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The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are distinct individual universities, however they have a great deal in common, including their collegiate structure and personalised teaching methods.

Colleges

Unlike most other UK universities, both Oxford and Cambridge are collegiate, meaning they’re made up of a number of individual colleges, as well as academic departments.

Every student is a member of either Oxford or Cambridge University, their department and their college. It’s the universities (through the academic departments) that are responsible for course content, core teaching, examinations and awarding degrees. This means that students are studying for the same degree, whichever college they go to. Most tutorial/supervision teaching takes place in colleges (see Teaching below) and college tutors are responsible for overseeing your academic progress.

Colleges provide a safe and supportive environment so you can focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of all the opportunities on offer. Undergraduates also usually live in college accommodation for at least one year of their course.

You can find out more about Oxford Colleges and Cambridge Colleges on each university’s website.

Teaching

Teaching methods are very similar at both universities. Students attend lectures, classes and laboratory work as appropriate for their course. However, unlike at many other universities, students at Oxford and Cambridge also benefit from highly personalised teaching time with experts in their field. The main difference is in the name: Oxford refers to these sessions as ‘tutorials’ while Cambridge calls them ‘supervisions’.

Applying

It is not possible to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same admissions year. We recommend that you look closely at the undergraduate courses offered by both universities and apply to the one that most appeals to you.

There are however some similarities in the application process for Oxford and Cambridge. To start with, the deadline for submitting a UCAS application is the same. It is 15 October, so earlier than most other universities (other deadlines may apply in certain circumstances).¹ Both universities use admissions tests for many of their courses in order to help them decide who to shortlist for interview.

Unlike most UK universities, Oxford and Cambridge interview shortlisted applicants before they are offered a place. The purpose and structure of interviews is very similar at both universities. They’re a lot like a mini tutorial or supervision, where students may be given a passage to read or perhaps set a problem which they’ll discuss with tutors in the interview. The main focus of interviews is to get a sense of how the student applies their existing knowledge and skills to unfamiliar problems, and how they process the information available.

There are also some important differences in the application processes at Oxford and Cambridge, so please check the requirements for your chosen course carefully. Full information on undergraduate courses and the application process is available from the Oxford undergraduate webpages and Cambridge undergraduate webpages.

¹ International applicants, mature applicants and those applying to the Foundation Year Course should check the University of Cambridge website for relevant application deadlines.

 

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