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Oxford vs Cambridge: The Ongoing Rivalry

When it comes to elite education in the UK, two universities in particular tend to dominate the conversation. These are Oxford and Cambridge, which are often referred to together by the term ‘Oxbridge’. The volume of applicants each year is such that students are allowed to apply to just one of them.

If you’ve been accepted into either of these universities, then you’re part of an elite class of students – and so congratulations are probably in order. If you’re travelling to the UK to study, then it’s worth getting in touch with an international shipping service to make sure that your belongings arrive intact.

So how did these two particular universities come to be so highly respected? Let’s take a closer look at the history of the two.


Oxford was the first of the two to be established, all the way back in 1096 – but it was only in 1167, when Henry II banned English students from studying in Paris, that the university really began to take off. The university and the local population haven’t always lived in harmony. Throughout the thirteenth century, tensions escalated – to the point that riots ensued, and the students were moved into halls of residence. These halls eventually evolved into the colleges which make up the university today.


For more than a thousand years, there’s been a settlement around the bridge over the river Cam. The town wasn’t known as a hub of education, however, until shortly after the turn of the 13th century. The rioting that had taken place in Oxford persuaded many scholars to make the move to Cambridge and establish a place of study there, instead. By 1226, there were enough scholars in Cambridge to set up an organisation, which later went on to become the university. Henry III took action such that the scholars were able to hold a monopoly on teaching, which lead to the continual development of the university throughout the medieval period.

The Boat Race

Of course, these being the country’s two standout universities, it was inevitable that a rivalry should form. The most conspicuous manifestation of this rivalry is the famous annual Boat Race, which sees competing teams of rowers race along a four-mile stretch of the river Thames. While it isn’t a sporting event in the sense that most of us would recognise, it remains a highlight of the calendar for both institutions, and an object of fascination for the general public, too. Every year, millions of people watch the event on television – and thousands flock to the banks of the Thames to take in the spectacle first-hand.

As of 2022, Cambridge has won eighty-five races to Oxford’s eighty-one.