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Debunking the Oxbridge Myths!

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

The keenly awaited Times Higher Education Good University Guide was published this weekend and it was no surprise to find Oxford and Cambridge at the top of the list again! Oxford scooped the board with University of the Year, whilst Cambridge topped the Centres of Excellence with a stunning 32 subjects areas being rated the first in the UK.

As two of the most prestigious and highly sought after Universities, it is not surprising that they attract thousands of applications from all over the world each year, on average around 20,000 students apply to each of the two universities for just over 3,000 places on offer at each institution.

But many perfectly capable and academically ambitious students are put off by the rumours of elitism and fear of not being good enough. So, we quizzed some of our tutors who are Oxbridge graduates to debunk the myths about applying to these two bastions of academia.

Want to know more about Oxbridge applications? Join us for our ‘Ask the Experts’ seminar on September 24th. This will be an opportunity to hear from recent undergraduates about how they secured their places and their first hand experiences of studying there. Sign up here

It’s very competitive to get in…..

There is no denying it is a very competitive field – you will be competing with some of the brightest students around the globe. However, if you have what they are looking for then you have just as good a chance of getting is as anyone else!

The good news is that both universities are very transparent about their application statistics, so it is easy to see which subjects and Colleges are very popular.

It's only for really clever people….

As two of the top Universities in the world it is not surprising they are looking for cleverest people, entry requirements for both universities are a A A A – A* A* A for Oxford and A*A A – A*A*A for Cambridge and most students will be at the top end of these requirements.

However, what they are really interested in is how intellectually curious you are and how passionate you are about your subject. They want to know if you can think outside of the box and how you think about challenges and solve problems. Part of the interview process is to see if you are ‘teachable’ in a one to one environment.

Grades are the things that get you to interview but what gets you a place is your enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

Only ‘posh’ people go to Oxford and Cambridge…..

Oxford and Cambridge are genuinely interested in your academic pedigree not your family tree. Both universities are working hard to dispel this myth and broaden access to a wider pool of students from different backgrounds. They recognise that diversity in socio economic background, gender and race will bring more lively minds to debate and discuss with the academic rigour and passion that they are renowned for.

Only British people go to Oxford and Cambridge…..

Whilst a large proportion of the student body will be British, both Oxford and Cambridge recruit internationally and have students studying there from over 140 countries. They have a diverse and robust admissions policy and welcome applications from anywhere in the world.

Making friends from all over the world is one of the many benefits of studying at a UK university and Oxford and Cambridge are no exceptions.

Thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge? Contact our education consultancy team at to find out more about how we support students to make competitive Oxbridge applications.

You have to choose a College…..

Whilst both Oxford and Cambridge have a Collegiate system, your degree is from the University and department whereas the College will be your home from home whilst studying at the University. This is where your tutorials will take place and your academic supervisor will be based.

However, it is not strictly true that you have to choose a College. Increasingly many students are choosing to make an open application, which means the University will allocate your application to a College. Although, if you have a preference for a College because you like the location, or you feel it will be a good fit for your personality or there is a particular member of Faculty you would like to study with, then you can apply direct to that College.

Each College has a very distinctive character and some are known for having fantastic libraries, or dining facilities others are famous for their rowing teams or music. It is important to research your College choices to make sure you find the right fit for you.

It’s very hard work……

The workload is very intense, the terms are short - 8 weeks - and the one to one learning in tutorials or supervisions is laser focused so there are no short cuts in preparing for these. However, if you love your subject then it is an amazing opportunity to explore it in depth with some of the world’s leading experts. There is definitely time for fun and there are lots of Clubs and Societies to get involved with. But the primary reason you are studying at Oxford of Cambridge is your course and that will always take priority.

Everyone loves it there…….

It is a unique experience and it is definitely not for everyone and very few Oxbridge graduates will claim to have loved every minute of their time there. Most, however, would agree that the end justifies the means. The academic pressure, the relentless deadlines, the incredibly heavy workload; a Natural Scientist at Cambridge can expect to have a minimum of 50 hours of work in their first year, and a Humanities undergraduate will be reading up to 5 hours a day is a tough comparison with friends at other universities who have 12 hours of contact time a week! But at the end of the day no-one can take away from the fact you have an Oxbridge degree!

Oxbridge graduates get the best jobs……

The skills you acquire from a degree at either Cambridge or Oxford such as critical thinking, research skills, building and defending an argument and managing your time, not to mention your academic qualifications are all top requirements for employers, which means Oxbridge graduates are highly sought after in the graduate recruitment market. But overall, the employment stats from Oxbridge graduates are not dissimilar to those of other Russell group universities.

To find out more about our University Preparation Services, please contact Shelly as

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