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Cambridge vs. Oxford: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
Cambridge is a historic city and university in England, while Oxford is another historic city and university, both renowned for their academic institutions.

Key Differences

Cambridge is located in the eastern part of England, on the River Cam, and boasts an illustrious history dating back over a thousand years. Oxford, situated in the South East, on the River Thames, similarly has a rich past, cemented by its prominent university and architectural marvels.
While both Cambridge and Oxford house world-famous universities, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford respectively, each offers a distinct experience, atmosphere, and culture. The University of Cambridge comprises a grouping of colleges, each with its character and history. Similarly, the University of Oxford functions with a collegiate system, where colleges and private halls form an integral part of the university's structure.
Cambridge, as a city, provides a mix of medieval architecture, green spaces, and modern amenities. It's renowned for punting on the River Cam and the iconic King's College Chapel. Oxford, often termed "The City of Dreaming Spires," showcases an array of historic buildings and museums, with the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera being among its famous landmarks.
Both Cambridge and Oxford have birthed numerous notable alumni, from scientists to authors, and their rivalry, especially in academic and sporting contexts, is legendary. The annual boat race between the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford on the River Thames is a significant event that attracts international attention.

Comparison Chart


Eastern England, on the River Cam
South East England, on the River Thames

University Structure

Collegiate system with colleges
Collegiate system with colleges and private halls

Iconic Activities/Features

Punting on the River Cam
Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera

Notable Alumni Fields

Science, Literature, Politics
Literature, Politics, Science

Architectural Highlights

King's College Chapel
University buildings with "dreaming spires"

Cambridge and Oxford Definitions


Home to the renowned University of Cambridge.
Newton studied at Cambridge in the 17th century.


Home to the prestigious University of Oxford.
Oxford University is one of the oldest in the English-speaking world.


A historic city in Eastern England.
We visited Cambridge during our summer vacation.


Renowned for its vast collection in the Bodleian Library.
Researchers often visit Oxford's Bodleian Library for its resources.


A city characterized by its mix of medieval architecture and modern amenities.
Cambridge's market square is bustling with activity.


A historic city located in South East England.
Oxford is often visited for its rich history and architecture.


Known for its iconic punting activities on the River Cam.
Punting in Cambridge is a popular tourist activity.


Termed "The City of Dreaming Spires" due to its iconic architecture.
The skyline of Oxford is truly mesmerizing.


A place of academic excellence and innovation.
Several Nobel laureates have affiliations with Cambridge.


A city synonymous with academic brilliance and tradition.
The Oxford Union is famous for its debates and notable speakers.


A university in England


A sturdy, low shoe that laces over the instep.


A city in Massachusetts just north of Boston; site of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


A city in eastern England on the River Cam; site of Cambridge University


Are Cambridge and Oxford only known for their universities?

While both are renowned for their universities, they also have rich histories and numerous landmarks.

Which university has the Rhodes Scholarship?

The Rhodes Scholarship is associated with the University of Oxford.

What's the famous boat race between the two?

The Boat Race is an annual rowing contest between teams from Cambridge and Oxford universities.

Is Cambridge known for any specific academic field?

Cambridge excels in various fields, including science, literature, and politics.

Is punting popular in both cities?

Punting is iconic in Cambridge on the River Cam, while it's also enjoyed in Oxford on the Thames.

How far apart are Cambridge and Oxford?

The cities are about 85 miles apart.

How do the collegiate systems work in each university?

Both universities operate on a collegiate system, where colleges or halls are integral to the university's structure.

Are there famous debates in either of the universities?

Yes, both universities have debating societies, with the Oxford Union being particularly famous.

Which city has the "Bridge of Sighs"?

Both cities have a "Bridge of Sighs", but they are different structures.

Where is Cambridge located?

Cambridge is located in Eastern England, on the River Cam.

What river runs through Oxford?

The River Thames runs through Oxford.

Which university is older, Cambridge or Oxford?

The University of Oxford is older, having been founded around 1096.

Which city has the Radcliffe Camera?

The Radcliffe Camera is located in Oxford.

How old is the University of Cambridge?

The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209.

Which city has the King's College Chapel?

King's College Chapel is in Cambridge.

What's the academic rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford called?

The rivalry is often referred to as the "Oxbridge" rivalry.

Which city has a more urban feel?

Both cities have a blend of historic and modern elements, but Cambridge might feel slightly less urban than Oxford.

Is there an annual event where both universities compete?

Yes, besides the Boat Race, there are numerous sporting and academic competitions between the two.

Are both cities tourist-friendly?

Yes, both Cambridge and Oxford are popular tourist destinations with plenty of attractions.

Can I visit the universities as a tourist?

Yes, parts of both universities are open to tourists, but some areas may have restricted access.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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