Getting into Oxford or Cambridge. It seems to be the ultimate goal for many teenagers, and for many of their parents. But why does Oxbridge have such pulling power? And is it really worth the effort that it takes to reach it?
University league tables consistently place Oxford and Cambridge above other institutions. There are now even attempts to create global league tables which also place Oxbridge near the top. However useful and perceptive these tables really are in our list culture is debatable, but what is not in doubt is that Oxford and Cambridge offer high standards of education. But surely many other universities do the same…. Surely a first class honours degree from any other university is equal to one from Oxbridge, and there is no doubt that with hard work and commitment they can be achieved almost anywhere. Essentially an honours degree from Oxbridge is the same as one from Warwick, Durham, Reading or any other university, and should be worth as much in the job marketplace. Indeed Oxford and Cambridge are not the universities which on average guarantee the highest starting salaries for graduates.
It could also be argued that students would enjoy life at other universities more. The workload at Oxbridge is undoubtedly higher than at many other institutions as a curriculum is crammed into 8-week semesters in comparison to the 12 or 13 week terms at most universities. This leaves little time for enjoying the student lifestyle, in all its bleary-eyed, drunken goodness.
Along with having to complete an average of two essays a week, you have to deal with tourists (many of the American kind), often living in old-fashioned accomodation, shared bathrooms et al- and many students have to vacate their rooms along with all of their belongings outside of term time so that their colleges can be used to host private functions.
So what is it then, that leads to many students to placing huge impetus and importance on gaining a place and to some parents spending thousands of pounds in ‘training’ their children for two 30 minute interviews? Maybe it’s the Oxbridge tradition…
Many of the country’s leading politicians went to Oxbridge (although some would argue this is not much of an advert). However Oxbridge also educated some of Britain’s finest broadcatsers, writers, journalists and business leaders. Melvyn Bragg, Clive James, Alan Bennett to name a few. Maybe its the idea that Oxbridge breeds success that is its attraction. Perhaps many believe that Oxbridge ‘opens doors’. They could be right
Whatever the case, being rejected by Oxbridge does not mean failure in life. Ultimately, Oxbridge cannot create talent or produce entrepreneurism. If an individual is driven and gifted, they will succeed even if they are educated solely by ‘the university of life’. Alan Sugar left school at 16. David Beckham certainly never went to university. But however true this sentiment is, it appears that, at least for the time-being, Oxbridge will retain an almost abstract pull over people and will remain an indicator of achievment to others. Ultimately, perhaps it is the idea and prestige of Oxbridge that is the real attraction. Not Oxbridge itself