Christ Church's Tom Tower, Oxford University, England
Oxford University tower courtesy of Getty Images

Which University Is Better Oxford Or Cambridge?

Jasmyne Jeffery November 15, 2022

They are the two most famous universities in the UK and are often battling one another for first place. If you’re thinking of attending, you’ll want to know which university is better, Oxford or Cambridge?

Oxford and Cambridge university is always at the top of the UK’s best university list. More often than not, they’re at the top of the best universities in the world too. With so many students attempting to get into the elite schools, which university is actually better?

Which University Is Better Oxford Or Cambridge?

According to the Times Higher Education 2023 world ranking, not only is Oxford better than Cambridge but it is the best in the world.

The ranking looks at teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. Although Oxford pipped it to poll position, Cambridge still came joint third along with Stanford. Harvard University came in between as second.

However, if we take a look at the QS World University Rankings then it is actually Cambridge that does better than Oxford. This ranking looks at academic reputation, the number of international students enrolled and more. The university beat Oxford on a number of specifications including the impact of research, a nicer location and approval from academics and employers.

So, it appears that the two universities seem pretty neck and neck, but what do the students say?

King’s College and lawn from across the fen, Cambridge England

Students Think Cambridge Is Better Than Oxford

On Student Crowd, Cambridge University has an approval rating of 4.47 out of 5. One review says that “the hype is justified,” and goes on to say that if you are accepted, you should definitely go.

“[It’s] n environment that has enabled me to achieve significantly more than I thought myself capable of. And in a privileged and cosseting environment. If you’re offered the opportunity, don’t hesitate.”

Looking more closely at the review, the student has given Cambridge University a 5 out of 5 rating on campus/facilities, clubs and societies and internet/wifi. Closely behind is careers services on 4 out of 5. However, the university doesn’t have great reviews on its student union, with a low 2 out of 5.

Oxford University only has an approval rating of 4.01 out of 5 on Student Crowd. However, the top review still praises the university: “A fantastic university. Frequently talked about as one of the best universities in the world. Beautiful architecture.”

So, if a great student union is important to you then maybe Oxford is the university for you. However, according to student reviews and QS, Cambridge is better than Oxford.

Is Oxford University Older Than Cambridge?

If history is an important factor in your decision, then it will be Oxford that tops your list. Not only is Oxford the oldest university in England, but is also the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Only the University of Bologna in Italy beats it to be the oldest university in the world in continuous operation.

The exact date of its establishment isn’t certain but has definitely existed since 1096. It grew rapidly in population in 1197 with King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and people who lived in Oxford, some academics fled to Cambridge to set up the university there.

Oxford also houses the world’s oldest university museum and the world’s largest university press and academic library.

Cambridge is the second oldest university in the UK after being established for the above reasons. It’s the world’s third oldest surviving university with the oldest university press. It also founded the world’s oldest debating society which was established in 1815.

What Yearly Event Happens Between Oxford and Cambridge Universities?

The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge is well-known. So, it’s understandable that there are frequent competition between the two outside of academic rankings.

The most famous is The Boat Race, an annual set of rowing races between the two universities on the River Thames. Sometimes known as the University Boat Race or the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race, it was first held in 1829 just for male participants. It became annual in 1856, only missing out on years for both World Wars and the Covid 19 Pandemic. The first women’s race was held in 1927 and held annually since 1964.

Most years see around 250,000 lines on the banks of the river to watch the famous event. In 2009 a record 270,000 watched the race with 15 million more watching on the television.

Other big competitions between the pair include the Rugby Union and Rugby League Varsity Match. Currently, Cambridge has the lead in the Rugby Union matches with 64 wins over Oxford’s 60. They are also winning in the Varsity Match with 16 wins over 14.

The universities often compete annually in lots of sports, including cricket, ice hockey and polo.

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Jasmyne Jeffery is a full-time writer on Freshered after working freelance with GRV Media previously. She attended the University of South Wales where she was also a student blogger. In 2022, she graduated with a first-class honours degree in English and Creative Writing. Jasmyne worked briefly for her local newspaper before heading to university and completing an internship at a publishing company. She is now pursuing and loving a career in journalism. Jasmyne has a particular interest in student news, entertainment, and social media, whilst also (trying!) to help put the world to right. Originally from North Devon, she is currently loving the small-city life in Cardiff.