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Cambridge versus Oxford for PG studies

Oxford v CambridgeThe University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are both located in England, both internationally recognised centres of excellence and both have a shade of blue for their sporting teams. So how do you choose between the two institutions when you are deciding which postgraduate program is for you?

Let’s take a look at some of their main attractions and how they differ from each other.

Numbers of students

Both universities are large institutions with large numbers of students. The University of Oxford had 25,390 students in 2018-29 and there were 20,890 students in 2018-19 at the University of Cambridge, which means that Oxford is 25% larger in terms ion student intake.

Clubs & societies

The Oxford University Union is a world recognised debating society and students find all sorts of speakers and debating subjects are held there. Many leading British politicians and people in public life have started out as part of the Oxford Union. At Oxford, there are also collections of dining clubs and other special interest clubs along with the Oxford Law Society. The Cambridge Footlights is probably the most famous society at the University of Cambridge and many celebrated actors have started their careers with performances with the Footlights. The Cambridge Union also holds debates and speeches, and both universities have celebrated rowing teams that compete each year in The Boat Race.

Part-time study options

Both universities find that the vast majority of students are studying full time on-campus, as this allows them to make the most of the other extracurricular activities. However, both Oxford and Cambridge offer part-time options for a wide range of courses including many professional ones such as those in Medicine. The University of Cambridge does not offer degree level distance learning courses.


The University of Oxford has 30 libraries including the world-famous Bodleian Libraries which have been collecting books for over 400 years. Each college has its own libraries and these are a mixture of ancient libraries and more modern libraries. The University of Cambridge colleges also have their own libraries, including the Moore Library which boasts a unique collection of mathematical texts.

Mature students

The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford encourage mature students to apply for postgraduate courses. Most postgraduate students are mature by definition of being over the age of 21, however, both universities want to have a range of experiences available in the classroom to give students a breadth of opinion while they are studying.

International students

Many international students are studying at postgraduate level at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The University of Oxford had around 5,800 international postgraduate students in 2018-19 and the University of Cambridge had around 4,500 international postgraduate students in the same year. They come from all over the world including many parts of the EU, the US and China.

Travel links

Because of the large numbers of students at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, there are great travel links to the rest of the UK and London. It takes about an hour and a half to travel from both cities to London and then from London most students will find they can easily travel to almost anywhere in the world.

Top-ranked subject areas

The University of Oxford currently ranks ever so slightly higher in most subject areas over the University of Cambridge. However, there is very little difference in the two when it comes to the world rankings and in the UK they are the top two in every subject area apart from the Social Sciences where the London School of Economics currently ranks above them both.

World rankings

This table illustrates how the various subject areas were ranked worldwide at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 2019.

Oxbridge World Rankings



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