Ivy League vs. Oxbridge

I was very dead set on attempting to get into Durham University. That is where my sites have been set since I learned about it. It is the #3 over all ranking University in the UK and their English department ranks just as high if not higher (my brain is a little fuzzy on that one at the moment). It has history, it holds prestige, and Harry Potter was filmed there (cool, though not the selling point).

However, I received a letter yesterday from Columbia University in New York, asking me to consider their University as my higher education next step.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely naive when it comes to these things, how Universities work and the like. I don’t really know what this means. My ego wants me to say that it means I would get accepted if I applied to go to school there, but the skeptic on my shoulder says that they probably send this out to anyone that gets into Phi Theta Kappa as a formality. Both could be true, I don’t know!

However, there are some students out there that are genuinely in a place of great debate as far as their next step goes: Which is better – Ivy league schools or Oxbridge schools?

What does Oxbridge mean?

  • Is either Cambridge or Oxford
  • Oxbridge is the term which combines both schools. They are so high in stature that they just combined the words to create their own league, essentially.
  • In the United Kingdom

What does Ivy League mean?

  • This is a group of eight prestigious schools with a longstanding reputation.
  • Includes Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Darmouth, Cornell, Brown and University of Pennsylvania
  • In the U.S.

What’s the difference?

Aside from the fact that they’re on two different sides of the pond, Oxbridge colleges are compiled of just two universities, while Ivy league have eight to chose from, and thus have eight which rank differently among themselves. On the Oxbridge website it explains the differences:

“While Ivy League schools are much younger than most Oxbridge colleges, they rival Oxbridge’s influence in the global job market, as well as its academic. Though they vary hugely in size (from a mere 4,000 undergraduates at Dartmouth to over 24,000 at Columbia), they tend to be more consistent in character throughout the university as a whole, whereas the varied collection of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge gives these universities a more diverse and complex feel.”

How do they rank?

The list of Ivy League schools as far as ranking goes (According to a 2013 article in BusinessInsider) is as follows:

  1. Harvard – which also ranked #1 in affordability, job prospects and location. It also ranked #2 as far as academics goes.
  2. Yale – This ranked #1 with student body (tied) and student life, and followed Harvard in affordability. However, it was #3 in job prospects, and #4 in academics.
  3. Princeton – Priceton University tied with Yale at the #1 spot for student body, but that was the only #1 spot Princeton received. It did however rank higher than Yale in Job Prospects at #2, as well as ranking #3 in academics.
  4. University of Pennsylvania – UP tied at #6 in regards to affordability, and ranked #5 in Job prospects and student body, as well as academics, though they hold the #2 spot for student life. “Despite a low ranking for student’s intelligence, Penn graduates tend to a get a high starting salary for the first jobs and many will end up multi-millionaires”
  5. Cornell – Unfortunately, poor Cornell ranked at the bottom of the Ivy League schools as far as Job prospects and Student Body go, however, their campus was ranked at #2 (and it is a beautiful campus), and their student life was ranked at #3. They are at #5 in affordability, and tie at #7 in academics. Cornell has a high acceptance rate, which means larger classes as well.
  6. Columbia – Ranking at #1 in Academics, that is the ranking worth bragging about among the Ivy League universities. It is at the #8 position in both student life and affordability, and #6 in job prospects and student body. However, they have classrooms with less than 20 students, which is what earned it it’s high ranking in academics.
  7. Darmouth – tied at #7 in Academics (with Cornell), its campus, student body and student life also rank at #7. However, it is in the top half ranking for job prospects (#4) and affordability (#3).
  8. Brown – the highest ranking for Brown is it’s student body at #4, followed by it’s student life at $5. It ties with the University of Pennsylvania at #6 in affordability, and also ranks there with Academics, and falls to the bottom of the list with its campus.

According to The Complete University Guide of 2015 (in the United Kingdom), the Oxbridge universities rank accordingly:

  1. Cambridge – ranking at number 1 out of all the universities in the UK, it also ranks #1 in entry standards, and research assessment. However, in Graduate prospects it ranks third, following the Imperial College of London and St. George’s University of London; and follows Buckingham and St. Andrews Universities in Student Satisfaction.
  2. Oxford – ranks at #2 over all in the United Kingdom, as well as in entry standards, and research assessment. It also ranks lower than Cambridge in graduate prospects and student satisfaction.

A 2012 article in Forbes published a list of the world’s most reputable Universities – all but one of which were either in the US or the UK.

  1. Harvard University (US)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)
  3. University of Cambridge (UK)
  4. Stanford University (UK)
  5. University of California, Berkley (US)
  6. University of Oxford (UK)
  7. Princeton University (US)
  8. University of Tokyo (Japan)
  9. University of California, Los Angeles (US)
  10. Yale University

How Do you Decide?

“The biggest differences you’re likely to find between Oxbridge and Ivy League lie in their study programmes. As mentioned above, American courses offer a great deal more flexibility, operating a ‘majoring’ and ‘minoring’ system, where you pick one main subject area (your ‘major’) and combine it with other subjects, or ‘minors’, which do not have to be in the same subject. While some universities are stricter than others on the combination of choices, the benefit of this system is its ability to offer diverse courses to students with wide-ranging interests. Thanks to this flexibility, some American universities say they can offer up to 3,500 different courses. At Oxbridge, you’ll have to apply for one specific, named course, and the two universities differ slightly in their course structure: Cambridge opts for a broader curriculum in the first part of the course, after which students can pick modules – sometimes from the papers offered by other degree programmes – and specialise, whereas Oxford students go into more depth in each module from the outset.”
~Oxbridge

It of course depends on what you’re after, what degree you are wanting, and what you expect out of your university. Another thing to consider is costs. For some, it just isn’t an issue – an education is worth more than money and/or a person might be wealthy enough not to worry about it. For others, it can be a troublesome concern.

In the UK, all the schools have the same tuition costs – £9000 (although at one point I did find one that was £8500), which is about $14,000. In the US, Universities vary in tuition – from $14,000-$51,000+. There are of course scholarships available for all schools, though one might have to get quite a few to be able to cover that cost.

For me, the cost is a huge thing. However, that being said, I never thought that I would qualify to be considered at a school like Columbia, so it has changed things up again.

What factors would you consider?

Some More Helpful Links to help you make up your mind:

  • TopUniversities.Com This link will take you more in depth as to how Ivy League schools rank in the world, among each other, and how certain departments rank as well.
  • TopUniversities.Com This link takes you to a comparison between Oxford and Cambridge Universities
  • University.Which.Co.UK This page examines the different aspects to consider when thinking about whether to attend Cambridge or Oxford, and compares them
  • TED.Com This is an editorial piece about why we consider any of the above schools to be better than any other school, with further links to related TEDtalks videos
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