Within the Oxbridge college system?
For example, do certain colleges have purely exceptional students or is it a totally mixed bag?
Can't talk for oxford but
if you look at the tompkins table you will see that the difference between the top and bottom college each year in terms of academic achievement is very small. If you look back over 10 years you will also see that few colleges are consistently high or low. All colleges have people who get firsts, all colleges get a lot of 2is, a few 2iis, 3rds and occasional fail
As most teaching is done centrally there is little difference between colleges, even colleges with particular reputations don't always come top ie Trinity for maths, downing for law, kings for SPS
Although colleges have different levels of wealth its not as if any one college throws out signfiicany more amounts of cash than any other to its students
When you meet someone from Trinity or Girton you do not autmoetically go thick/stupid. And it would be stupid to, people are pooled from one college to another at the application stage and still reguarly end up with a first, those who got EE offers at christs can sometimes get a 2ii or third
The idea that there is a massive hierarchy is a bit oudated with the more centralised admissions process and tends to be something that those outside the uni care about more than those inside
Well to give the opposite argument, some colleges at Oxford are consistently near the top of the Norrington table - Merton, St John's, Balliol, Magdalen spring to mind. Also Harris Manchester is practically always at the bottom. So there are definitely colleges which do better on average over an extended period of time, for whatever reason - probably because very confident applicants apply there, and they tend to be high achievers.
The relative positions of colleges in both the Tomkins and Norrington tables vary quite a lot from year to year so you do have to look at quite spread of years in order to make any judgements. Then just because the college overall does not perform that highly doesn't mean that individuals within a lower performing college don't get firsts. They do but just not so many of them.
Some people actually choose the lower ranked colleges because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that there may be less competition to get a place and also it may be less pressured and you might even get more time for a social life.
At Oxford, it's true that some colleges are more consistently near the top of the degree classification league table, which supports my view that some college are traditionally very academic. Although, of course, within those colleges you will still get lots of variation in quality of student.
Now although every college has a wide range of backgrounds for its students, I would also say that some colleges do have a more distinct social makeup than others, but I must emphasise, not by much.
It's not necessarily a bad thing though, because it means you can pick a college which you think you'll fit in at, whilst still meeting lots of people from backgrounds different to yours. For example, Hertford takes a lot more state schoolers than many other colleges, and a lot of northern Irish! This isn't because of some discriminatory policy, though. If you think about it, if people from your school have successfully applied to a college in years before and enjoyed it, then it's a good bet that you will too, and so it's natural to apply there. Hence, certain schools do act as a kind of feeder for certain colleges. However, I must stress that this is in no way official!
Yes. Robinson is at the top of it.