In the world of academia there are two universities whose rivalry has been raging for generations: Oxford vs Cambridge. Both are famous for their world-class universities, Venice-like rivers and stunning, old architecture. Seems like they’ve got a lot in common, right? Wrong! Here’s my handy guide to knowing which side you’re on when it comes to this clash of university titans:
Want to stay neutral? Say ‘Oxbridge’
This collective term for the two universities is the peacemaker’s weapon of choice. Well, I say weapon – it’s more like a shield. Say this and you’ll be accepted as a fan of both cities. Or a lover of neither. We’ll leave it to you to decide on that one.
Do your research: There’s no better way to get to grips with both cities (and help you decide which one you like the most!), than heading out to one of the famous, student hang-outs for a traditional pub lunch (try the King’s Arms in Oxford or The Eagle in Cambridge).
Remember your rivers
When it comes to freshwater fun in either of these university towns, a river quite literally runs through it. Oxford’s liquid landmark is called the River Isis (fun fact: it goes on to become the River Thames), and the river that cuts through Cambridge is called (rather unimaginatively) the Cam. You can steer a gondola down both rivers – known locally as ‘punting’ – which gives the cities a Venetian feel. Minus the Italian food and the sunny weather.
Do your research: Head straight for the river and go – you guessed it – punting! You can hire your own and go on an adventure or get a “chauffer” to row you around. Plenty of places advertise rentals and tours in both cities.
Understand the system
Both Oxford University and Cambridge University are actually made up of loads of smaller colleges put together. In fact, each of these colleges is a rival to the next – so even within each city, there’s enough rivalry going on to make some of the biggest sporting events look like playground scuffles!
Do your research: Head over to the Bodleian Library in Oxford to get a sense for the immense amount of knowledge stored in one of Europe’s oldest and the UK’s biggest research libraries. When you’re in Cambridge, pop into the Wren Library in Trinity College; much smaller than the Bodleian, but beautiful and historically significant.
Know your colleges
Christchurch? Trinity? New College? If none of those names mean anything to you then you’re cruising for a bruising. It’s essential you know the names of each city’s colleges before you strike up a conversation with an Oxbridge student. We would list them all, but we’d bore ourselves. Check Google.
Do your research: Walk around New College in Oxford or Trinity College in Cambridge and take a moment to sit on one of the expansive lawns to soak up all that knowledge and history – dream of studying here yet?
Be at the boat race
The height of Oxbridge rivalry happens at the annual boat race on the River Thames in London (it was held in April this year, so the next one will be next spring.) The rowing teams from each university go head-to-head in a battle that gets pulses racing. If you really want to see Oxbridge tempers flare then the boat race is a must-see.
Do your research: Grab a drink at one of the waterside pubs lining the river – make sure to get there early to grab a spot – they’ll fill up in no time once the race gets started!
So there it is – my guide to the greatest university rivalry known to man. I hope it helps you find your favorite or simply decide that you belong firmly in the “Oxbridge” camp.