There are various aspects that differentiate university life and academic experiences between the UK’s top universities – Oxford and Cambirdge, known collectively as Oxbridge – and the US’s Ivy League schools. Broadly, Oxford and Cambridge universities have a collegiate structure, and they each consist of individual colleges that operate somewhat independently under the umbrella of the larger university. Each college at Oxford and Cambridge is a self-governing community with its own facilities, accommodations, and unique traditions. These institutions are often referred to as collegiate universities where students are members of both the university as a whole as well as a specific college, and this promotes a sense of community within a larger academic setting.
Additionally, elements such as curriculum structure, examination methods, student accommodation, extracurricular activities, and internship opportunities diverge significantly between the two systems. For instance, the US system involves selecting a central major alongside core classes and electives, while UK universities typically focus on one or two subjects with choices (“modules”) within those subjects. In the UK, university programmes typically have a narrower focus from the beginning, and students often choose a specific major (or “course”) when applying. For example, a student might apply to study English Literature or Physics, and their coursework will be predominantly in that field. In the US, the system allows for a more flexible approach to choosing a major. Students often enter university within a certain discipline (for eg. social sciences) without declaring a major, and they have the opportunity to explore various subjects before making a final decision. This system encourages a broad-based education and allows for a more diverse academic experience. The UK system values depth, while the American system favours breadth.