Oxbridge is a portmanteau of "Oxford" and "Cambridge"; the two oldest,
most prestigious, and consistently most highly-ranked universities in
the United Kingdom. The term is used to refer to them collectively,
both in contrast to other British universities and more broadly to
describe characteristics reminiscent of
University of Oxford
University of Oxford and
University of Cambridge, often with implications of superior social or
3 Related terms
4 See also
6 External links
Although both universities were founded more than eight centuries ago,
Oxbridge is relatively recent. In William Thackeray's novel
Pendennis, published in 1850, the main character attends the fictional
Boniface College, Oxbridge. According to the Oxford English
Dictionary, this is the first recorded instance of the word. Virginia
Woolf used it, citing Thackeray, in her 1929 essay A Room of One's
Own. By 1957 the term was used in the Times Educational
Supplement and in Universities Quarterly by 1958.
When expanded, the universities are almost always referred to as
"Oxford and Cambridge", the order in which they were founded. A
notable exception is Japan's Cambridge and Oxford Society, probably
arising from the fact that the Cambridge Club was founded there first,
and also had more members than its Oxford counterpart when they
amalgamated in 1905.
Percentage of state-school students at Oxford and Cambridge
In addition to being a collective term,
Oxbridge is often used as
shorthand for characteristics the two institutions share:
They are the two oldest universities in continuous operation in the
UK. Both were founded more than 800 years ago, and continued as
England's only universities until the 19th century. Between them they
have educated a large number of Britain's most prominent scientists,
writers, and politicians, as well as noted figures in many other
They have established similar institutions and facilities such as
printing houses (
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press and Cambridge University
Press), botanical gardens (
University of Oxford
University of Oxford Botanic Garden and
Cambridge University Botanic Garden), museums (the Ashmolean and the
Fitzwilliam), legal deposit libraries (the Bodleian and the Cambridge
University Library), debating societies (the
Oxford Union and the
Cambridge Union), and notable comedy groups (
The Oxford Revue
The Oxford Revue and
Rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge also has a long history, dating
back to around 1209, when Cambridge was founded by scholars taking
refuge from hostile Oxford townsmen, and celebrated to this day in
varsity matches such as The Boat Race.
Each has a similar collegiate structure, whereby the university is a
co-operative of its constituent colleges, which are responsible for
supervisions/tutorials (the principal undergraduate teaching method)
and pastoral care.
They are the top-scoring institutions in cross-subject UK university
rankings, so they are targeted by ambitious pupils,
parents and schools. Entrance is extremely competitive and some
schools promote themselves based on their achievement of Oxbridge
offers. Combined, the two universities award over one-sixth of all
English full-time research doctorates.
Oxford and Cambridge have common approaches to undergraduate
admissions. Until the mid-1980s, entry was typically by sitting
special entrance exams. Applications must be made at least three
months earlier than to other UK universities (the deadline for
Oxbridge is mid-October whereas the deadline for all
other universities, apart from applicants for medicine, is
January). Additionally, candidates may not apply to both Oxford
and Cambridge in the same year, apart from a few exceptions (e.g.,
organ scholars). Most candidates achieve, or are predicted to
achieve, outstanding results in their final school exams, and
consequently interviews are usually used to check whether the course
is well suited to the applicant's interests and aptitudes, and to
look for evidence of self-motivation, independent thinking, academic
potential and ability to learn through the tutorial system.
Oxbridge may also be used pejoratively: as a descriptor of
social class (referring to the professional classes who dominated the
intake of both universities at the beginning of the twentieth
century), as shorthand for an elite that "continues to dominate
Britain's political and cultural establishment" and a parental
attitude that "continues to see UK higher education through an
Oxbridge prism", or to describe a "pressure-cooker" culture that
attracts and then fails to support overachievers "who are vulnerable
to a kind of self-inflicted stress that can all too often become
unbearable" and high-flying state school students who find "coping
with the workload very difficult in terms of balancing work and life"
and "feel socially out of [their] depth".
Pendennis (1850) also introduced the term Camford as
another combination of the university names – "he was a Camford
man and very nearly got the English Prize Poem" – although this
term has never achieved the same degree of usage as Oxbridge. Camford
was also used in the
Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the
Creeping Man (1923).
Other words have been derived from the term Oxbridge, though none has
achieved widespread recognition. One example is Doxbridge, referring
to Durham, Oxford and Cambridge, and used for an annual
inter-collegiate sports tournament between some of the colleges of
Durham, Oxford, Cambridge and York; while Woxbridge is seen in the
name of the annual Woxbridge conference between the business schools
of Warwick, Oxford and Cambridge. The term Loxbridge (referring to
London, Oxford, and Cambridge) is sometimes seen, and was also
adopted as the name of the Ancient History conference now known as
United Kingdom portal
Third oldest university in England debate
List of fictional
^ "Oxbridge". oed.com (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 2005.
Originally: a fictional university, esp. regarded as a composite of
Oxford and Cambridge. Subsequently also (now esp.): the universities
of Oxford and Cambridge regarded together, esp. in contrast to other
British universities. adj Of, relating to, characteristic of, or
Oxbridge (freq. with implication of superior social or
^ G.D. Worswick (3 May 1957). "The anatomy of Oxbridge". Times
^ G.D. Worswick (6 June 1958). "Men's Awards at Oxbridge". Times
A. H. Halsey (1958). "British Universities and Intellectual Life".
Universities Quarterly. Turnstile Press. 12 (2): 144. Retrieved
^ Giro Koike (5 April 1995). "Why The "Cambridge & Oxford
Society"?". Retrieved 2008-09-08.
Oxbridge 'Elitism'" (PDF). parliament.uk. 9 June 2014.
^ "Acceptances to Oxford and Cambridge Universities by previous
educational establishment". parliament.uk.
^ "A brief history of the University". ox.ac.uk. Archived from the
original on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
^ "A Brief History – Early Records". cam.ac.uk. Retrieved
^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (16 March 2008). "Education: It's the clever
way to power – Part 1". The Guardian. London. Retrieved
^ Cadwalladr, Carole (16 March 2008). "Education: It's the clever way
to power – Part 2". The Guardian. London. Retrieved
^ "A Brief History: Early records". University of Cambridge. Retrieved
^ Watson, Roland. "University Rankings League Table 2009". Good
University Guide. London: Times Online. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
^ "University Rankings League Table". The Sunday Times University
Guide. London: Times Online. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
^ Bernard Kingston (28 April 2008). "League table of UK universities".
The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
^ "Research degree qualification rates". Higher Education Funding
Council for England. July 2010.
^ Walford, Geoffrey (1986). Life in Public Schools. Taylor &
Francis. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-416-37180-2. Retrieved
^ "UCAS Students: Important dates for your diary". Archived from the
original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 15 October 2008
Last date for receipt of applications to Oxford University, University
of Cambridge and courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science
or veterinary medicine.
^ "UCAS Students FAQs: Oxford or Cambridge". Archived from the
original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-23. Is it possible to
apply to both Oxford University and the University of Cambridge?
^ "Organ Awards Information for Prsospective Candidates" (PDF).
Faculty of Music, University of Oxford. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 22 August 2012. Retrieved 2009-03-22. It is possible for a
candidate to enter the comparable competition at Cambridge which is
scheduled at the same time of year.
^ "Cambridge Interviews: the facts" (PDF). University of Cambridge.
^ "Interviews at Oxford". University of Oxford. Retrieved
^ Robert David Anderson (2004). European universities from the
Enlightenment to 1914. OUP. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-19-820660-6.
^ Carole Cadwalladr (16 March 2008). "
Oxbridge Blues". The
^ Eric Thomas (20 January 2004). "Down but not out". London: The
Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
^ Elizabeth Davies (21 February 2007). "The over-pressured hothouse
that is Oxbridge". The Independent. London. Archived from the original
on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-02. Two recent deaths have
brought the issue of
Oxbridge students' mental health back to the
^ Charlie Boss (2 December 2006). "Why so many state school pupils
drop out of Oxbridge". The Spectator. Retrieved
2009-02-02. [permanent dead link]
^ "How middle-class are you? Take this quiz". The Daily Telegraph. 19
Feb 2012. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
^ "Doxbridge: a chip on our collective shoulders?". Palatinate.
November 6, 2014. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
^ "Debate: Rather be at
Oxbridge than Doxbridge?". The Tab. 16 January
2016. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
^ "The University Sports Tour for Easter 2008". Archived from the
original on 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-13.
^ "Woxbridge 2011". Conference Website.
^ Morgan, K. J. (2004). "The research assessment exercise in English
universities, 2001". Higher Education. 48 (4): 461–482.
^ "AMPAH 2003: Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History
(formerly also known as LOxBridge)". Archived from the original on 11
July 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
Oxbridge in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
The Boat Race
The Varsity Match
Cambridge Nobel Laureates
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Oxford University Famous Members
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White Rose University Consortium
Global Medical Excellence Cluster
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