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Graduation hatPrestigious universities hold themselves in high regard, and thousands of people around the world strive to be accepted into the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard every year.

These universities are considerably more difficult to get into, as well as being more expensive in terms of tuition fees and having courses that often involve more work on a more difficult syllabus, so is it actually worth it?

Isn’t a Degree a Degree Regardless of Where it’s From?

There is an element of truth in this statement; a 2:1 at one university holds as much weight as a 2:1 from any other university, surely?

This debate, however, isn’t about whether a degree from a top twenty or top thirty university is equal to a degree from a top fifty university – they probably are, and employers are unlikely to distinguish between them.

That being said, the adage that only those in academia care about the university you attended isn’t true. Employers notice when an application comes in from a graduate of a top university, and rightly or wrongly, it dramatically increases your chances of employment.

Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Oxford all feature in the top eight universities in terms of their graduate employability according to TopUniversities employability rankings.

The University of Cambridge boasts a 95.2% employment rate whilst the University of Oxford's is 92.6% - proving that the chances of finding employment after attending one of these two universities are extremely high.


2018 RankingInstitution
1Stanford University
3Harvard University
4The University of Sydney
6University of Cambridge
7The University of Melbourne
8University of Oxford

Are Prestigious Universities Even that Great?

Rankings and league tables can be manipulated; that being said, as a general rule, the top four or five universities in each country are there on merit. The top ten or fifteen are probably deserving of their title, but below that the tables can be gamed and manipulated.

If we define a prestigious university as one of the top four or five universities in a country, then yes, they are ranked that highly on merit. So, what is it about the world's top universities that make them worth the extra competition, effort and money?

They Make Your CV Stand Out

The job market is becoming increasingly competitive, anything that can help you stand out when applying for jobs is beneficial.

Employees have an idea of what it takes to get into a prestigious university. The ability and dedication required to simply be accepted into these universities are impressive, and the knowledge and application required to achieve a first or second class degree are equally outstanding. Employers know this.

As we covered earlier in this article, the establishments with the highest employability rates worldwide are almost all prestigious universities, further supporting this fact.

The Standard of Lecturing and Teaching is High

Students at the top six universities in the United Kingdom and the USA all achieve significantly higher results than those at the universities directly below them. This further cements the fact that they are deserving of their reputation as the best universities in the world.

Lecturers at these universities are often highly experienced and possess a long list of academic achievements and accolades, as well as plenty of anecdotes and knowledge to share with their students.

Just check out the percentage of firsts and 2:1s awarded at Oxbridge universities:

Institution% of firsts% of 2:1s% of firsts and 2:1s
University of Oxford33.9%59.9%93.8%
University of Cambridge33.5%58.1%91.6%


You Make Amazing Connections

"It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is a bit of a cliché, and recent studies have shown that it is less true now than ever; that being said, attending a prestigious university introduces you to some very useful people.

Getting your first job after university is tough, but the internship and work experience opportunities that can be offered to you whilst attending a prestigious university go some way to making it simpler. Many students at prestigious universities are introduced to future employers or business partners whilst there.

They’re Prestigious

Simply pointing out that prestigious universities are prestigious seems a little futile, however, it’s worth mentioning again.

Prestigious universities are regarded as such because they are difficult to gain acceptance into, only accepting the most able and intelligent applicants every year. This means that attending one at all is impressive, helping you stand out from the crowd.

So, Does Going to a Prestigious University Actually Mean Anything?

In short – yes. It improves your chances of success in your studies, it improves your employability, and it allows you to make potentially life-changing connections with people.

However, its level of impact does depend on a few things. The subject and career you want to go into impacts the importance of the university you choose. Many top law firms in the UK and USA only accept applicants from certain institutions.

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