Common Questions: “Why Oxbridge?”

Why Oxbridge? A question that troubles Oxford and Cambridge applicants every year. The question "Why Oxbridge?" is heard by all Oxbridge applicants. You may have considered this question while writing your personal statement. Read our 8 suggestions below to help you develop your own answers to the dreaded question.

Author: Mary Bowman

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Why Oxbridge? A question that makes Oxford and Cambridge applicants worried each year.

The question “Why Oxbridge” is heard by all Oxbridge applicants. You may have considered this question whilst writing your Personal Statement, been asked it by friends and family or have been warned that it might come up during an Oxbridge Interview. 

Realistically, it is a simple question that should be easy to answer but with so many aspects to the ‘Oxbridge experience’, saying “It’s a good Uni and I like how it looks like Hogwarts” is not going to aid your application. 

If you are worried about the “why Oxbridge” question, read our 8 suggestions below to help you develop your own answers to the dreaded question. 

1. Oxbridge Teaching Systems

The combination of lectures with smaller teaching groups, which are known as ‘supervisions’ in Cambridge and ‘tutorials’ in Oxford, are a unique chance to explore the subject that you are studying in more depth. The supervisions or tutorials are one-to-one lessons where students explore ideas raised in a lecture in more detail or discuss an essay or problem sheets.

Supervision-at-Jesus-College-Cambridge
Supervision at Jesus College, Cambridge

2. Oxbridge College System

The college system is very flexible and open to the needs of students because although each college is connected to the university, they are also all independent. Students will live and socialise in the college which they attend and are often guaranteed accommodation.

The colleges also offer a ready-made network of friends and support, although undergraduates are free to spend as much time in and out of their college as they wish. There are also informal competitions held between colleges throughout the year, such as sports contests, which again offers a good social side to work and studying and a chance to get to know new people.

3. Oxbridge Support systems

Each college, as well as the university itself, has an efficient support system. Whilst many do not feel the need to use it, the intensity of the terms and nature of university life means that some students will take advantage of the system during their time at Oxford and Cambridge.

Students are encouraged to talk to members of staff such as their personal tutors, the college nurse or lecturers about academic or personal matters, and regular welfare and academic meetings are often arranged with students and their tutors each term.

4. Oxbridge Extra-curricular activities

The activities on offer at both universities are particularly wide-ranging. There are societies for everyone, from theatre buffs to budding journalists and music lovers and even to students with an interest in caving and croquet. 

The hobbies available to students are excellent for necessary de-stressing and extra socialising, good-value entertainment is also never far away. There are always student concerts or theatre productions happening that are worth going to, whether to support a friend in the cast or to enjoy a reasonably-priced night out.

5. Oxford and Cambridge City Sizes

Both Oxford and Cambridge are small-size cities (more medium-sized towns), and a lot of the teaching and activities for students takes place fairly centrally. Most places in both cities can be reached easily by foot or by bike.

Quote from Sammy who studies PBS at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
map-cambridge-colleges
Map of the Cambridge University Colleges

6. Oxford and Cambridge University Locations

Each city is fairly close to London and each other. There are also a lot of bus and train links from Oxford and Cambridge which makes it easy to travel to other UK destinations. The location of both cities means it is possible to visit friends and go home during term, which offers the chance to have a bit of downtime and a quick break from university.

7. Oxbridge history and culture

Oxford and Cambridge are very historic cities and the universities themselves are rooted in many centuries of history. Oxford university is over 900 years old and Cambridge is over 800. 

Oxford-University-Student

Students have direct access to this history with the college they live in during their degree, and will often have the chance to wake up in a beautiful, historic building. Every college also has a ‘formal’ at least once a week, which is a reasonably-priced three-course dinner to which students can visit guests from outside Cambridge and their college and spend an evening relaxing with their guests and other undergraduates.

8. Oxbridge Value for Money

Although the rise in tuition fees has been a concern in recent years, Oxford and Cambridge both give a lot of financial support to their undergraduates. Student bursaries are offered where needed and these cover the majority, if not all, of living expenses. College grants are also given to students who want to travel, study or do some work experience outside of term time. 

The college accommodation is also reasonably priced, with undergraduates often being able to choose the price band of their room. This means that no student is ever made to pay for a room that they cannot afford. The meals offered in college are also good-value and give students the chance to either cook food themselves or to be catered for. There is no need to choose between catered or self-catered accommodation.

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