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Oxbridge is a portmanteau of [the University of] Oxford and [the University of] Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status.[1] Oxbridge can be used as a noun referring to either or both universities or as an adjective describing them or their students.



In addition to being a collective term, Oxbridge is often used as shorthand for characteristics that the two institutions share:

  • They are the two oldest universities in continuous operation in England. Both were founded more than 800 years ago,[2][3] 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 fields.[4][5]
  • Because of their age, they have established similar institutions and facilities such as printing houses (Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press), botanical gardens (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), and debating societies (the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union).
  • 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,[6] and celebrated to this day in varsity matches such as the Oxford and Cambridge 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.
  • Both universities comprise many buildings of great beauty and antiquity, sited on level terrain ideal for cycling, near slow-moving rivers suitable for rowing and punting.
  • They are the top-scoring institutions in cross-subject UK university rankings,[7][8][9] so they are targeted by ambitious pupils, parents and schools. Undergraduate entrance is very 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.[10]
  • Oxford and Cambridge have common approaches to undergraduate admissions. Until the mid-1980s, entry was typically by sitting special entrance exams.[11] Applications must be made at least three months early,[12] and, with only minor exceptions (e.g., Organ Scholars),[13] are mutually exclusive for first undergraduate degrees so, in any one year, candidates may only apply to Oxford or Cambridge, not both.[14] Because most candidates are predicted to achieve top grades at A level, interviews are usually used to check whether the course is well suited to the applicant's interests and aptitudes,[15] and to look for evidence of self-motivation, independent thinking, academic potential and ability to learn through the tutorial system.[16]

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