. 

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Off-Campus Oxford Student Accommodation

The University of Oxford has a wide range of Oxford student accommodation options for students to choose from according to their needs, budgets, and preferences. This University of Oxford student accommodation includes the following:

Oxford vs Cambridge Uni: Employment Rate

Whether or not you will be able to find a job after graduation is another thing for you to consider when choosing between both Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Here is a quick overview of the employment rate at each university. 

University of Cambridge

According to Cambridge Network, Cambridge graduates' employment rates are the highest in the UK; they fall at around 90%, with a median salary of £34,565. The University of Cambridge is a very vibrant place to study, live and socialise; it has a great diversity of students from different parts of the world.

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford has a proven track record of helping its graduates land esteemed positions in a variety of professions both in the UK and abroad. The employment rate at the University of Oxford is 91%.

Your choice of whether to apply at Oxford University or Cambridge University this academic year has just been made easier with this extensive guide on both esteemed institutions. If you end up at the University of Cambridge, make sure to check out the top things to do in Cambridge. So, which one is it going to be? 


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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Oxford better than Cambridge?

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Historically, according to university rankings, both Oxford and Cambridge have been neck and neck. Currently, they are ranked first and third respectively according to The Times University Rankings for 2023.

Which is harder Oxford or Cambridge?

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Both Oxford and Cambridge are highly competitive, and unfortunately, you can only apply to one per year. Based on acceptance rates and numbers, however, it is easier to get into Cambridge than Oxford.

Is Oxford better then Harvard?

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Both Harvard and Oxford are esteemed, top-ranked universities where students strive to get their degrees. Harvard is ranked second in National Universities, first in Global Universities by U.S. News, and first by the Round University Ranking, while Oxford is ranked first in Best Global Universities in Europe, fifth in Best Global Universities by U.S. News, and second by the QS World University Rankings.

Why is Oxford more famous than Cambridge?

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Owing to its history and how it is a more ancient university, Oxford is more famous than Cambridge, especially as it is the country’s oldest and most prestigious university.

Is Cambridge more beautiful than Oxford?

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While both universities and their home cities have their own beautiful aspects, Cambridge is seen as more beautiful and picturesque than Oxford. Oxford has its stately buildings and breathtaking spots, but Cambridge is the perfect place for a punting experience.

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