The end of Oxbridge?


In the past, Oxford and Cambridge universities have been the creme de la creme of British schooling. These two universities have sat head and shoulders above the rest, and are to the UK’s colleges, what the Ivy League schools are to America – just with only two members. However, after years of dominating, could we be seeing the end of the Oxbridge dominance?

Narrowing the gap

There are no longer just two outstanding universities in the UK, and in fact, the top universities are becoming better every year, narrowing the gap between them and Oxbridge. Although both Oxford and Cambridge are still topping the rankings in league tables, in the Complete University Guide this year, the London School of Economics was placed third, just 35 points behind Cambridge, who were first, and 15 points below Oxford in second. The gap is clearly closing, and it seems that Oxbridge is no longer the be-all and end-all.

League tables

There are more varied league tables and rankings than ever, that look at student satisfaction, post-graduate employability and even nightlife, so that students can make more informed decisions. It also means that Oxbridge colleges are not always the best, depending on what criteria a student is looking at. This freedom of information and ability to read reviews and gather more knowledge about an institution before enrolling could signal the end of Oxbridge dominance. Especially as students become less hung up on the prestige of the name.

A British Ivy League

As this change happens and Oxbridge no longer has hegemony of the UK college system, perhaps there could be a shift to the Ivy League system that we can see in the States. With a solid group of Universities at the top of students’ aspirations, there will be more chance for them to get into a school that they feel is prestigious. Currently, Oxford receives around 17,000 applications for 3000 undergraduate places; however, if there were around 5 or 6 main prestigious schools, there would be more places overall.

Student aspirations

Students, especially those whose parents believe that Oxbridge is the only real route to success, are being let down by the current system. If they are unable to get into one of these schools, they could be left with shattered confidence and feel inferior to their peers. However, going to a higher ranking school does not guarantee you a good classification, nor a career at the end of your degree anymore or less than any other institution. It is about the work you put in at your chosen college, and many Oxbridge students and alumni have reported feeling an intense pressure that comes with the prestige of the school, that they felt affected them negatively.

So perhaps in the next few years, we will begin to see the end of the Oxbridge dominance, and this might be replaced by an Ivy League style group, or perhaps nothing at all. The closing of the gap at the top and the availability of information about various institutions will certainly make some sort of change. The important thing is that whatever happens is in the best interests of the students.