Doxbridge: a chip on our collective shoulders?

By Alexandra Fitzgerald, Arya Thampuran, Emma Yeo, GK Teh, and doxbridge 1

Should Durham be lumped together with Oxbridge? Or should we be proud of our unique university? Durham students give their opinions on the controversial term…

The term ‘Duxbridge’ implies that the students at all three institutions are comparable and this does not stand up to scrutiny for the pure and simple reason that the average Durham student is not as intellectually engaged as the average Oxbridge one. This does not equate to cleverness, it simply means that as a whole we are not as passionate about expanding our knowledge, resulting in a different university experience.

Durham and its students are comparable to Oxford and Cambridge and their students on paper. However, in reality Oxbridge represents an entirely different experience, focusing on really gaining intellectual grounding and understanding as opposed to simply appearing to have one. This boils down to the fact that the Oxbridge interview process weasels out those who are actually academically passionate and have an intellectual spark as opposed to those who can simply jump through the necessary hoops in order to give that impression.

Being content with a 2:1 and participating in a few extracurricular activities may suffice for the average Durham student’s CV. Yet, it is this lack of excitement and desire to truly develop an intellectual grounding surrounding all domains and subjects that separates Durham from the Oxbridge term.

The intellectual and academic rigor that Oxbridge students gain is missing from the average Durham student’s life, simply because as a whole we do not seek or desire it and this difference in what is considered a desirable university experience is what separates us, causing the term ‘Duxbridge’ to be redundant.



As a fresher, the debate encircling this infamous portmanteau is still ‘fresh’ in my mind. This was most prevalent during Freshers Week, where every introduction to a new face seemingly culminated in the dreaded question- “So was it Oxford or Cambridge?”

At Durham, we have almost become resigned to this inevitable reality. We may not have crossed into the idealized waters of Oxbridge, but we came pretty close. While the people at Oxbridge may scorn us for our inflated sense of entitlement, I feel that we cling on to the term simply as a binding force. It’s more about the retrospective sigh we collectively exhale when we admit this shared source of disappointment, and not any desire to penetrate the ‘pinnacle of academia’.

Barring the negative connotations many have attached to this innocuous term, it has undeniably solidified our identity as Durham students by surfacing something most of us unabashedly share! The term itself is not endorsed in the academic world, and is simply used as a playful portmanteau in jest. Rather than go on a crusade to defend the title to the outside world with evidence of our intellectual comparability, traditions or collegiate system, let’s step back and take a look at the term for what it really is- a testament to the unifying factor that binds us, or in lighter terms, simply a good conversation starter!


Frankly, I don’t understand the idea of ‘Duxbridge’ and think it ignores the charm of  Durham in its own right. Do the Oxbridge universities have Klute or the beautiful North East countryside just a few minutes away? They definitely don’t have George Gentley filming there. All joking aside, we are not at Oxford or Cambridge and I wouldn’t want to be. Before you ask, I wasn’t rejected, I simply didn’t apply. The way of life there was not for me and that is a decision, having had an amazing and varied first month in Durham, I stand by.

Constructing a link between two other universities that are over two hundred miles away and so different in character seems counterproductive to me. Rather, we should focus on the merits of where we have found ourselves.


Doxbridge. A dream come true for some, heresy for others. I’m starting with a definition from one of the definitive authorities of post-modernist sociological theory – Urban Dictionary. ‘Doxbridge’ is ‘a term referring to Oxford, Cambridge and Durham rah students to further inflate their sense of worth by associating themselves with and embarrassing the two ancient, far superior universities’.

The key word here is ‘embarrassing’. Let’s face it. Durham has never belonged with Oxbridge or its clique of London universities, namely Imperial, LSE, King’s, and UCL. These latter universities were founded as healthy Oxbridge alternatives – not an unscratchable itch in the pants of the Oxbridge top brass. We were founded in 1657, but Oxbridge effectively prevented us from gaining official university status until 1832. We were not undermined by Oxford or Cambridge individually for nearly two centuries, but by them collectively.

And then what, if we become part of the clique? Become the soft-spoken and overshadowed sibling? The McCartney to John Oxbridge Lennon? Or better them? Because we’ve already done both. Mention Oxbridge to Malaysian parents and watch the jealousy spew. Mention Durham and they’ll pretend to know where it is. At the same time, Durham is top of the league tables for English and History, and in between Oxbridge for Geography and the Environmental Sciences. And there’s the growing minority of students who choose Durham over Oxbridge. We do not need the stigma that inevitably comes with being in the uni equivalent of the Gossip Girl clique. We’re fine on our own.

Doxbridge? No thanks. I don’t want Durham going to the dox.


The age old question returns – should it be Duxbridge? What even is this? I’ll tell you, a pointless term used to join Durham together with Oxford and Cambridge. For those of us who are Oxbridge rejects, does it make us feel any better? No. Anyway why would it? Why kid ourselves; Durham is no Oxbridge. It is, in fact, a superior university. Having filtered out all the peculiar workaholics and pretentious personalities through the intensive Oxbridge interview process, Durham undergraduates are incredibly intelligent yet surprisingly normal people. We can be found somewhere other than the library and certainly won’t be encountering the majority of our year for the first time walking into the exam room.

What’s more, who wants to be grouped together with these elitist institutions? Durham is a wholly different university, located in the North rather than the South of England, with a preferable atmosphere and its own identity (full of Oxbridge rejects, although we are so much more).  For a large part of my life I believed Oxbridge was an actual university! Despite what it may be, Durham has a distinguishable identity – say no to Duxbridge! Oxford and Cambridge will be forever known as Oxbridge, but Durham can, and will, remain Durham.​


‘Try and get the rowing boats in too, it makes it look more like Oxbridge.’ This was the earnest advice given to my friend as she leapt at yet another opportunity to insta-fy our beloved Durham. Yet I found myself wondering why the captured image would seemingly be improved by trying to imitate Oxbridge.

Undoubtedly there are many similarities between Oxbridge and Durham, namely the collegiate system and the fact that it is in no way out of place to be seen strutting the streets wearing a Harry Potter-esque gown.  And yet there are also distinct differences. The opportunity offered to Durham students to get involved in clubs and societies is mind-blowing; whilst Oxbridge also provides these, it arguably doesn’t provide the same time and space in which to partake of them, due to the constant pressure of the weekly essay and supervisions. And there are some experiences and skills which just can’t be learnt from a book at the library!

So instead of trying to Oxbridge-ise ourselves, let’s embrace and endorse our uniqueness by recognising that we too receive an outstanding education, and not simply an academic one, but a holistic one.



One thought on “Doxbridge: a chip on our collective shoulders?

  • I agree with a lot of this, but it’s definitely unfair to say that we don’t have fun at Oxford (can’t speak for the Tabs!) Granted, the workload is insane, but students do find time to join societies – and there are hundreds – and go out too. I’d Google “crewdates”; ritualised drinking, while often incredibly unsafe, is incredibly fun and done fairly often!


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