New statistics published by the universities reveal that applications to Oxford exceeded those to Cambridge in the last academic year. Both universities saw an increase in demand for undergraduate places, but with 17,604 applicants compared to Cambridge’s 16,500, Oxford appears around 6% more popular with applicants.
One reason for Oxford’s continued popularity may be the increasing international popularity of the UK’s most famous universities.
Official UCAS statistics show that the number of international students making early applications (for Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, and veterinary science courses) has risen by 10%, whilst there were also 4% more EU applications this autumn.
In comparison, applications from the UK as a whole have stayed constant. This is because, even though Northern Ireland had 11% fewer students seeking places for courses that require early applications, UCAS saw increased interest from English, Welsh, and Scottish students.
The Chief Executive of UCAS, Mary Curnock Cook, welcomed this news, saying, “It is encouraging to see that the number of UK applicants for these demanding courses is holding steady, particularly as the young population continues to fall in this group.”
At the time of print, official representatives for Oxford were unable to suggest why more of these candidates chose Oxford over Cambridge. Some, however, may point to Oxford’s extensive outreach programmes as the source of its apparent dominance over its rival.
Whilst both universities have spent vast sums on encouraging prospective students, Oxford spends more around over £300,000 more each year on access and outreach programmes. It also has more money available for bursaries and other financial aid.
Yet one Oxford undergraduate insisted, “I see no real difference between the two. They both attracted thousands of applicants and continue to dominate the UK academically. It’s business as usual.”
A Cambridge graduate also warned not read too much into the statistics, stating, “It’s a very small difference, and there are a whole host of factors that affect people’s choices of university.