#atozchallenge: Oxbridge

Oxbridge =
Oxford University
+ Cambridge University


Oxford University coat of arms (source: Wikipedia, public domain)

Cambridge University coat of arms (source: Wikipedia, public domain)

Even a Yank like me knows that the two most important and most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom (and possibly the world) are Oxford University and Cambridge University. Wikipedia tells us that William Thackeray, in his 1849 novel Pendennis, came up with the name Oxbridge when he described a university that was similar to both Oxford and Cambridge. Virginia Woolf used the name in her 1929 essay A Room Of One’s Own, citing Thackeray. By the late 1950’s it was being used to describe both universities collectively, usually in comparison to other colleges and universities, and in a slightly class-conscious way about the people who attend them. Evidently Thackeray also referred to Camford University, a slightly different portmanteau, but it never caught on.

I had a friend in college who had as his goal to send his children to Oxford. Don’t know if he ever made it. He himself talked his way into Harvard, then talked his twin brother into it as well. I don’t know that Harvard compares well or not to Oxbridge, but I know it’s pretty well thought of here.

Many of my readers live in the UK and other current or former Commonwealth countries; do any of you know anyone who went to either university?


10 thoughts on “#atozchallenge: Oxbridge

    1. Neither do I. I only know two guys that went to Harvard. Of course, Northwestern, where I spent two hellish years, was often called “Harvard of the Midwest,” most likely by the marketing department…


  1. Our eldest son went to Oxford to read English. He did not enjoy the experience and left after passing his first year. He was definitely encouraged to go by his school – good to be able to quote you have prepared Oxbridge students. He took a year out and then went to study Law at Nottingham. Graduated with a first and has just qualified as an accountant. Doesn’t regret the Oxford experience it just wasn’t for him.it was quite hard as a reserved East End boy from a comprehensive school to fit in.


  2. Hi John,

    I don’t know anybody who went to Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard, but I do know people who graduated from Princeton University. It often amazes me that just seeing the actual university grounds somehow seems to transmit wisdom!

    Nice post… I’ll try and get back to see you again.


  3. At Ball State, I had an English prof, Dr Brown, who was from Elkhart, but who received his degree at Oxford. Sometimes students would pick on his manner of speech, which was, of course, perfect elocution — but then we’d all have to hear about how he’d been educated at Harvard and Oxford and how he’d lived in England for X amount of years and blah blah blah. I liked him fine, thought he was an excellent teacher, didn’t mind his pretentious attitude.


  4. Hi John – yes … my father and uncle and cousin went to Oxford, my sister in law went to Cambridge … and I schooled in Oxford – love the town – but I suspect I’d love Cambridge too – it’s more rural … not so much town around it …

    Didn’t know about Camford … or the other snippets about Oxbridge …

    I’d say Harvard was up there with both Oxford and Cambridge – and I think it depends where you’ve come from … there are other universities with excellent reputations too … but those three and no doubt a few others that appear to be at the upper echelons …

    Cheers Hilary


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