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    Oxford was founded in the 11th century (evidence of teaching as far back as 1096), and Cambridge in 1209 by a group of scholars unhappy with Oxford. They then exist in isolation in England until Durham, in 1832.

    They had 600, 700 years alone to establish themselves as the universities in England, to attract sole attention and funding, to educate all of the brightest minds.

    Would they have been as good if they hadn't had this time? Is that why we haven't really had any Oxbridge-quality universities since - because they came too rapidly in succession?

    Or is there another reason why they're considered to be so good?
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    money
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    Like you said, they were the only UK universities that existed until the 1800s. This meant that when other universities opened, Oxbridge were considered more prestigious because of their previous accomplishments and history. This drew the most talented people there, and so they continued to be among the best. This has continued to this very day.

    As far as UG teaching is concerned, I'd say the tutorial/supervision system makes them among the best universities, because it really makes sure no student falls behind (I must admit my lecture attendance was poor in my first term, but the supervisions and associated work meant I was still keeping up with the material).
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    The main thing that sets them apart are the tutorial and supervision systems. Perhaps the copyright libraries too, if you're a book fan :yes:

    I think the former reason has more influence than how long they've been around, tbh :yes:
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    (Original post by Mr. Orange)
    money
    But would they have got any money (by which I mean any extra) if they hadn't been the only ones?
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    The main thing that sets them apart are the tutorial and supervision systems. Perhaps the copyright libraries too, if you're a book fan :yes:

    I think the former reason has more influence than how long they've been around, tbh :yes:
    So if they had been established in the early-mid 19th century with a tutorial and supervision system, you think they'd have the same reputation now as they do having been the oldest established?
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    (Original post by TheSownRose)
    So if they had been established in the early-mid 19th century with a tutorial and supervision system, you think they'd have the same reputation now as they do having been the oldest established?
    Not 100% (you always have the people who love the old buildings, etc) but in terms of attracting/producing the best* students, I think it would still keep them at the top, yes.

    The collegiate system is the other thing that is rather unique about them. I know other unis have colleges but my understanding is they're more accommodation/social things than teaching :yes:

    *loose use of term
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    It is because they were first established and have kept their reputation since. Oxbridge is the best because all the best students go there and so employers employ oxbridge graduates because they are the best. This means all the best students want to go to oxbridge and the cycle continues.

    It is impossible for thames valley to gain a good reputation because the fact it has a bad reputation means no high achievers go there and because no high achievers go there it is impossible for them to gain a good reputation.
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    Its not really time I think - take the top American universities, they were formed much later than Oxford and Cambridge, yet they are head and shoulders above/better than Oxbridge.

    It may be down to money however, as combined Oxford and Cambridge barely have an endowment of $2billion, whereas Harvard alone has an endowment of $27-37billion. The same goes for the other top universities in the US.
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    (Original post by i.am.lost)
    Like you said, they were the only UK universities that existed until the 1800s.
    No they weren't.

    The reason why Oxford and Cambridge are dominant is because of their hegemony over several hundred years (they ran every other show out of town until the 1800s) in England and the English class system.
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    (Original post by ChemistBoy)
    No they weren't.
    Yeah, I meant England. My bad.
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    (Original post by i.am.lost)
    Yeah, I meant England. My bad.
    It's a common mistake to forget the 5 ancient universities in Scotland and the fact that for several hundred years Scotland had 3 more universities than England.
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    (Original post by ChemistBoy)
    It's a common mistake to forget the 5 ancient universities in Scotland and the fact that for several hundred years Scotland had 3 more universities than England.
    Surely only four in Scotland:

    Aberdeen
    Edinburgh
    Glasgow
    St Andrews

    Which have I missed?
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    They set very high standards for admission, so they get people who are bright or driven or both. Then they work their students incredibly hard and set very high expectations for work. The sheer load of reading/essays, and the pressure of supervisions/tutorials with very small groups, means that there's really nowhere to hide. The ability to have supervisions/tutorials relies on substantial financial resources, which exist in part because of their age (the older colleges own a lot of land, which they use to raise money). It's all of a piece, but I think it's the supervision/tutorial system that sets Oxford and Cambridge apart.
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    Harvard/Ivy League >>>>> Cambridge and Oxford

    Period.
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    The main thing that sets them apart are the tutorial and supervision systems. Perhaps the copyright libraries too, if you're a book fan :yes:

    I think the former reason has more influence than how long they've been around, tbh :yes:
    :drool:
    One of the reasons I wish I was Oxbridge smart... whatever that is! It's funny how I (sort of) regret not applying- despite knowing it would be the worst place for me to go (in terms of my mental health), despite my very...un-Oxbridge GCSEs, ASs and A2 predictions, despite the English course not actually offering what I want (even though secretly I'd LOVE to study Medieval literature) and my general feeling that Oxford/Cambridge is basically far too grand for me and despite knowing I wouldn't get in anyway! **** the prestige, I just want an amazing library! :love:

    But yeah, what she said! ^
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    The supervision system is fantastic. It really helps to make sure everyone's working hard and allows you to catch up well, as well as providing an opportunity to have some questions answered without google or trawling through a library.

    The other brilliant thing is that because everyone who's admitted is very good academically it creates a great environment with a fairly strong work ethic and the ability to work in groups where everyone is really smart and the "oxbridge capable" person doesn't have to "lead the group".
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    (Original post by DJKL)
    Surely only four in Scotland:

    Aberdeen
    Edinburgh
    Glasgow
    St Andrews

    Which have I missed?
    Aberdeen used to be two Universities - Kings College and Marischal College.
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    The fact that they have a good reputation means they can cherry pick the best students, which means that by and large they produce good results and prominent alumni, which means that they have a good reputation, which means they can cherry pick the best students, which means that....
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    (Original post by ChemistBoy)
    Aberdeen used to be two Universities - Kings College and Marischal College.
    I know, I went there. However given the individual autonomy of the individual Oxford colleges, they might argue at similar time they had more than one University.

 
 
 
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