Worried you may get asked “Why Cambridge?” or “Why Oxford?” at your interview? Read this and you won’t be!
1. Teaching system
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-on-one lessons, where students will be able to explore ideas raised in a lecture in more detail or discuss an essay or problem sheets.
2. College system
The college system is very flexible and open to the needs of its students, because although each college is connected to the university, they are also all independent. Students will live and socialise in the college to which they are assigned, and are often guaranteed accommodation for all of their degree by their own college. The colleges also offer a ready-made network of friends and support from their own college, although undergraduates are free to spend as much 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. Support system
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 mean 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. Extra-curricular activities
The activities on offer at both universities are particularly wide-ranging, with 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 not only good for de-stressing and extra socialising, but also mean that good-value entertainment is 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. Town size
Both Oxford and Cambridge are medium-size towns, and a lot of the teaching and activities for students takes place fairly centrally. Most places in both towns can be reached easily by foot or by bike.
Each town is fairly close to London and to each other. There are also a lot of bus and train links from Oxford and Cambridge, which makes it easy to travel on to other places. The location of both towns makes it possible to visit friends or even to go home during term, which offers the chance to have a bit of down-time and a quick break from university.
7. History and culture
Oxford and Cambridge are very historic towns, and the universities themselves are rooted in many centuries of history.
Students have direct access to this history with the college that they will live in during their degree, and will often have the chance to live in beautiful, historic buildings. Every college also has ‘formal hall’ 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. 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, which 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 offer students the chance to either cook food themselves or to be catered, so there is no need to choose between catered or self-catered accommodation.