Oxford vs Cambridge Engineering- Which is Better?

With a subject as complex as engineering, you will want to make sure you attend the best university possible. In the UK, this choice comes down to Oxford or Cambridge, but is there an advantage to picking one over the others? What are their differences? Most importantly, which is better for you?

Author: Matthew Amalfitano-Stroud

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Oxford or Cambridge? It’s a question that every aspiring Oxbridge student must ask themselves, especially for an Engineering degree.

 
 
 
 

The two Oxbridge Universities are world-renowned for their quality and prestige. But how do their Engineering courses, Cambridge’s ‘Engineering’ and Oxford’s ‘Engineering Science’, hold up in comparison?  Ranking as the Top 2 Engineering universities in the UK, it’s safe to say that both courses deliver in the quality you would expect, making the decision all the more difficult. 

 

Below you will find our comprehensive guide to the key aspects and differences in admission, study and post-graduate prospects for each University. Let’s see which one will be best for you. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oxford Vs Cambridge Engineering Course Content

 Duration: 4 Years 

Oxford’s Engineering Science degree will see you studying the core topics of the subject for your first two years, after which you will be able to specialise in a chosen branch of Engineering to complete major projects both individually and in a group.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Year 1

Courses

  • Mathematics
  • Electrical and Information Engineering
  • Structures and Mechanics
  • Energy 
  • Engineering practical work
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

First University examinations: four written papers; Assessment of Engineering practical work

 
 
 

Year 2

Courses

  • Mathematics
  • Electrical and Information Engineering
  • Structures and Mechanics
  • Energy 
  • Engineering practical work
 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessment

Final University examinations, Part A: four written papers; Assessment of Engineering practical work

 
 
 
 

Year 3

Courses

  • Five optional Engineering courses
  • Engineering in Society
  • Engineering Computation
  • Engineering practical work
  • Group design project
 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

Final University examinations, Part B: six written papers; Assessment of Engineering practical work; Project reports (Engineering computation and design Project)

 
 
 
 
 

Year 4

RESEARCH

One major project, plus six specialist courses chosen from over 25 options. 

Oxford’s exchange programme is available to fourth-year students at one of their international partner institutions. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

Final University examinations, Part C: six written papers; Project report

 
 
 
 
 
 

Duration: 4 Years

Cambridge prides itself on its unique, open-ended course structure, while still providing students with the skills expected in modern Engineering. Similar to Oxford, this course spends two years teaching the broad foundation of the topic and allows students to specialise in their final two years of study. 

 
 
 
 

Year 1 (Part IA)

Courses

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Structures and Materials
  • Electrical and Information Engineering
  • Mathematical Methods

You will also undertake several coursework activities and projects, on topics including structural design, product design, presentation skills, drawing, laboratory experiments and computer programming.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

4 written papers (3 hours long), coursework and practical projects. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Year 2 (Part IB)

Courses

  • Mechanics
  • Structures
  • Materials
  • Thermofluid Mechanics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Information Engineering
  • Mathematical Methods
  • Business Economics

In the third term, you will select two topics from seven engineering disciplines plus a language option.

In this year, you also have the option to specialise in Chemical Engineering as a distinct course.

 
 
 
 

Assessments 

8 written papers, coursework and practical projects.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Year 3 (Part IIA)

Courses

Specialisation into 10 topics, based around the following disciplines:  

  • Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical and Information Sciences
  • Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Information and Computer Engineering
  • Instrumentation and Control
  • Mechanical Engineering

Alternatively, you can choose (General) Engineering, in which there are fewer restrictions on paper combinations.

You may have the chance to spend your third year at another of the world’s leading universities via the exchange programme.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

10 written papers and Extension Activities

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Year 4 (Part IIB)

Courses

A selection 8 papers from nearly 100 options which vary each year.

A major individual project, which can be chosen from an extensive list or proposed yourself, occupies about half of your study time.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Assessments

8 written papers and major individual project 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

While Cambridge is better known for its prestige in Engineering, both courses have a comparable amount of diversity and freedom in their specialisation options. A subject exclusive to one course could well be what makes your decision, so be sure to research everything each course has to offer. Here’s a quick summary of what each course offers:

 
 

 OxfordCambridge

Year 1

4 written papers and practical work throughout the year. 4 written papers and practical work throughout the year.
Year 24 written papers and practical work throughout the year. 8 written papers and practical work throughout the year,
Year 3Group design project, 6 written papers and practical work throughout the year.10 written papers and extension activity projects.
Year 41 major project and 6 written papers.1 major project and 8 written papers

 
 

Whichever way you go, we will help you achieve your Oxbridge Engineering dreams.

 
 
 
 
 

When you’ve decided, our Oxbridge Engineering Premium Programme will be able to help you throughout the whole application process. 

With our tutors and resources,  we can help you write a standout Engineering Personal Statement, prepare for your PAT or ENGAA Admissions Test and improve your Interview skills. Click the button below to find out how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oxbridge Engineering Entry Requirements

As with any Oxbridge course, application standards are high so you will need to be able to put the work in either way you go. However, the smaller details behind these processes and requirements may affect your decision one way or another. 

 
 
 
 
 

 OxfordCambridge
A-Level GradesA*A*A (with the A*s in Maths, Further Maths or Physics)A*A*A (with Maths and Physics)
IB40 (including core points) with 776 at HL (with 7s in HL Mathematics and Physics)40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Advanced HighersAA/AABAA/AAB
Application ExaminationPhysics Aptitude Test (PAT)Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA)
InterviewPanel InterviewPanel Interview

 
 
 

Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)

Oxford’s PAT is a requirement for any students applying for Physics or Engineering. With a 2 hour length, the exam is split into 2 papers covering Mathematics for Physics and Physics Aptitude. Registration for this exam must be completed before October 15th.

If you feel you need support with the PAT, have a look at our PAT Preparation Programme.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA)  

Cambridge’s ENGAA is required before an interview can be offered to any applicants. It is a 2-hour exam consisting of 2 multiple-choice sections; Mathematics & Physics and Advanced Physics. Calculators are not permitted. 

To find out more, check out our ENGAA Guide.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
preparation-and-tips-for-elat

Neither course requires you to submit additional written work and both have similar interview structures. The requirements and application processes are fairly similar between them, so a successful application should not be more or less likely at either University. 

 

If you’re having trouble deciding which A-Level’s to take, our guide to A-Levels for Engineering may be a useful tool.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Application Success Rates

Applications: 1159

 
 
 
 

Offers: 210

 
 
 
 
 
 

Successful: 18.1%

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Applications: 2369

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Offers: 402

 
 
 
 
 
 

Successful: 17%

 
 
 
 
 
 

In 2020 both universities had a very similar success rate, despite Cambridge having over double the number of applications. There’s no doubt that Cambridge is the more popular of the two choices in this scenario, which may well be an important aspect.

However, bear in mind that Oxford’s smaller application pool and slightly higher success rate may be a positive as it reduces the number of applications you’ll be competing with. Remember, both Universities are highly rated and provide amazing education. Oxford and Cambridge are two of only three UK universities within the Top 30 Engineering schools worldwide and are ranked higher than both Imperial College London and UCL, so these figures aren’t a reflection of either course’s quality.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Teaching and Assessments

The methods of teaching are a key factor in deciding a course and can vary greatly between universities. You may find more value in in-depth lectures, or you may prefer practical demonstrations and trials. The same is true for assessments, you may feel more confident in a timed essay based exam compared to coursework modules. So how do Oxford and Cambridge handle teaching and assessments in their Engineering courses?

 
 
 

Oxford 

During your first two years at Oxford, you can expect to be attending at least ten lectures per week alongside roughly five hours of practical work and two college tutorials or classes. These tutorials are typically taught in groups of up to four students and provide valuable time with your tutors and peers. 

As you progress, you will have more time to work on independent projects. Your Third Year group design project is expected to take at least one day per week of your study time while your final year project should take 2.5 days per week. During this time, you will have much more independence while still having access to all the available resources and staff members.  

In terms of assessments, Years 1 & 2 are assessed through four written papers and one piece of coursework, while Years 3 & 4 have six written exams in addition to your practical work, which must be submitted as a Project Report. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cambridge

Your first two years at Cambridge will consist of regular lectures, coursework and 2-3 small ‘Supervisions’ per week. Additional resources include regularly released example papers, optional language courses and voluntary coursework. During the summer break of your first 3 years, you will also have the chance to apply for a paid 10-week placement within the Engineering department to pursue research. 

In your final two years, you will be able to specialise your study in your desired area. In Year 3 you will take part in an Extension Activity from a variety of technical and non-technical subjects as well as choosing 2 final term projects based around design, computing and languages. In Year 4, your final independent project is expected to take half of your available study time. 

Year 1 is assessed through four written papers based on fairly general topics including Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Methods, while Year 2 consists of eight papers covering more advanced topics including Mechanics, Materials and Electrical Engineering. Ten papers of your choosing are sat in Year 3 alongside your final term activities, while Year 4 will involve Eight papers from chosen topics combined with your major final project. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 OxfordCambridge
Years 1 & 210 lectures per week, practical work, 2 weekly college tutorialsRegular Lectures, practical work, 2-3 weekly supervisions.
Year 3Lectures, practical work, roughly 1 day per week dedicated to group project work Lectures, practical work, extension activities.
Year 42.5 days dedicated to individual major project alongside lectures and practical work Lectures, practical work and time dedicated to work on your individual major project.

 
 
 

Both Universities have an emphasis on different areas but the course structures are fairly similar. Studying at Cambridge provides a greater variety of modules to study in your later years of the course, which is ideal for those looking to further explore the world of Engineering. 

 

However, Oxford may be the better choice for those looking to spend more of their study time on specific topics. Students with an interest in foreign languages should also consider Cambridge’s extensive options for language studies within its course. 

 
 
 
 

Ready to Start your Oxbridge Engineering Journey?

 
 
 
 

Once you’ve made your decision, our Oxbridge Engineering Premium Programme can help you with every step of the application. 

Our tutors and resources can help you write a winning Engineering Personal Statement, succeed in your PAT or ENGAA Admissions Test and perfect your Interview strategy. Click the button below to find out how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Extra-Curricular Engineering Activities

Both Universities have fully-fledged Engineering societies run by students that provide exciting extra-curricular activities and the chance to socialise with fellow Engineering enthusiasts. 

 
 
 
 
 

Oxford University Engineering Society (OUEngSoc)

Established in 1998, OUEngSoc currently has 500 paying members who have access to a wide variety of activities, including social events, guest speakers and workshops.

The society caters to students from a variety of different courses and keeps close contact with previous alumni who have made successful careers for themselves in the industry. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cambridge University Engineering Society (CUES) 

CUES was founded in 1901 and are currently Cambridge’s most active academic society, with over 1300 members. They aim to provide members with activities and opportunities to develop their skills and increase their employability prospects, all while creating lasting bonds between peers. 

The society has several impressive sponsors to their name, including Rolls Royce and P&G as well as a student published magazine, The Cambridge Engineer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oxbridge Engineering Employability & Student Satisfaction

Attending either University wouldn’t be valuable without any prospects of employment at the end of your four years, but thankfully neither Oxford nor Cambridge disappoint in this regard. A degree from either is likely to impress employers and give you an advantage against the competition. But is there a better option between the two?

 
 

Oxford

 
 
 
 
 

Employment Rate

15 months after Graduation 

63%

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rate of Employed

Graduates in Highly Skilled

Work 

95%

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Average Earnings

15 months after Graduation 

£32,000

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How do these graduates feel about their work?
Usefulness of Course 65%
Meaningfulness of Work 75%
Confidence in Future 80%

Cambridge

 
 
 
 

Employment Rate

15 months after Graduation 

75%

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rate of Employed

Graduates in Highly Skilled

Work 

97%

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Average Earnings

15 months after Graduation 

£30,500

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How do these graduates feel about their work?
Usefulness of Course 75%
Meaningfulness of Work 95%
Confidence in Future 92%

As you can see, Cambridge students generally have a higher rate of employment and job satisfaction, while Oxford students that do get jobs are more likely to make a higher wage within 15 months of graduation. 

Neither course has low employment rates and both have incredibly high rates of graduates in high skilled jobs, so the difference comes down to the potential of higher job satisfaction or higher wages.  

 
 
 
 
 

Final Thoughts

With this information, you should hopefully now have a better idea of which University will better fit your expectations of further education. 

Cambridge’s Engineering degree certainly has the bigger numbers of the two, whether that be student numbers, available topics or the course’s overall ranking. However, studying at Oxford will have more perks for some students, whether it be the increased emphasis on group work or the lesser amount of papers to sit. 

Consider the following before making a final decision:

  • Ensure you book an open day for both Universities, this will be extremely helpful in making a decision. Remember that it’s not just about the course, but the feeling that you get at each campus. Find out how to make the most of your open days with our Oxbridge Open Day Guide.
  • Be sure to review the details of each course closely as there are key differences between the two, all the course content is available on each course’s webpage. 
  • While application success rates are similar, the higher number of applicants at Cambridge means more competition. Would you feel more confident in a smaller application pool? 
  • What do you value more about employment prospects? Higher employment rates or higher wages?

If you’d like to know more about how Oxford and Cambridge compare as Universities in general, check out our thoughts on which is better!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oxford vs Cambridge: Which is better?  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aiming for a place in your dream Oxbridge Engineering Course?   

 
 
 
 
 
 

Once you’ve made your decision, our Oxbridge Engineering Premium Programme can help you with every step of the application. 

Our tutors and resources can help you write a winning Engineering Personal Statement, succeed in your PAT or ENGAA Admissions Test and perfect your Interview strategy. Click the button below to find out how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Book An Expert Application Consultation