What’s the difference between Oxford University and Cambridge University?

Aside from the fact that the locations themselves are different, what’s the difference between Oxford University and Cambridge University, and which would suit you best?

Oxford University

Similarities between Oxford University and Cambridge University

As two of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world, let alone the UK, it isn’t surprising that there are some great similarities between Oxford University and Cambridge University. In particular, that includes:

  • Their teaching style
  • Their assessment and examination methods
  • Their interview processes

Teaching style

Their famous teaching style really emphasises the importance of discussion and debate as well as the transfer of knowledge and ideas. This includes a combination of lectures and seminars, but it’s the dedicated teaching time in very small groups or one on one tutorials where both institutions really shine. Typically, students will be asked to prepare work to discuss and dissect it during these sessions.

Assessment and examination

Each course and university has their own way of assessing students during and at the end of each academic year. At Oxbridge, there’s typically a combination of informal assessment throughout the year through supervisions/tutorials and regular assignments. More formal assessment is based on written exams which are generally at the end of each academic year and at the end of the degree course as a whole.


Both universities are well known for their rigorous interview processes. Not all universities require an interview as part of the application, so this is a unique opportunity for prospective students to present themselves beyond the pages of their UCAS forms and their academic achievements.

Designed to see the inner workings of a student’s mind and understand whether they will fit in with the academic environment, applicants put a lot of time into preparing for these experiences, and you will inevitably get something out of them regardless of whether you get in. The specifics vary from subject to subject and college to college, and it’s important to prepare with mock interviews so that you feel as comfortable as possible and are able to present yourself without feeling too overwhelmed.

Cambridge University

Differences between Oxford University and Cambridge University

The differences between Oxford University and Cambridge University are quite subtle but they are important. They really get into the details of who you are, what you want to study and what’s important to you in your university career.

They include:

  • The size of the cities
  • The subjects they offer
  • The professors

The size of the cities

Both Oxford and Cambridge are extremely beautiful cities, with plenty of heritage, activities and things to do. Both are also well placed for exploring other parts of the UK with transport links to London and within driving distance of nearby attractions. They have a certain number of similarities (punting in the summer, for example). However, Oxford is a slightly larger city with an arguably livelier atmosphere than the more tranquil Cambridge environment.

They offer different subjects

Probably the biggest reason to choose one of these institutions over the other is the choice of subjects. This is important on a number of levels, and is possibly something that’s worth raising in your interviews if you’re asked why you want to attend your uni of choice. For example, Cambridge offers a course in Architecture, which Oxford doesn’t. Oxford offers Fine Art, which Cambridge doesn’t. There are certain science degrees that Cambridge offers that Oxford does not, and so on and so forth.

The professors

It seems like it’s stating the obvious, but Oxford and Cambridge both have different professors. This is important because lots of people choose their university because of the professor teaching the course – perhaps it’s someone whose research you particularly admire. Oxbridge professors are not just esteemed teachers, but are first and foremost experts in their respective fields. Both universities generally think of themselves as centres of research above all things, so their magic very much lies in the people who are taking the time to convey their knowledge and help you to nurture yours.

If you would like guidance on choosing which university to apply to, as well as preparing for your Oxbridge interviews, the CamVision team are highly experienced and many have been through the process themselves. Find out more about our interview preparation support.