Oxbridge is the combined name of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge
Contrary to popular belief, Oxbridge is not a university. The word 'Oxbridge' is simply a name created by combining the names of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The word is used to describe similar traits or characteristics of the universities, for example their notoriously difficult admission processes.
The English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray, first coined the word ‘Oxbridge’ in his 1849 book, Pendennis. The main character is a student at the fictional college, ‘Oxbridge University’. Other authors have also used it: for example, in 1929 Virginia Woolf mentioned it in the essay, A Room of One’s Own. It is even commonly used by journals and magazines that discuss higher education, such as the Times Educational Supplement.
Oxford University is over 900 years old and prides itself on being the oldest university in the English-speaking-world. The first mention of teaching at the university is during 1096, growing considerably after 1167, because English students were no longer permitted to study at the University of Paris by Henry II.
Only a few years later, in 1190, the first foreign students arrived to study at Oxford, which was only the beginning of its international links. Although women were not awarded full degrees until 1920, they were eligible to attend lectures at the university and founded their own colleges from as early as 1878. In 2008, Oxford University allowed both men and women to reside in any halls of residences and colleges.
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The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, when a number of academics and students fled the University of Oxford after violent clashes with townspeople, in reaction to the execution of two scholars. Once settled, these students hired houses to be used as halls of residences and appointed a ‘Master’ in charge of each.
King Henry III granted the university its charter in 1231, and its graduates were recognised as teachers ‘throughout Christendom’ by Pope Gregory IX in 1233. The university was represented by a formal Chancellor who arranged the courses to be taught to the students who, at the time, were around 14 years of age.
The university has been home to many famous scholars, including Isaac Newton, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.
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Oxbridge is famous for its annual boat race, where teams of eight men from each university race along the Tideway – a section of the River Thames – from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge.
The race covers 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometres) and traditionally sees the Cambridge team in light blue and the Oxford team in dark blue.
The race, usually held at the end of March, began in 1829 and became an annual event from 1856. So far Cambridge is ahead of Oxford with 81 wins to Oxford's 78, with one dead heat (tie).