Millie’s UK University Highlight: First Stop, Oxford!
Article written and edited by Yadavi Madani.
Whether you want to visit Oxford to see the halls of Hogwarts or you're thinking of studying there (Oxford, that is, not Hogwarts), here's a quick overview of the University of Oxford!
Situated in Central Southern England, the University of Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, ranking 1st in the UK (Complete University Guide 2022) and 2nd worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2022). What makes Oxford truly special is not just its rigorous academics but also its unique campus atmosphere, with majestic colleges dating back to the 13th century and its commitment to each student through small seminar groups. It is one of the few universities in the UK to offer a collegiate system, providing students with a sense of community unlike what is found in other university halls.
There's a major for everyone at Oxford, whether you want to channel your inner artist in Fine Art, test your scientific prowess in Materials Science, or study the intriguing combination of Mathematics and Philosophy. Here are some of its top-ranked majors.
English Language and Literature - Ranked #1
- IB: 38 points with 666 in Higher Levels (including English Lit or Lang Lit)
- A-Levels: AAA including English Lit or Lang Lit
- AP: 5, 5, 5 or more subjects
Archaeology and Anthropology - Ranked #1
- IB: 38 points with 666 in Higher Levels
- A-Levels: AAA
- AP: 5, 5, 5 or more subjects
Medicine - Ranked #2
- IB: 39 points with 7 in Higher Level Chemistry and 6s in other Higher Levels (including Biology, Physics or Maths)
- A-Levels: A*AA with A in Chemistry and Biology, Physics or Maths
- AP: 5, 5, 5 or more subjects including Chemistry and Biology, Physics or Calc
Things unique to Oxford
Before applying to Oxford, there are a few things to note that makes it different from other universities.
#1 - Colleges
In a collegiate system, the university is divided into multiple colleges that relate to the university in a sort of federal system. Oxford has 39 colleges, each with its own characteristics; some even host balls (yes, actual gown-wearing balls). Add to that its mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture, and you have yourself the full Hogwarts experience. Here’s a quick highlight of some of Oxford’s colleges:
Here’s a quick highlight of some of Oxford’s colleges:
- St. Catherine’s College: Affectionately known as St. Catz, this is the youngest college in Oxford, having been founded in 1962. This contrasts with the older architecture of traditional Oxford colleges, as it sports more modern buildings. It ranks 2nd on the Norrington Table, a measure of student performance in their finals, thus boasting a strong academic record. Find out more about St. Catz College here.
- Keble College: Keble opened in 1870 in memory of John Keble. It houses more than 800 students, making it one of Oxford’s largest colleges. Keble ranks 19th on the Norrington Table, maintaining a strong academic standing while providing students a less pressured atmosphere during finals. It has been informally dubbed the “lasagna building” due to its redbrick polychromatic brickwork! Find more about Keble College here.
- St. Hugh’s College: Lastly, St. Hugh’s was founded in 1886 with the purpose of providing an Oxford education to women, making it one of the most radical and forward-thinking colleges of its time. Now, the college is open to both men and women and houses over 800 students, making it another of Oxford’s larger colleges. St. Hugh’s ranks 30th on the Norrington Table. In addition to its many students, the college is also home to resident cats: Admiral Flapjack and Professor Biscuit! Find more about St. Hugh’s College here.
Whether you’re looking for a modern college, one with history and character, or simply a college with furry feline friends, you’ll surely be able to find your perfect college at Oxford!
#2 - Cambridge Assessment
This is the entrance test, the first step of the Oxford application process. Depending on your major, you will have to do one or more of the various assessments.
“The Cambridge Assessment is essentially like the UK’s version of Collegeboard since it offers a similar set of tests.”
Here’s a list of some of the admissions tests at Oxford and the courses they apply to:
- BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) - for Biomedical Sciences and Medicine
- HAT (History Aptitude Test) - for History, History (Ancient and Modern), History and Economics, History and English, History and Modern Languages, History and Politics
- LNAT (National Admissions Test for Law) - for Law or Law with Law Studies in Europe
- MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test) - for Computer Science, Computer Science and Philosophy, Mathematics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Mathematics and Philosophy, Mathematics and Statistics
- PAT (Physics Aptitude Test) - for Engineering, Materials Science, Physics and Physics and Philosophy
- TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) - for Economics and Management, Experimental Psychology, Geography, Human Sciences, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics
You can find more information about the Cambridge Assessment in our Millie’s Guide.
#3 - The interview
After passing the entrance test, there's just one more step left: the interview. As terrifying as this may seem, the Oxford interview process is designed to see how you learn and tackle problems. While it might sound daunting, all they want to determine is whether you have a passion for your major and if their teaching style will help you thrive.
#4 - Your personal statement
While you'll have to write one personal statement for all your UK university applications on UCAS, things will look very different if you're applying to Oxford or Cambridge. Both these universities especially value what you have done outside of your studies, so you'll need to focus approximately 80% of your personal statement on takeaways from extra reading you've done related to your major. A successful Oxford personal statement shows the reader that you live and breathe your major, and that you have gone above and beyond to expand your knowledge.
No way… that can’t be true!
Aside from what’s been mentioned above, the University of Oxford has plenty other quirks that make it truly unique!
Did you know...
- Oxford university was founded in 1096, making it the oldest university in the UK and the second oldest operating university in the world?
- There are more published authors per square mile in Oxford than anywhere else worldwide, including JRR Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), CS Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time)?
- Oxford colleges have their own inter-collegiate tortoise races (yes, you read that correctly)? Each college’s tortoise is placed in an 8-meter-wide circle of lettuce, and the winning tortoise is the first one to leave the center of the circle and reach the lettuce line.
- You’ve probably seen Oxford’s very own Christ Church College as the inspiration for the set of Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Many other locations around the university were also used in filming the Harry Potter films!
So whether you’re practicing your tortoise racing skills, or you’re ready to make your application, you now know a little bit more about the University of Oxford. And remember, sign yourself up for a free consultation on planning your next steps at university