Cambridge vs Oxford from the perspective of future, current and former medical students?

Welcome back to another blog post in our Oxbridge Resources series! Today, we will be addressing the big question – Oxford vs Cambridge? Harry Potter vs Voldemort? PewDiePie vs T-Series?

Today, we’ll be talking about why we choose one university over the other, as well as including pearls of wisdom from Lucy Richman and Soham Bandyopadhyay. Lucy is a second-year Cambridge medical student, who has helped us a lot with answering your questions so far, and Soham is a recent Oxford medical graduate (Foundation Doctor), who kindly found time in his incredibly busy schedule to help you out. They deserve a huge thank you!

Cambridge vs Oxford from the perspective of medical school applicants

So, in our last post, we talked about the differences between Oxbridge and other medical schools. While Oxford and Cambridge are more similar than different, we decided to cover our reasons for why we chose one university over the other, in the video below. We hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

You may be scratching your head as to what the collegiate system is, having heard us talk about it? Don’t fear! We’ve got a few paragraphs explaining it, as well as giving you advice on whether you should make an open application or an application to a specific college.

Choosing a college

Colleges are ready-made communities made up of academic tutors, support staff, and students. They are at the heart of the Oxbridge student experience, making the colleges an exceptional place to study and live. All Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment, giving you the freedom to focus on your studies, enjoy time with your friends and make the most out of the clubs and activities available. Wait, so Oxbridge is not completely academic?!

You’ll be glad to hear that they’re not! Colleges run a whole hoard of activities, ranging from a cheese tasting society to Quidditch – there really is something for everyone! Also, if there’s a new club you want to start, you can always set up your own. Clubs are a great way of meeting new friends, not only from your college but also university-wide through inter-college competitions.

When you apply, you can either put a college’s campus code on your UCAS form to specify a college preference or put in an open application to the university as a whole. If you choose to submit an open application, the university will then allocate a college to supervise your admissions process.

A common misconception is that by sieving your way through the complicated application stats, you will find an “ideal” college that is “easier” to get into. However, we can confirm that your likelihood of getting an offer is the same university-wide as Oxbridge is committed to selecting the best candidates. 

Some people also believe that making an open application increases your chances of getting an offer, but that is not the case at all because your application is handled the same way as if you had applied to a specific college. Therefore, if a particular college takes your fancy, don’t hesitate to apply there!  

You might be surprised to find out that even if you submit a college preference, you might still be shortlisted and offered a place by a different college through the pooling system. This ‘relocation’ ensures that the best applicants, regardless of which college they select, get an offer.

In 2019, 35% of successful Oxford applicants got an offer from a college they didn’t specify on their application. This goes to show that you shouldn’t be spending sleepless nights thinking about what college to apply to because at the end of the day, if you want to make an application to a specific college, you should choose one that you like the feel of as well the location and clubs and activities on offer.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the following websites.



Similarities and differences between Oxford and Cambridge

Now that we’ve given you a better insight into the collegiate system, we will be summarising the main similarities and differences between Oxford and Cambridge, including some we may not have covered in our video.

Similarities Differences
  • The course is heavily research-focused, and places importance on students developing a strong scientific understanding
  • Both 6-year courses including a compulsory intercalated degree
  • University is a big part of the towns
  • They both have a collegiate system
  • They both have graduate only colleges for mature students
  • Both courses share lecture modules with biomedical/ biological natural scientists
  • Cambridge’s medical school has twice the number of students  Oxford’s
  • Cambridge offers a greater range of intercalated degrees than Oxford
  • Entry requirements
  • Proportion of students shortlisted for interviews
  • Interview process (which we discuss in more detail in future blog posts)
  • Oxford has a smaller number of colleges than Cambridge but have more people in each college
  • Cambridge has women-only colleges
  • Cambridge has full-body dissection
  • Cambridge is interdisciplinary – some of the modules are shared with Vets 


Intercalated Degree information

In the table above, we mentioned that Cambridge offers a greater range of intercalated degrees than Oxford, so we thought it’d help if we expanded further by giving you an insight into the intercalated degree options on offer.

At Cambridge, all students specialise in one of a wide range of other subjects offered by the University to qualify for the BA degree. Options range from Natural Sciences subjects (such as Pathology, Physiology, etc.) to non-core science subjects, such as Anthropology, Management Studies, or Philosophy but this is a competitive process as there are limited places on each course. 

As part of the intercalated degree at Cambridge, you often undertake a research project in a laboratory or as a literature project with the department. You are considered a member of the research team and gain full exposure into the life of an academic scientist. The research project can be both clinical or non-clinical.

Conversely, all students at Oxford undertake an experimental research project as part of their BA in Medical Sciences. This will be in a field of interest to the student and will offer first-hand experience of scientific research, including topics such as Cardiovascular science, Pharmacology and signalling, Immunity and Infection.

A benefit of the intercalated degree being compulsory is that you have the chance to graduate with your BA at the same time as the rest of the medical students in your year, as well as your non-medical friends. This differs from some other universities where you may get to choose whether and when you undertake an intercalated degree.


Cambridge vs Oxford from the perspective of a current medical student

Now, Lucy will talk about her personal experiences, from when she started her application journey to her current time at Trinity Hall College, Cambridge. As you may have seen, Lucy has been incredibly helpful in replying to your questions regarding the blog, so we would like to thank her for finding time to talk through her reasons for applying to Cambridge over Oxford.


Lucy’s interview will be able to listen here on Tuesday 26th May 2020.

Cambridge vs Oxford from the perspective of a former medical student and current doctor

Now, Soham will talk about his personal experiences as a former medical student who has just graduated from the University of Oxford and has obtained a place in a prestigious academic foundation research post. He is also a newly appointed Vice President of Medic Mentor, so once again we would like to thank him for finding time to talk us through his reasons for choosing Oxford over Cambridge.

Soham’s interview will be able to listen here on Tuesday 26th May 2020.


We’ve tried to mix it up a bit this time by including a few videos and audio snippets alongside the text to make it a bit more digestible! Feel free to ask us any questions you may have in the comments section and let us know what you thought about the new format. We hope we have given you a realistic insight into what makes Oxbridge unique from the perspectives of current, former and future medical students, as well as comparing Oxford and Cambridge. In the next blog post, we will talk through the daunting admissions statistics and explain the entry requirements. Thank you for reading this blog post, and we hope you join us next time!