#UniShorts: Choosing a Non-Oxbridge University

Choosing a university can be a very personal decision for someone, and prospective students should try not to feel too pressured by their parents’ or friends’ opinions when it comes to thinking about where they want to live or what they want to study. 

Instead, students should consider several key factors, including their preferred area of study, any location they’d like to live in, their predicted grades, and any confirmed grades they currently hold.

These factors can be extremely helpful when it comes to deciding where you want to apply, especially if you’ve decided that the Oxbridge environment isn’t for you. 

In this #UniShort, we’ll summarise several major advantages of applying to a non-Oxbridge university, before going on to look at three key factors to consider when you’re choosing which institution is the best fit for you personally. 

Why Choose a Non-Oxbridge University?

Oxford and Cambridge may regularly top the rankings in categories like global reputation and research output, but these two universities are definitely not the perfect fit for everyone. 

Here are a few reasons why you should consider applying to non-Oxbridge universities in the UK: 

  • Subject area. Oxford and Cambridge might be well-known for courses like Classics, History, Philosophy, and Mathematics, but if you want to study Veterinary Science, you should look at the universities of Edinburgh or Nottingham. If you’re particularly interested in International Relations or Physics, look into applying to the University of St Andrews: this institution is world-renowned when it comes to these two subject areas. Those people interested in studying English or Creative Writing should look at Durham, York, or Glasgow, while anyone who’s fascinated by Sociology and Politics should think about choosing LSE.
  • Location. Cambridge is an attractive place, but it can feel relatively quiet and town-like, particularly in comparison to cities like Glasgow, London, and Manchester. Oxford has a more vibrant and bustling energy, but if you’ve got your heart set on living as a student in a big city environment, you’d be better off looking at uni options in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, or Glasgow.  
  • Environment. Not everyone, even the brightest and most quick-witted students, can thrive in the Oxbridge environment. This type of academic environment is uniquely competitive and intense (at least as far as UK universities go) and requires students to adapt quickly to a rigorous schedule that includes regular deadlines. Many individuals find this environment to be particularly mentally challenging, especially in their first year. It’s useful to think about the type of university environment that you’re looking for: what type of environment will best suit you and your personality? It’s not worth heading to a top-class university based on its name if you think you’ll be miserable while you’re there. 
  • Studying abroad. If you’re a British student, you might want to get away from home and head to Europe, the USA, or further afield to study as an undergraduate. Again, it’s well worth considering what you want to get out of your university experience. If you want to head to Harvard or Williams College to pursue a liberal arts education, go for it. If you’d rather go to Barcelona to study Chemistry or Clinical Medicine and scuba dive along the Costa Brava on your weekends, do that. 

Choosing a Non-Oxbridge University: Three Crucial Factors to Consider 

When it comes to choosing a non-Oxbridge university, there are several key factors to consider. We’ve narrowed these down to three major points to make your decision easier. 

  • Location

When doing research into the available educational institutions, you should always consider the area that surrounds the university in question. While you’ll likely live on campus during your first year, you’ll probably live in a house or flat in town during your remaining years at university.

Consider factors like: 

  • Cost of living, including factors like rent, food, and drinks.
  • Local amenities, like supermarkets, restaurants, libraries, cafes, and pubs or clubs. 
  • Level of internet coverage and phone signal in the area.
  • Transport links, and how easy it is to get to and from your lectures.

Also, try to think about the general vibe of the area. Are you a fan of big cities, or do you want something quieter? St Andrews is a beautiful coastal town with three gorgeous beaches, while LSE is slap-bang in the middle of London (one of the most diverse and exciting cities around). Both institutions have an excellent reputation, but they each provide a completely different university experience. 

  • Requirements and Admissions

It’s also well worth looking at the entry requirements for the course or university in question. Think of your predicted grades: these should give you a good idea of what you’ll get in your final exam results. You can use these grades as a measure for which universities you should be considering, 

For example, if your predicted A-level grades are AAB, look at universities that list these results as requirements for entry. There’s no point applying to five different universities that require all A*’s or A’s, or to five different universities that require much lower results. You don’t want to miss out on all your choices: you also don’t want to end up at a university where you don’t feel academically challenged or fulfilled. 

Of course, particularly dedicated students may seek to go above and beyond the expected entry requirements and seek further tutoring or extracurricular activities to boost their final grades and better their chances of getting into their dream university. This is where a company like A&J Education comes in handy: we can offer extensive further services to students looking to boost their educational potential.

  • Choosing a Non-Oxbridge University: Course Preference

Many universities rank very highly for certain specialist subjects and not as high for others. If you’ve got your heart set on studying at the University of Sheffield because you love the area, but don’t like the look of their English Literature course (for example), you should think about looking at other colleges in the same area with better degrees for you. 

Put simply, you might love a university for its location, but if the course doesn’t look or feel right for you, then that’s a big issue. 

Make sure you’re picking a course that you really want to do: look on the department’s website for an example syllabus, assessment methods, and if there are any practical components. You can also find out more about the department’s facilities by reaching out to alumni or current faculty members. If the university is hosting an open day, you should try to attend. 

The Final Word: It’s all a Personal Choice

Deciding which university to go to will ultimately be up to you, the student. Whether you actually attend your dream university is up to the admissions team at that institution. 

You can do everything in your power to get strong, favourable grades but the university still needs to accept your application and give you an offer. 

If you’re struggling to make a shortlist of universities as part of the application process, it’s a good idea to keep a document where you can accumulate all your research into individual institutions. Use this information to make a list of the pros and cons of each university, highlighting those in excellent locations which have facilities or activities that appeal directly to your personal interests.

At this point in the process, it’s okay to have a few choices. When using the UCAS portal, students can apply for places at up to five institutions.

While you yourself should make the final decision when it comes to which university to attend, it’s useful to seek out information from alumni and to discuss options with friends, parents, and teachers. Taking in all of this information will help you to make a genuinely informed choice about the next step in your academic journey.

For more information on how to choose the perfect university and strengthen your personal application, get in touch with us at A&J Education to book a free consultation.

Leave a Reply