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Can I Apply to Oxford or Cambridge if I’m Studying at Another University?

In our many years of experience in helping students of all levels plan their applications to Oxford and Cambridge we’ve heard pretty much every question there is to ask on the matter. One question that has been cropping up a lot for our consultants lately, and which we haven’t really addressed here on our blog yet, is the question of whether you can apply to Oxbridge if you’ve already begun an undergraduate degree elsewhere. In short, the answer to this question is probably not, unless you’re going to finish your current degree, but let’s get into the finer details of the various possible circumstances at play to explain this topic further.



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Second Undergraduate Course

The first thing to mention is that both Oxford and Cambridge welcome applications from students who have already completed an undergraduate course, so if you’re studying at another university and soon to graduate, perhaps the best course of action is to finish your current degree before then applying to Oxford or Cambridge. For both universities, the application should be submitted as any other undergraduate application (i.e. via UCAS and by the October deadline), with the exception of the mature colleges at Cambridge (Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s and Wolfson) who consider certain applicants as part of a second application round. For both universities, you will need to have achieved a First or Upper Second Class degree classification in order to be seriously considered for a second undergraduate degree, should mention in your UCAS personal statement relevant activities you undertook at both university and school, and should secure a reference form someone who’s familiar with your academic performance in your previous degree(s).

A both universities, as well, there is an option for certain candidates to apply to begin directly in the second year of the degree. At Oxford, this is referred to as ‘Senior Status’, and exempts you from first year exams and admits you straight into second year, whilst at Cambridge this is referred to as applying as an ‘affiliated student’, allowing you to take the course in a year less than usual. At both universities there are restrictions on which colleges and courses allow this kind of application, so be sure to check out the Oxford or Cambridge website for more information.


Transferring to Oxford or Cambridge from Another University

Transferring partway through a degree course at another university to finish your degree at Oxford or Cambridge is not permitted at either university. This is a strict rule since the degree courses at Oxbridge are rigorously put together and, arguably, some of the most challenging undergraduate courses in the world, meaning that students need to attend the full undergraduate course in order to receive the full benefits of an Oxbridge education. 


Starting an Oxbridge Undergraduate Course Whilst Studying at Another University

As discussed in the introduction of our article, neither Oxford nor Cambridge habitually accept applications from students who are currently studying elsewhere but do not plan to finish their course. If you’re thinking of accepting an offer for another university with the idea of dropping out and applying to Oxford or Cambridge in the back of your mind, we would strongly advise against making any real plans to do so as it is unlikely that your application will be accepted.

However, these things are not always planned for, and as such, Oxford and Cambridge do accept such applications in exceptional circumstances. When applying to Oxford, you must make it very clear in your application why you do not wish to continue on your current course. If you do decide to apply whilst at another university and you do not have Level 3 qualifications (A-Level or equivalent) at the grades required for the standard offer for the course you are interested in applying for, you will need to demonstrate how your subsequent study has prepared you for studying at Oxford, including any evidence of your performance on your current course, as well as a reference from your current tutor or equivalent. When considering Cambridge, your application is more likely to be considered if you’re changing subject, and a strong letter of support from you current university will be required, as well as a letter of recommendation from that person to the college you’re applying to.



In short, whilst both Oxford and Cambridge are very accommodating to a range of circumstances, and encourage students who have completed an undergraduate at another university to apply for a second degree, the Oxbridge universities only accept applications from students partway through a degree course in very exceptional circumstances, and do not allow transfers for students wishing to finish their degree at Oxbridge. We recommend bearing this in mind and considering your application very carefully indeed if you’re in this situation, as you really don’t want to get caught between two institutions having discovered that Oxford or Cambridge won’t accept your application. If your in doubt as to whether your situation will be considered, we recommend visiting the universities’ websites and getting in contact with the specific college(s) you’re considering applying to and asking what their procedure is on the matter.



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