Face-Off: Oxford vs. Cambridge

Oxford MBA application

The school selection process for MBA applicants can seem overwhelming. With so many great business schools, how do you decide which one is right for you? In SBC’s blog series Face-Off, we tease out the strengths and differences between two similarly ranked, or located, B-schools. Plus, we’ll highlight noteworthy elements of their admissions processes. Let’s kick things off by looking at the differences between the Oxford MBA application versus that of the University of Cambridge Judge School of Business.

The thoughtful advice below comes courtesy of a former Admissions Officer from Oxford’s Saïd Business School, now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.

Are you thinking about doing an MBA in the UK? We can help! Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.

Oxford MBA Application

How do the admissions requirements and selectivity compare between the Oxford MBA application and Cambridge Judge?

  • Both schools have similar admissions requirements.
  • Both require a good undergraduate degree. Cambridge mentions that they prefer candidates to be in the top 25% of their undergraduate graduating class.
  • Both accept the GMAT and GRE, and one is a requirement. The average GMAT at Cambridge is 690, and the median GMAT at Oxford is also 690 for the MBA Class of 2022. Neither reports GRE score averages. Neither reports minimum GMAT score requirements. However, the admissions team recommends that applicants aim for a score of 650 or above.
  • Both Oxford Saïd and Cambridge Judge require a minimum of two years of work experience before the MBA. The current average at Cambridge is six years of pre-MBA experience. At Oxford, the average is five years.
  • Cambridge requires one professional reference. Oxford asks for two references, with at least one being professional.
  • Both have a 110 TOEFL or 7.5 IELTS requirement for those who require an English test.
  • Cambridge has four required essays, whereas Oxford only has one compulsory essay and one optional essay.
  • For now, all Oxford and Cambridge interviews are taking place virtually. On-campus interviews may be possible in the future.
  • Oxford enrolled 355 MBA students in the Class of 2023, compared to Cambridge’s 210.

What are some aspects of the Oxford and Cambridge MBA experience that applicants should consider? 

One of the biggest challenges faced by applicants considering applying for an MBA at Cambridge Judge and Oxford Said is the number of similarities the schools have on paper:

  • Both schools offer a one-year MBA program starting in September.
  • Both business schools are embedded in very famous and prestigious universities with excellent reputations globally.
  • One of the defining features of the Oxford and Cambridge MBA programs is the collegial systems in place at both universities. Students at both Said and Judge are also members of one of their respective university’s colleges.
  • Colleges are academic communities within the universities. Colleges select which students they admit. Students can live, eat and socialize in their college. Colleges have their own unique identities and traditions. Students are admitted to the MBA program first, and then the business school helps them apply for a college space. Each student studying an MBA at Oxford or Cambridge must be a member of a college.
  • The University of Oxford is made up of 44 colleges and halls. The University of Cambridge has 31 colleges.
  • Both MBA programs offer an internship option in the final summer semester.

Although there are many similarities between the two schools, the MBA programs and student experience are different.

The key differences are:

  • Class size: The Oxford MBA typically enrolls between 315 and 355 students a year. Meanwhile, the Cambridge MBA enrolls between 200 and 210 students a year.
  • Cost: The Oxford MBA has a tuition cost of £71,440 for the next intake, while the Cambridge MBA has a tuition fee of £64,000 for the MBA Class of 2023/24.
  • Curriculum: Both programs offer compulsory core subjects and give students options to choose electives from a wide portfolio. Cambridge offers the opportunity to have a specialization, whereas Oxford does not offer specializations.
  • Oxford has a strong ethos of responsible business and leadership within the campus and the MBA program. This is seen through themes, co-curricular activities, and subjects in the program.

How do the two schools’ locations compare, and what impact will this have on the student experience and/or job opportunities? 

  • Both Oxford Said and Cambridge Judge are easily accessible from London and are located about an hour from London by train.
  • Cambridge is about 50 minutes by train from central London, from Kings Cross Station. From the train station, it is a 7-minute drive to the Judge Business School campus.
  • The city of Oxford is an hour on the train from central London. Trains to Oxford run from both Marylebone station and Paddington Station. The Said Business School is right next door to the train station.
  • Both Oxford and Cambridge are smaller cities.
  • In terms of the student experience, students from both campuses spend quite a bit of time in their respective cities and networking with the student communities in their business schools and the wider university.
  • Both Cambridge and Oxford are busy and historic university towns. The University of Oxford has just over 26,000 students enrolled (as of 2022 data), whereas the University of Cambridge has over 24,000 students enrolled. Oxford also has another university, which adds to the student atmosphere in the city.

Does location impact job opportunities?

  • Both schools have strong brands and reputations and can attract employers based in London and globally to visit campus for networking and recruiting events. The schools’ career teams also do a lot of outreach to companies. The schools work with students to offer career treks to key employers and locations around the globe.
  • A small number of students who launch their own businesses will remain in Cambridge or Oxford to benefit from the spin-out opportunities in the respective universities. Most students do not remain in Oxford or Cambridge after graduation.

How do the two schools’ MBA cohorts compare in terms of quality and culture?

  • Cambridge and Oxford tend to have a similar applicant pool. Many are attracted by how interconnected the business schools are to the parent university and the college system. The college systems at Oxford and Cambridge are a strong selling point for both schools due to the networking opportunities and diverse experience.
  • Both schools have seen a consistent increase in applications over the last few years. The Oxford class had grown from roughly 220 students to over 300 prior to Covid. Cambridge’s class has not grown as much over the last number of years.
  • The larger class at Oxford has led to opportunities to build wider networks with a more diverse class. They have grown the student support services and career services to meet the demands of a larger cohort. However, Cambridge students do enjoy the smaller and more intimate class size.
  • Both schools have made great strides in recruiting female students and are practically identical in the latest class stats. Oxford stands at 48% female admits compared to Cambridge’s 47%. However, Oxford has a wider representation of 64 nationalities compared to 46 at Cambridge, which may be a natural result of their larger class.
  • In terms of diversity, Oxford takes considerably more students from North America than Cambridge, with 21% of the Oxford MBA hailing from North America, compared to 12% of Cambridge’s class. Oxford does a lot better with African students, at 14%, compared to Cambridge’s 3%.
  • The latest class stats show that more than 55% of Cambridge students hail from East Asia, South Asia, and South East Asia. Oxford comes in at 36% for these regions.
  • Cambridge attracts 9% of its MBA students from Latin America, compared to Oxford’s 4%.
  • When it comes to European students, both schools attract similar percentages.
  • Both schools highlight the interactive nature of their classes, the diverse students in the program, opportunities to engage and network with the wider university community, and academic rigor.
  • Both schools have very international and diverse classrooms. This diversity leads to lively discussions, challenging group projects, and more extensive global networks.
  • Neither school has one dominant pre-MBA industry. Students are encouraged and required to work with students from all industries and nationalities through group projects.

Cambridge Judge

Cambridge, England
  • Looking at students’ backgrounds, 34% come from business, accounting, and finance. Meanwhile, 25% come from engineering, 14% from economics,  9% from social sciences, 5% from the arts, and 13% from STEM.

Oxford Saïd

Oxford, England
  • Oxford does not offer information on the industry breakdown of their intake. However, they tend to attract about 25% of their class from finance, 20% from consulting, 10% from social impact/NGO, and 45% from industry, with a strong technology representation.

Did you know SBC offers unique services for applicants interested in social impact? Learn more about our MBA Social Impact Accelerator Package.

How do the two curricula and teaching methods compare?

  • Both schools split the academic year into semesters (three teaching semesters and the summer semester).
  • The schools have a mixture of compulsory core courses, mandatory projects, and a range of elective courses.
  • Oxford offers between 30 and 40 elective choices, while Cambridge offers between 40 and 50 electives.
  • Oxford does not offer a specialization, whereas the Cambridge MBA allows students to specialize in one of the following areas: Culture, Arts & Media Management, Digital Transformation, Energy & Environment, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Global Business, Healthcare Strategies, Marketing, Social Innovation or Strategy.
  • Although Oxford doesn’t offer specializations, it has several cross-cutting themes in its curriculum: The Global Rules of the Game, Entrepreneurship, and Responsible Business.
  • Cambridge has three required team projects that engage with external companies or organizations: one focused on consulting, one on marketing analysis, and one focused on their concentration.
  • Oxford has two required team projects: one in entrepreneurship and one focused on a global threat or opportunity.
  • Both schools have a variety of teaching and learning methods. This includes lectures, team projects, workshops, seminars, individual projects, and class participation.
  • Both programs offer the option for a summer internship from June-August. Students can also participate in an individual project, and students at Oxford can take extra electives in the Summer term. Meanwhile, Cambridge students can opt for a research paper or dissertation.
  • Oxford offers optional co-curricular courses for MBA students in consulting, finance, and social impact: The Finance Lab, Consulting Development Programme, and Social Impact Lab. These allow students to gain additional exposure and practical experience for students looking to return to or transition into these areas.

Oxford MBA application

How do the career outcomes between the schools stack up? 

  • Both schools have reported strong career outcomes in recent years. For the class graduating in 2022, Cambridge reported that 94% of the graduates had accepted a job offer within three months after graduation. Oxford hasn’t published data yet from the MBA Class of 2022. However, Class of 2021 stats reveal an 86% employment rate within six months of graduation.
  • At Oxford, 33.3% end up in finance, 27.8% are in consulting, 6.1% in social impact, and 18.3% in technology.
  • At Cambridge, 29% of those employed went into consulting and 30% into finance. Technology is the largest employment sector for the remainder of the graduates.
  • At Cambridge, top employers were McKinsey, Amazon, Bain, and Citi. More than 100 international employers recruited from the Cambridge MBA class of 2021/22.
  • Oxford’s latest employment report lists organizations such as British International Investment, Accenture, KPMG, and Amazon that recruited 2+ students.
  • At Cambridge, 64% of the class continued their careers in the UK, with 19% across Asia and 7% in North America.
  • Of Oxford’s MBA graduates, 64% remained in Europe, 16% went to North America, and 9% went to Asia.
  • In terms of base salaries for Cambridge graduates, the average base salary was £75,198. At Oxford, the average was £78.895.

We hope this deep-dive comparison between the Oxford MBA application and MBA experience versus Cambridge Judge has given you helpful intel as you make your school selection decisions this season. Best of luck to all applying for an MBA in the UK.

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Our consulting team includes former Admissions Officers from all of the top MBA programs in the US and Europe. Check out the exceptional talent at SBC, and contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant. 

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from LBS, Columbia CBS and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Meet Susan, just one of the many superstars on the SBC team. Susan was the Director of Recruitment and Admissions at London Business School LBS and also the Director of the Executive MBA program at Columbia Business School CBS.

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