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Do you dream to study at Oxbridge one day? Find out more about the admissions process, including tests you must take, the interview process and more...

Oxbridge for international students

Oxbridge is the collective noun which refers to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, considered the elite two universities in the UK and two of the best in the entire world. Both were founded more than 800 years ago and remain at the forefront of higher education in the UK. International students will be familiar with both universities, as they have nurtured some of the world's greatest minds (or you may have heard of the famous annual boat race between the two institutions). 


If you want to follow in their footsteps, you need to prepare to work hard – you can’t just walk into Oxford or Cambridge unfortunately! Attracting the brightest students from all over the world, competition for places at Oxbridge is fierce, but students should not be put off by elitist reputations or public school bias. Everyone applying to Oxbridge will have top grades, so potential candidates should be encouraged to develop their extracurricular skills giving them something extra that sets their application apart from the rest.

Make sure that your university application includes everything it needs to, read our guide to university applications.


International students at Oxbridge

The majority of Oxford's postgraduate students (63%) come from outside the UK and more than one in ten undergraduate students come from overseas. A slightly smaller percentage of the student body (10%) at Cambridge comes from outside the UK. So you won’t be alone if you do get in! Many international students come to Cambridge or Oxford to study, and either remain in the UK to work or return to their home country to apply everything they’ve learned.



Benefits of studying at Oxbridge

  • Both Cambridge and Oxford are world famous institutions with a lot of history attached to them
  • As an Oxbridge-alum, your CV will look extremely impressive to graduate employers, opening up the opportunities available to you
  • You’ll get to mix with the smartest minds in the country (and the world), discussing your field in depth as well as meeting a diverse range of students from around the world
  • Similarly, the opportunities to socialise with other students as part of (exclusive) extracurricular societies will allow you to network and plan your first few career steps
  • Oxbridge boast some of the finest research facilities in the world, which will help you meet your full potential
  • Both are situated in beautiful cities in the UK




Applications to Oxbridge must be made at least three months earlier than for other institutions, and with only minor exceptions (e.g. organ scholars), are mutually exclusive for first undergraduate degrees. This means that, in any one year, candidates may only apply to Oxford or Cambridge, not both.

You should be prepared to supply academic transcripts, translated into English from your local language by an accredited translator as part of your application. You will also be expected to be proficient in English to a good standard with scores from any language tests you’ve already taken (again the transcripts for which should be translated).

Read our full guide to applying an institution in the UK (though remember that deadlines come earlier for Oxbridge applications).

Applying to Cambridge

To apply to Cambridge, you will have to submit a UCAS application as everyone applying to a British institution would have to. If you are applying from a country outside of the EU, you must also complete a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). Check how much you will have to pay to submit your COPA.

In both you will have to indicate whether you have a preferred college you would like to apply to or whether your application is an ‘open’ i.e. you have no preference.

Once you have submitted both, you will receive an email from Cambridge directing you to complete the Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ).


Applying to Oxford

The application process to Oxford is the same for both domestic and international applicants – you simply have to complete a UCAS form.

Interviews at Oxbridge

Those who have a good chance of successfully making it into either Cambridge or Oxford will be asked to attend an interview. The interview will be conducted by a tutor or don who teaches in the field you are applying to. Overseas interviews are conducted by university representatives who are experts across a broad range of fields. If it's not possible for you to attend interview in person, an interview via telephone or Skype may be an option although this is by no means guaranteed.



In addition to interviews in the UK, Cambridge also conduct overseas interviews in Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, PR China and India for those applicants unable to travel to Cambridge. However there are some minor restrictions so be sure to check these; the main one is that in order to request an overseas interview, you’ll need to submit your COPA by a certain date.



Oxford only hold interviews at the University. These will usually be held in December. You’ll receive a letter or email inviting you to your interview, with further details included. The University will provide accommodation and meals free of charge.


Here’s an example of a “good” interview:



Admissions tests at Oxbridge

Admissions tests have come to constitute a vital part of many students' applications and are used by Oxbridge and other universities to separate the increasing numbers of students applying with top grades. Tests are now used for several subjects and include the BMAT for medicine and veterinary sciences, the ELAT for English literature, and the LNAT for law.

Find out which tests you might have to take as part of your Oxford and Cambridge admissions process.

Again, the best way for students to prepare for these is practise. Practice papers are available to download on both the Oxford and Cambridge University websites. You can also read our guide to test tips for any situation.



And if Oxbridge isn’t in your future.....

There are hundreds more institutions in the UK (and thousands more around the world to choose from) – so don’t despair! Find another top university in the UK.


Further information:

Oxford – International Applicants

Cambridge – Applying from outside the EU


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About Author

Oxbridge for international students

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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