University of Cambridge – Latest News

  1. Don’t use Extenuating Circumstances Form for Covid disruption – Cambridge will ensure there is a route to report this.  (e.g. a death caused by Covid would use EC form, but not « usual » disruption.)
  2. Tests will go ahead this year, minus the BMAT September sitting.  Cambridge Assessment are planning contingency scenarios.
  3. Interviews will be online.
  4. No increased competitiveness next year despite what has happened this year with exam results.
  5. Probably the same number of universities – online is not particularly more efficient.  c70% of applicants typically interviewed – if they feel you have a chance of achieving the standard offer, they will give you a chance.
  6. How do « supra-curricular » experience in Covid time?  See Medicine and Veterinary pages – what is realistic and achievable?
  7. Cambridge have created a website for students planning to « go further » in their subject –
  8. International student fees at Cambridge –

Oxford University Open Days

Our 2020 Open Days will be taking place on 1 and 2 July and 18 September. Please encourage your students to explore our University, meet current students and staff and find out what it’s like to study with us. In addition to taking part in these University-wide Open Days, some academic departments hold their own open days earlier in the year. These are ideal for students who already know what courses they are interested in, and would like to find out more.

  • Materials Science: 18 and 19 February, 31 March
  • Law: 16, 17 and 18 March
  • Classics: 20 March
  • Mathematics: 25 April and 2 May
  • Modern Languages: 2 May
  • Oriental Studies: 2 May
  • Geography: 15 June

Making an application to the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge 2015

UCAS International Advisor’s Conference

June 11-12, 2015


Session 1:

Making an application to the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge

  • These uni’s are separate from the others because the application process is different/earlier
  • Both uni’s are rated top 2 in UK, top 3 in Europe, top 5 in the World
  • Both uni’s have a LONG history of admitting intl students
  • NO broad base (i.e. lib arts) on any course; students MUST be absolutely committed to the programme
  • DON’T apply/come for the:
    • Brand name
    • Location
    • beauty
    • history
    • tv shows & movies
    • employability
  • DO apply/come for the:
    • ACADEMICS (tiny classes)
    • world-class teaching tutorials
    • facilities
    • college structure
  • challenging yet supportive; SUPER individualized
  • intl populations: Oxford – 17%; Cambridge – 19% NO quotas, only academics
  • Medicine: Oxford has 14 places for non-UK/EU students; Cambridge has space for 15
  • At OxBridge, 5 applicants per place, i.e. 20% success rate would be assumed, BUT because more than 50% of intl applicants apply to only 5 courses, admission ratio is actually 12-13%
  • Most popular courses for intl applicants: medicine, law, engineering, economics, PPE
    • Competition for these is keen and can be as much as 16 applicants per seat!
  • Oxford’s Econ & Mgmt course is a pure maths course with a bit more practical application
  • Being an open applicant (for colleges) will NEVER disadvantage your application chances
  • Oxford admissions: more exams-focused, most taken at test center in November
  • Cambridge:
    • extra paperwork (online)
      • UK students: SAQ
      • Intl students: COPA
    • Marked written work from school curricula helps to provide content for interview
  • Interviews:
    • Oxford – December
    • Cambridge – Sept to Dec.
  • Decisions out by end of January to allow for moderation and intercollegiate assignments
  • Admission criteria (with varying importance at each uni):
    • Pre-16 academic achievements
    • Post-16 academic predictions
    • Personal statement (PS)
    • References
    • Interview
    • Written work and/or adm tests
  • PS is used as the starting point for the interview…
    • Use 80% on ACADEMIC interests! “we love geeks”
      • Interest, excitement, engagement
      • Inspiration from current curriculum
      • Evidence of going over & above super-curricular
    • Remaining 20% is for everything else
  • Cambridge: about 16,500 applicants for 3,400 offers for 3,300 final seats
  • Oxford: about 18,000 applicants for 3,500 offers for 3,200 seats
    • Stats by country are available online!
  • Counsellor’s reference:
    • 10% about school, include link to profile
    • 80% on academic achievement including subject-specific commentary
    • final 10% could be final persuasive comments or (as necessary) any mitigating circumstances
  • Oxford tests: benchmark across the board to help as applicant pool is so diverse in terms of qualifications
    • Past papers and mark schemes on the Oxford site
    • Encourage students to do exams under timed conditions
  • Oxford interview: 60% will be interviewed… limited to about 3 per place
  • Cambridge interview: 80% interviewed
  • Generally for both universities: aptitude and suitability is the rationale for the conversation
    • Asking questions the kids don’t know answers to
    • Practice for what you would be doing at the university
    • Not about the “right” answer… it IS about the problem-solving style
      • “Can you do the basics before you do the complicated bits?”
        • i.e. examine the test, consider the evidence, etc
    • Don’t use the prep agencies the universities offer help, better & cheaper!
  • How do advisors guide students to choose between the two universities?
    • COURSE choices: names, specifics, modules
    • In the humanities: similar names, poss different approaches
    • In the social sciences: very different options/names
    • In the Sciences
      • at Cambridge, students study sciences together, specialize as you go along, but starting with generalization (both in sciences as well as in engineering)
      • at Oxford, students study within a specific area from day 1
  • COPA may be changing to limit the redundancies
  • COPA may also have an earlier deadline (compared to Oct. 15) in the future

Oxford University – Notes from Counsellors’ Conference

20% success rate overall.

18k applications this year

17% international students – 3200 places, no quotas. (cf 11& Cambridge, 34% Edinburgh, LSE 49%, St Andrews 45%)

Some very high acceptance rates for certain subjects e.g. classics – 90% acceptance rate.

Oldest English speaking uni in world.

3rd in THES World rankings (Harvard and Caltech above), 1st in UK.

259 courses available.  No change possible.


Lots of independent work. Lots of student support, college based, peer-based.  « Family system »

Finance – International students €20k to 30k & college fee €9k and living costs estmiated at €16k.  ie €45k upwards overall.  Very limited scholarships.  EU students eligible to living cost and tuition fee support based on household income.

If UK citizen but out of country for 5 years, treated as international.

General employment skills etc.  In most subjects, Oxford grads in top 5-20% of earnings compared with grads from same subejct from other universities.

Work restrictions on international students.

Open Days July and September.

Interesting Fact and Figures

  • 18k apps, 9k shortlisted, 3.6k offers.  (20-30% of these international).
  • 40-50% shortlisted, 20% offers 2015
  • UK students get more success.  Why success rates lower for internationals? Because students cluster around most competitive subjects.
  • « Over 50% of all pass for 2014 entry from outside UK were for 5 most competitive courses »
  • PP3, ECON AND Mgt, Law, Medicine, Maths.  Success rate for outside UK people are single figure percentages apart from Maths.
  • PPE and Econ-Mgt – lots of students apply who are not realistic. – both are high-level Maths subjects. 2-3s of 1st year is Maths.
  • MEDICINE – only 24 places for internationals.
  • Biggest success rates – theology, modern languages, arch and anthr, music, classics and English, Oriental Studies, Classics and Modern Lang, Class Arch and Ancient History, Materials Science, Chemistry (25%-34%)
  • Most idfficult – Econ and Management, Maths and Stats, Computer Science, Medicine (7-15%)
  • Avoid strategic applications – if students don’t have 100% passion for subject, they won’t be admitted.
  • They check academic achievement, admissions tests, written work, UCAS personal statement, UCAS teacher reference, interviews.
  • Numbers can’t go up – they protect their tutorial system.  (1 or 2 students).


  • IB 38-40, 3 x 6s 1 x 7. (Engineering 2 x 7, 1 x 6)
  • SATs combined score of at least 2100.  SAT Subject tests 700 or better
  • Various types of admissions test to help differentiate top candidates – various types of questions
  • TSA – no more than 2 mins per question
  • 1 in 6 receives an offer..


  • c53% called for interview.  December.  2-3 interiews, each 20-45 minutes.
  • if Skype needed, request.
  • Designed to emulate tutorial system.
  • Can the person think independently and critically?
  • No trick questions
  • Preparation – recent work, wider reading, subject in wider world, many sources of information, know your pers statement.
  • Example biochemistry entry interview – all UCAS forms are graded on 1-7 scale, then interviews at 2 colleges (graded on basis of interviews), so then averaged out of 21 (2 interviews, application form).
  • Typical interview – check out nervousness, ask them to describe some area of science they are confident and knowledgeable  – then probe that.  E.g. membranes – student describes.  Proteins can pass through membranes.  Have recognition molecules attached to them.  What different kinds of membranes?  Similar structure, different composition.  So how does the cell ensure that membranes are of right type? Lengthy answer.  Etc etc, further probing…