Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free

Oxbridge graduates/undergrads: Good and Bad points of the universities? Watch

    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    I'm currently in my last year of high school and have my hopes set on hopefully going to one of the Oxbridge universities. All I want to know is what the good and bad points of the universities are.
    The tuition? Things to do for fun? People? etc.
    Thought it best to get the info off of graduates and undergrads rather than a prospectus.

    Basically, Did it live up to your expectations?

    Thanks
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Daniel2010)
    I'm currently in my last year of high school and have my hopes set on hopefully going to one of the Oxbridge universities. All I want to know is what the good and bad points of the universities are.
    The tuition? Things to do for fun? People? etc.
    Thought it best to get the info off of graduates and undergrads rather than a prospectus.

    Basically, Did it live up to your expectations?

    Thanks
    Hey,

    I did my undergraduate degree at Cambridge and my postgraduate degree at Oxford. For most things, they are remarkably similar.

    The teaching is a little more centralised in Cambridge, and a little more College-based in Oxford - but for practical purposes this makes very little difference to your standard of education.

    Oxford has slightly more of an atmosphere of tradition and 'poshness', perhaps because it has a few more arty-farty ceremonies. Cambridge is often viewed as being slightly less traditional and more liberal. However, for practical purposes, again it won't really have much impact on your experiences here.

    Cambridge I found was a 'nicer' city and the centre is exceptionally small. In the summer it is lovely, and there are lots of nice greens by the river. Oxford is similar, but more of a bigger, robust city. I think it's fair to say that in Cambridge the city appears to exist because of the University - the University does dominate the centre. However, in Oxford I'd say the University more fits into a larger city that has merits on its own aside from the University.

    You have more chance of being interviewed at Cambridge, but if you DO get interviewed at Oxford you have more chance of getting in than at Cambridge. This is because Oxford interviews fewer candidates. It is worth looking at the entrance exams - they vary between the Universities and also between the Colleges. At Oxford for example, all History applicants sit a test. At Cambridge, only some History applicants sit an entrance test, depending on their College.

    Cambridge has a marginally higher state-school intake than Oxford. However this largely reflects their applicant population.

    At Cambridge, you all graduate together with the people in your year in your College. At Oxford there are numerous graduation ceremonies approximately every other month throughout the year, so you don't usually graduate with all your friends and it could be at any time of the year - often not just in the summer.

    At both universities, your BA (all degrees are BAs, even science/engineering) will eventually be converted to an MA degree. This doesn't mean you get given an additional masters degree, it simply means your BA gets 'upgraded' to an MA degree.

    In terms of who you get to meet, you do meet some amazing people. The academics are often on television or radio, and the students come from a number of backgrounds. While you have some from very lowly backgrounds (not that many though admittedly), you also meet students who are famous actors/actresses, the sons and daughters of prominent business people who may own or largely-own many high-street brands, and there are of course many sons and daughters of prominent politicians around the world, like presidents and prime minister. I all thought this was very interesting. They also have debating and guest-speaker societies called 'the Union' at each university (which are NOT the student unions), and these invite many interesting people - not just prominent political figures but also others from interesting backgrounds. I was fortunate enough to meet Jo Brand and Stephen Hawking.

    If you have any specific questions about the two, please let me know
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    Thanks a lot mate. I was hoping that someone would give me a comparison.

    I've got a few more questions though:
    -How do students spend their free time? nightlife etc. ( I know this isn't something that should affect my choice greatly but if I am fortunate enough to get a place I would be spending 3 or more years there).
    - What are the students like? Are they the stereotypical, pompous Oxbridge student or are there actually a wide mix of people, most of whom are not condescending? aha
    - Lastly, what kind of education did you come from? State or private? ...and what did you study?

    Thanks again
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by tony_ron)
    Hey,

    I did my undergraduate degree at Cambridge and my postgraduate degree at Oxford. For most things, they are remarkably similar.

    The teaching is a little more centralised in Cambridge, and a little more College-based in Oxford - but for practical purposes this makes very little difference to your standard of education.

    Oxford has slightly more of an atmosphere of tradition and 'poshness', perhaps because it has a few more arty-farty ceremonies. Cambridge is often viewed as being slightly less traditional and more liberal. However, for practical purposes, again it won't really have much impact on your experiences here.

    Cambridge I found was a 'nicer' city and the centre is exceptionally small. In the summer it is lovely, and there are lots of nice greens by the river. Oxford is similar, but more of a bigger, robust city. I think it's fair to say that in Cambridge the city appears to exist because of the University - the University does dominate the centre. However, in Oxford I'd say the University more fits into a larger city that has merits on its own aside from the University.

    You have more chance of being interviewed at Cambridge, but if you DO get interviewed at Oxford you have more chance of getting in than at Cambridge. This is because Oxford interviews fewer candidates. It is worth looking at the entrance exams - they vary between the Universities and also between the Colleges. At Oxford for example, all History applicants sit a test. At Cambridge, only some History applicants sit an entrance test, depending on their College.

    Cambridge has a marginally higher state-school intake than Oxford. However this largely reflects their applicant population.

    At Cambridge, you all graduate together with the people in your year in your College. At Oxford there are numerous graduation ceremonies approximately every other month throughout the year, so you don't usually graduate with all your friends and it could be at any time of the year - often not just in the summer.

    At both universities, your BA (all degrees are BAs, even science/engineering) will eventually be converted to an MA degree. This doesn't mean you get given an additional masters degree, it simply means your BA gets 'upgraded' to an MA degree.

    In terms of who you get to meet, you do meet some amazing people. The academics are often on television or radio, and the students come from a number of backgrounds. While you have some from very lowly backgrounds (not that many though admittedly), you also meet students who are famous actors/actresses, the sons and daughters of prominent business people who may own or largely-own many high-street brands, and there are of course many sons and daughters of prominent politicians around the world, like presidents and prime minister. I all thought this was very interesting. They also have debating and guest-speaker societies called 'the Union' at each university (which are NOT the student unions), and these invite many interesting people - not just prominent political figures but also others from interesting backgrounds. I was fortunately enough to meet Jo Brand and Stephen Hawking.

    If you have any specific questions about the two, please let me know
    What do you mean when you say 'upgraded' to an MA?
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by La Esmerelda)
    What do you mean when you say 'upgraded' to an MA?
    The letters change to MA for a small fee 7 years after matriculation, entitling you to be a member of Congregation. This does not mean that you possess an actual master's degree, and is based on tradition. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_...dge_and_Dublin)

    What are the students like? Are they the stereotypical, pompous Oxbridge student or are there actually a wide mix of people, most of whom are not condescending? aha
    I've met very few pompous or condescending people. In terms of social class, there is a small group of people who are well connected, went to exclusive schools, all know each other, etc. There are people from disadvantaged backgrounds or very underperforming schools who had a big struggle to get in. The majority are in middle class and in-between, from private schools, grammar schools, or comprehensives. If from comprehensives, quite commonly they're "nice", high-achieving comprehensives and\or people's parents are well-educated. I don't think the social mix is vastly different to other universities which are competitive to get into.

    I went to a comprehensive in South Wales which usually sends 1/2 people to Oxford\Cambridge, though lots to university in general.

    In terms of social life, I think both are pretty similar to each other and to other universities. Oxford separate to its university has a bit more going on that Cambridge separate to its university does, as I understand it.

    Things that do make them different from other universities are the workload, which is higher than most places, so while you can still go out all the time it may be at the expense of working quite hard during the day rather than writing it off. Also, the colleges are much more important to people's lives than the typical hall of residence so things like formal halls, bops (college parties) tend to be fairly big deals; and most people live in for 2 years of their degree, many for all of it.

    When talking about tuition, probably helpful to know what subjects interest you - arts and sciences are very different in that respect.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Huw Davies)
    The letters change to MA for a small fee 7 years after matriculation, entitling you to be a member of Congregation. This does not mean that you possess an actual master's degree, and is based on tradition. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_...dge_and_Dublin)



    I've met very few pompous or condescending people. In terms of social class, there is a small group of people who are well connected, went to exclusive schools, all know each other, etc. There are people from disadvantaged backgrounds or very underperforming schools who had a big struggle to get in. The majority are in middle class and in-between, from private schools, grammar schools, or comprehensives. If from comprehensives, quite commonly they're "nice", high-achieving comprehensives and\or people's parents are well-educated. I don't think the social mix is vastly different to other universities which are competitive to get into.

    I went to a comprehensive in South Wales which usually sends 1/2 people to Oxford\Cambridge, though lots to university in general.

    In terms of social life, I think both are pretty similar to each other and to other universities. Oxford separate to its university has a bit more going on that Cambridge separate to its university does, as I understand it.

    Things that do make them different from other universities are the workload, which is higher than most places, so while you can still go out all the time it may be at the expense of working quite hard during the day rather than writing it off. Also, the colleges are much more important to people's lives than the typical hall of residence so things like formal halls, bops (college parties) tend to be fairly big deals; and most people live in for 2 years of their degree, many for all of it.

    When talking about tuition, probably helpful to know what subjects interest you - arts and sciences are very different in that respect.
    Thanks a lot I think you've just about answered all I want to know.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Daniel2010)
    Thanks a lot mate. I was hoping that someone would give me a comparison.

    I've got a few more questions though:
    -How do students spend their free time? nightlife etc. ( I know this isn't something that should affect my choice greatly but if I am fortunate enough to get a place I would be spending 3 or more years there).
    - What are the students like? Are they the stereotypical, pompous Oxbridge student or are there actually a wide mix of people, most of whom are not condescending? aha
    - Lastly, what kind of education did you come from? State or private? ...and what did you study?

    Thanks again
    No problem.

    1) There are thousands of students so they spend their time doing most things you would imagine students doing. This could be anything from clubbing to chess club, depending on your crowd.

    2) The students are varied. The stereotypes exist, but even more exist who DON'T fit the stereotype.

    3) Like Huw I also came from a state comprehensive school background, and also in South Wales oddly enough, but this isn't important. You should apply not matter what your background if you feel it's where you would like to study.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by tony_ron)
    No problem.

    1) There are thousands of students so they spend their time doing most things you would imagine students doing. This could be anything from clubbing to chess club, depending on your crowd.

    2) The students are varied. The stereotypes exist, but even more exist who DON'T fit the stereotype.

    3) Like Huw I also came from a state comprehensive school background, and also in South Wales oddly enough, but this isn't important. You should apply not matter what your background if you feel it's where you would like to study.
    Thanks
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Athena)
    I've found Cambridge distinctly more "rah" than Oxford - more girls who look like clones of each other, no one with a regional accent, no one who's actually been to a comprehensive school - but it might just be that as a postgrad, I only notice the most obnoxious braying undergrads, who are more likely to be public school brats! And my comparison with Oxford, matriculation in Cambridge is a pathetic and boring affair that some college *cough*Darwin*cough* don't bother with.

    I suspect location plays a big part in the types of people who apply to each? Cambridge seems to get a hell of a lot of people from the South East - when you ask someone where they're from, they'll likely say either "London" or name a town in the home counties they expect you to have heard of. But this isn't really surprising when you look at a road map of the UK and see that Cambridge's only real transport links appear to be to London. You can get there from other places but it isn't very convenient - it took one return trip along the A14 to convince my parents that if it wasn't for Cambridge's reputation for Engineering, they'd really have preferred I'd gone somewhere else. Oxford on the other hand is much better located with a direct motorway run to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and all places along / around that route, so perhaps people from these places are more likely to apply there.

    There are still a few non-south-east people around in Cambridge, and how easily you find them might depend on your college, department and which societies you are involved in. Engineering seems to attract a good variety of people - there's your "rah" types who walk into lectures carrying their lacrosse kit, and people from a more working class background (who clearly decided there's no point in going to university unless you're going to do a proper subject), and everything in between. Then there's subjects like History of Art, which according to some survey in one of the student papers attracts students with an average household income of something like £120k.

    Though interestingly I do remember noticing the people who started 2 and 3 years after me at my college really did seem quite a bit more posh than us...

    We had matriculation - at ours it consisted of getting our gowns, signing a book, having a year group photo, attending talks introducing us to the important college / JCR officers, then in the evening we had a dinner. I don't really see how they could have made that much more of it to be honest.

    Cambridge is more picturesque than Oxford as a city - that's true. But over the summer, Cambridge is SO boring! It drove me mad this summer, when all my flatmates left, all the undergrads were away etc - there's nothing to do, and nowhere but London to go. Whereas from Oxford, you can far more easily find people/things to do, escape to Birmingham/Warwick/Reading/the rest of the country. Oxford would still be a city without the university, but Cambridge would be a Fen-y market town.
    I've heard people say "Oxford is a town with a university attached, Cambridge is a university with a town attached".
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by thefish_uk)
    Then there's subjects like History of Art, which according to some survey in one of the student papers attracts students with an average household income of something like £120k.
    It is quite a small subject, though, so that could be one obscenely rich family & a lot of plebs. >_>
    Offline

    10
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Athena)

    I did my undergrad at Oxford and am doing my postgrad at Cambridge, and would disagree with several things you've said :p:

    I've found Cambridge distinctly more "rah" than Oxford - more girls who look like clones of each other, no one with a regional accent, no one who's actually been to a comprehensive school - but it might just be that as a postgrad, I only notice the most obnoxious braying undergrads, who are more likely to be public school brats! And my comparison with Oxford, matriculation in Cambridge is a pathetic and boring affair that some college *cough*Darwin*cough* don't bother with. Compared to the fun and occasion and celebration of matriculating in Oxford, Cambridge matriculation is a bit naff. Formal hall, however, seems to be more frequent and smarter than at the average Oxford college. Night life in Cambridge is definitely worse than Oxford if you like clubbing/dancing/something other than the pub; but the student comedy scene in Cambridge is better.

    Cambridge is more picturesque than Oxford as a city - that's true. But over the summer, Cambridge is SO boring! It drove me mad this summer, when all my flatmates left, all the undergrads were away etc - there's nothing to do, and nowhere but London to go. Whereas from Oxford, you can far more easily find people/things to do, escape to Birmingham/Warwick/Reading/the rest of the country. Oxford would still be a city without the university, but Cambridge would be a Fen-y market town.

    The Oxford graduation ceremoniestake account of the fact that some people don't finish exams until after full term (and accommodation kicking out time) are over - to graduate with all your friends is easy (esp if they're on four year courses and you're on a three year one) - you just have to organise yourselves and all book the same ceremony.
    Sounds like someone is wishing they had stuck with Oxford post-grad
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Athena)
    No, not really - there was no money to stay in Oxford for a PhD; I met my boyfriend here in Cambridge; and doing a postgrad is never going to be the same as a undergrad degree. I didn't want to stay in Oxford for six or seven years and end up sick of the place - now I go back and always have a lovely time, still feel at home etc - nothing's going to taint those memories. Meanwhile, I get to experience a whole new place and I have made lots of great friends I wouldn't have made in Oxford! If I'd stayed on, I would have stuck with the same people until they had all eventually left, which doesn't strike me as a very nice prospect. Instead, now I go visiting them and get them to visit me, as well as having a whole set of friends here.

    Basically, I thought Tony Ron made a number of unjust claims about Oxford that I was duty bound to defend :p:
    I don't think Tony Ron did make a number of unjust claims! I think Athena might have misinterpreted.

    You mentioned about Cambridge students being posher than Oxford students, as if I'd said the reverse! I don't think there's probably too much difference in terms of what the students are like. If schooling background is a reliable judge, which I wouldn't say it necessarily was, Cambridge is marginally ahead by a few per cent, but I don't think that would make much difference.

    Was just saying that Oxford had more of an air of poshness and tradition because it kept a lot more of the arty-farty ceremonies, suits for exams etc. That's not even a criticism - am sure some people love it!

    And as for all graduating together - it seems very dependent on College. I know in quite a few Colleges your chances of graduating all together are quite slim unless you postpone at least a year so that the required number of spaces are available. Even in mine the next full academic year of graduation ceremonies is basically full up by the first third of October apart from a few odd spaces. Others may well be more accommodating but I know mine isn't alone.
 
 
 
Reply
Submit reply
TSR Support Team

We have a brilliant team of more than 60 Support Team members looking after discussions on The Student Room, helping to make it a fun, safe and useful place to hang out.

Updated: December 31, 2010
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • Poll
    Would you like to hibernate through the winter months?
    Useful resources
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

    Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

    Quick reply
    Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.