Oxbridge Stereotypes

Challenging unhelpful stereotypes about oxford and cambridge students is an important part of our widening participation work. 

Oxbridge wants the best students, from every kind of background. If you have achieved strong grades, and have a motivation and passion for your subject, you have the potential to make a strong application.

If you or any of your students have concerns about Oxbridge, please have a look at this page. If you have any further questions do not hesitate to be in touch with Alex Ho (our Academic Resources Officer). 

'Only posh students from private schools can get into oxford and cambridge' 

This is a popular conception of Oxbridge students - reinforced regularly by newspapers, and by films like The Riot Club

However, for many people who go to Oxford or Cambridge, the Oxbridge reputation is far from a reflection of the student body. The Higher Education Statistics Agency reports that 57.7% of Oxford students and 62.6% of Cambridge students come from state schools or colleges. 

We think those numbers should be higher, but they do serve to show that many students from non-privately educated backgrounds can successfully reach Oxbridge. If you're interested in what support we can offer students in their applications, you can read more here

'all of the students at oxford and cambridge are white' 

Concerns about race and Oxbridge hit the headlines in late 2017, when David Lammy MP obtained admissions data showing that as many as 16 Oxbridge colleges failed to offer any places to Black British applicants in 2015. 

Like many others we were shocked and deeply dissapointed to read this data, and we appreciate that for many of our students this may reinforce the idea that Oxbridge is White. 

We don't want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and for our students to be put off applying by this context. We point out that are groups like Target Oxbridge, which provide specific admissions support to Black African and Caribbean students, and student campaigns at both Cambridge and Oxford looking to enact change. 

Like London, Oxford and Cambridge can be expensive cities to live in. 

However, there is extensive financial support available to Oxbridge students to cover living and maintenance costs - and this can actually exceed what is available at other universities. 

Click to find out more information about the Cambridge Bursary Scheme and the Oxford Bursary Scheme, which are both non-repayable. In addition, check the website of the Oxbridge College you're applying to, as they often have their own additional financial support available. 

'It's too expensive to live and study in Oxford and Cambridge'

While we know that Oxford and Cambridge Universities look for students who are capable and motivated, there is no perfect Oxbridge student

No student applying to Oxford or Cambridge will know everything about the subject they are applying for when they apply to their degrees or, indeed, after they finish. 

Indeed, once you reach Oxbridge, you are not expected to spend all of your time working and studying. As will have become clear from the long list of society types above, students get up to plenty of activities alongside their degrees.

'Every student applying to Oxford or Cambridge is the perfect student' 

At Cambridge and Oxford there is a tradition remaining known as 'formal halls'. These are three-course dinners served within Colleges, and are often held in grand dining halls. 

There is usually a dinner to welcome you to your College, known as Matriculation Dinner, and when you complete your degree, known as Graduation Dinner. During your time at Oxbridge there may be other dinners which you sign up for, or as part of student societies you join. 

However, these dinners are optional and are treated as special occasions by most students (rather than everyday). There will most likely be a College canteen where you can eat regular dinners, or self-catering facilities. 

'If you go to oxford and cambridge you're expected to eat three-course formal dinners every night'

When you see images of Oxford and Cambridge students in the media, they are often wearing black academic gowns and formal dress. 

Fortunately, you are not expected to wear this everyday! Students are only expected to dress up for special occasions like Matriculation (enrollment), Graduation, and formal halls (outlined above). 

Interestingly, Oxford also requires its students to wear formal dress when sitting their exams. 

'If you go to Oxford or Cambridge you have to wear a gown everywhere' 

It is true that the workload at Oxford and Cambridge University is comparatively high, but students still find plenty of time to socialise and enjoy student societies. 

There are nearly 1000 societies at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, spanning sports, theatre, journalism, debating, gaming, music, faith, volunteering, political activism, and far far more. Whatever your interests or hobbies, there is a group for you. 

In our experience, these activities keep you happier and can actually make you more productive when you return to studying. You can see on our team page what OxFizz staff got up to in their spare time at university.

'If you go to Oxford or Cambridge all you'll do is work, and you'll have no time for doing anything fun'



Please be in touch with Lee Robertson (our Access Programme Lead) if you have any questions on life at Oxbridge.