Many students dream of attending the illustrious universities of Oxford or Cambridge. But were you aware of the many strange traditions that go on there?
In the world university rankings, these two British institutions always fight for the top spot. Both venerable universities with well established reputations, they now welcome students from around the world; and remain fierce rivals. OISE was founded in Oxford and now has centres in both cities. We are also lucky enough to count graduates of these prestigious institutions amongst our tutors and alumni.
Oxford and Cambridge, founded in 1096 and 1209 respectively, have perpetuated a plethora of traditions throughout their long histories. Many of these have lasted through the centuries and are very much alive today. Some are solemn, others downright outlandish: OISE share their most astonishing traditions with you.
The two institutions have colossal archives and collections of books. Students wishing to use the collections must sign a declaration of honour which is recited to them in Latin, and amongst other things forbids them to bring candles into the library. This statement has not been amended for centuries.
Students do not wear uniforms per se, but are required to attend with special black jacket attire for their entrance ceremony, graduation and all their exams, as well as official dinners.
One of the most famous illustrations of their ancient rivalry remains the Oxford – Cambridge rowing race, which takes place on neutral waters on the Thames in London.
Cambridge is also the home to a very different race: to celebrate the end of exams, students can partake in a race on the river Cam with boats made out of cardboard. These can be waterproofed in any way they like, but the base of the boat must be plain cardboard. They don’t all finish the race!
On the 1st of May, which is a public holiday in the UK, the Magdalen College Choir sings the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of the college tower at precisely 6 o’clock – a tradition kept alive through 5 centuries. It is difficult to hear from the base of the tower, so the tradition has it that the crowds gathered below applaud after an agreed time.
At All Souls College, founded in 1438, a “duck hunt” is organized every 100 years. Students and teachers organise a search - for a duck that is supposed to have flown out of the foundations of the college during its construction. They parade around and sing the "Mallard Song." The next ceremony isn’t till 2101, and most of us unfortunately will not be able to attend.
Oxford is also the place of recruitment for a very selective and supposedly secret group called the Bullingdon Club. Its members are among the country’s aristocratic elite, and entrance fees and equipment required for membership are completely out of reach for most students. After their extravagant escapades during their college days, members then form an elite for life. David Cameron, prime minister of the UK and Boris Johnson, former mayor of London, are two of their more famous members.
If these curious traditions haven't put you off, you'll need to meet the English language requirements to take a place at Oxford or Cambridge.
Both institutions accept IELTS Academic, Cambridge English: Advanced and Cambridge English: Proficiency exams as proof of your English language ability. Requirements for specific courses may differ, so check with the university before you apply.
OISE offer intensive English language tuition that can help you to train for your English language proficiency exams. Our intensive English courses are taught in the tutorial format in the same way as a degree at Oxford or Cambridge. This helps you to quickly become a confident and eloquent communicator, as well as preparing you for life at one of these top universities.
Find out more about our intensive English language exam preparation courses or contact OISE for more information or to book your place.