Oxford vs. Cambridge – Making an informed choice

Oxford vs. Cambridge – Making an informed choice

Both Oxford and Cambridge are world-renowned universities, with names and a brand value pegged at number one and number two by employers in the UK.

Both Oxford and Cambridge are world-renowned universities, with names and a brand value pegged at number one and number two by employers in the UK. The mecca for domestic students and international aspirants, there are unconfirmed rumours that Oxford is better for the Humanities and the Liberal Arts. While Cambridge is the grail for the Sciences or even vice versa. Both universities have a brilliant brand and proven track record for churning out iconoclasts with enviable regularity. Aside from Nobel Laureates to reigning Prime Ministers and even award-winning comedians between themselves, the Oxbridge have cornered the market on excellence among universities in the UK. There are some perceptible differentiators that may help you decide on the best varsity for your study.

Cambridge and Oxford Offer Different Subjects

Cambridge and Oxford teach the same way, but their courses, by design, follow a different trajectory, even if the subjects seem similar. For instance, Cambridge offers a course in Architecture, whereas Oxford offers Fine Art. Cambridge’s celebrated Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic courses (ASNC) are better rated than Oxford’s Celtic course. Cambridge offers courses in Veterinary Medicine, which Oxford does not. There is no actual competition between the two varsities; just a contrasting opinion in the way the study of a subject is approached, even if interdisciplinary. Cambridge ranks high in that regard, where there is flexibility in choosing electives, which may or may not be related to the chosen discipline.

The Discernible Difference in Pedagogy

Beyond the differences between the subjects offered at Oxford and Cambridge, the course design of the same subject is also markedly distinct. It sets the two universities apart in their offerings. The English course at Cambridge and Oxford’s ‘English Language and Literature’ course are a fine example of this pedagogical contrast. For Oxford, the early medieval literature runs from circa 650, whereas, in Cambridge, the same period is assigned to Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic literature. There is an appreciable difference in the approach to the broad disciplines by Oxford and Cambridge separately, which can be better appreciated as a student, depending on the specific interest that informs one’s decision to choose one varsity over another.

The Oxbridge Conundrum

Not one to offer platitudes, it is a matter of record that Oxford remains the bulwark for countless Prime Ministers and MP’s, including David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher). Renowned for subjects like Politics, Philosophy and Economics and Law, Oxford has been known for encouraging the Humanities, Liberal Arts mindset with astounding success. The varsity ranks in the top 10 for 41 subjects, with a world no. 1 ranking for Arts and Humanities. This is not to say that Oxford lags behind in other subjects, quite the opposite. Oxford’s Life Science and Medicine courses are ranked #2 globally.

However, studying Science at Cambridge can be likened to opting for the ‘Triple Science’ at the A levels, without a predetermined specialization, known as the Cambridge Natural Sciences System. This approach has worked very well for Cambridge, the alma mater of Alan Turing, Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, and Edwin Darwin, among others. Cambridge has to its credit over 90 Nobel Laureates in the field of Science and is the mecca for research and academia in the Pure and Applied Sciences. Cambridge holds the third and fourth rank in the world rankings for Engineering and Technology and Life Sciences and Medicine.

Making your Choice

Both the universities have an exceptional track record and brand name, yet, one must choose the one that best suits one’s own interests. Students are suggested to use comparative study between the courses, the syllabus and topics, and the research interests of the faculty to make an informed decision. When making a choice, be sure to view the testimonials of alumni and current students if you will not be making a pre-admission visit to the campus. These testimonials provide great cues on the academic pathways that are followed within the courses. Having said so, the vintage and age-old elite establishments of Oxford and Cambridge stand tall, among other comparatively newfound institutions in the world, immortalized in the annals of world history.


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