Thursday, October 1, 2015


executive summary by Darmansjah

Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, England close to the Welsh border and in the Welsh Marches. It is located along the A49 road, 28 miles (45 km) south of Shrewsbury and 22 miles (35 km) north of Hereford.

The oldest part of the town is the medieval walled town, which lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of 350 acres (142 ha) and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castle and the market place. From there the streets slope downward to the River Teme, and northward toward the River Corve. The town is in a sheltered spot beneath the Clee Hills which are clearly visible from the town. With a population of around 10,000, Ludlow is the largest town in South Shropshire and home to the southern area committee of Shropshire Council.

Ludlow has nearly 500 listed buildings. They include some fine examples of medieval and Tudor-style half-timbered buildings including the Feathers Hotel. The parish church, St Laurence Church, is the largest in the county.

In 2006, Ludlow was winner of The Great Town Award from The Academy of Urbanism.

The placename "Lodelowe" (Welsh: Llwydlo) was in use for this site before 1138 and comes from the Old English "hlud-hlaw". At the time this section of the River Teme contained rapids, and so the hlud of Ludlow came from "the loud waters", while hlaw meant hill.[5] Thus Ludlow meant a place on a hill by a loud river. Some time around the 12th century weirs were added along the river, taming these rapid flows. Later in the same century the larger outer bailey was added to the castle.

Though the settlement became known as Ludlow, Fouke le Fitz Waryn (a 13th-century poem) states that it was called Dinham "for a very long time". The western part of the town immediately south of the castle retains this name, and many writers assume it is Saxon in origin, and the suffix -ham occurs in Shropshire. Another alternative is that the town took its name from Josce de Dinan who controlled the town's castle in the 12th century.

The town is close to Wales and also very close to the county border between Shropshire and Herefordshire. It was included in the latter in the Domesday Book. This strategic location invested it with importance in medieval times and its large castle remains largely intact. Ludlow Castle was the seat of the Council of Wales and the Marches and a temporary home to several holders of the title Prince of Wales, including King Edward IV and Arthur Tudor, who died there in 1502.

The site features heavily in the folk-story of Fulk FitzWarin, outlawed Lord of Whittington, Shropshire and a possible inspiration for the Robin Hood legend. Fulk is brought up in the castle of Joce De Dynan, and fights for his master against Sir Gilbert de Lacy – these battles are also the source of the story of Marion de la Bruyere, the betrayed lover whose ghost is still said to be heard crying "Goodbye, Cruel World!" as she plummets from the castle's turrets.

At the time of the Domesday Book survey Ludlow was the location of the unoccupied large Stanton Manor, a possession of Walter de Lacy. Walter's son Roger de Lacy began the construction of a castle on the crest of the hill between about 1086 and 1094, forming what is now the inner bailey. Between about 1090 and 1120, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built inside the walls, and by 1130 the Great Tower was added to form the gatehouse. The castle was an important border fortification along the Welsh Marches, and played a significant role in local, regional and national conflicts such as the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion, the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.

Marcher town

A view of Ludlow Market, which is situated in Castle Square, taken from the tower of St Laurence's Church.

The town also provided a useful source of income for successive Marcher Lords, based on rents, fines, and tolls. They developed the town on a regular grid pattern, although this was adapted somewhat to match the local topography. The first road was probably High Street, which formed the wide market place to the east of the castle gates. The town continued to grow, joining an old north-south road, now called Corve Street to the north and Old Street to the south. Mill Street and the wide Broad Street were added later.

The first recorded royal permission to maintain defensive town walls was given to the "men of Ludlow" in the Patent Rolls of 1233. The entry is however incomplete and atypical and was not renewed in the usual way. A murage grant was next made in 1260 and renewed regularly over the next two centuries. This time the grant was made by name to Geoffrey de Genevile, Lord of Ludlow. From this and other surviving documents it seems that the town walls and gates were in place by 1270.[8] They were constructed about the central part of the community with four main gates and three postern gates. The castle complex continued to expand (a Great Hall, kitchen and living quarters were added) and it gained a reputation as a fortified palace. In 1306 it passed through marriage to the ambitious Earl of March, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Queen Isabella and her son, the young Edward III, were entertained at the castle in 1328.
Feathers Hotel, Ludlow

The town prospered, and sustained population of about 2,000 for several centuries. It was a market town; market day was held on every Thursday throughout the 15th century. In particular, it served as a centre for the sale of wool and cloth. It was home to various trades, and in 1372 boasted 12 trade guilds including metalworkers, shoemakers, butchers, drapers, mercers, tailors, cooks and bakers. There were also merchants of moderate wealth in the town and especially wool merchants, such as Laurence of Ludlow, who lived at nearby Stokesay Castle. The collection and sale of wool and the manufacture of cloth continued to be the primary source of wealth until the 17th century. Drovers roads from Wales led to the town.

This prosperity is expressed in stone and stained-glass as St. Laurence's parish church. It is a wool church and the largest in Shropshire. Despite the presence of some Decorated work it is largely Perpendicular in style.

The town also contained several coaching inns such as the Old Angel on Broad Street, public houses and ale houses, leading to court records of some alcohol-induced violence and a certain reputation for excess. Several coaching inns were constructed to accommodate travellers by stagecoach and mail coach. The oldest surviving inn today is the 15th century Bull Hotel on the Bull Ring.

During the Wars of the Roses, Richard, Duke of York, seized the castle and turned it into one of his main strongholds. The Lancastrian forces captured Ludlow in 1459, but at the end of the conflict in 1461 the castle became property of the Crown and passed to Richard's son, Edward IV. The town was then incorporated as a borough. Edward set up the Council of Wales and the Marches in 1473 and sent his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, to live there, as nominal head of the Council. It was at Ludlow that the prince heard the news of his father's death and was himself proclaimed King Edward V of England.

The town's magnificent Church of St Laurence dates from the 15th century and is the largest parish church in Shropshire.

Under Henry VII the castle continued as the headquarters of the Council of Wales and served as the administration centre for Wales and the counties along the border, the Welsh Marches. During this period, when the town served as the effective capital of Wales, it was home to many messengers of the king, various clerks and lawyers for settling legal disputes. The town also provided a winter home for local gentry, during which time they attended the Council court sessions. Henry VII also sent his heir Prince Arthur to Ludlow, where he was joined briefly by his wife Catherine of Aragon later to become wife to Henry VIII, who was living in Castle Lodge, Ludlow at the time. Ludlow Castle was therefore the site of perhaps the most controversial wedding night in English history, when Catherine's claim that the marriage was never consummated became central to the dispute concerning Henry VIII and Catherine's annulment in 1531.

After 1610, the cloth industry declined but the wealth of the town was little affected until about 1640, when the activities of the Council were suspended and the town's population promptly fell by 20%.

Eventually, the Council resumed and except for brief interludes, Ludlow continued to host the Council until 1689, when it was abolished by William and Mary. The castle then fell into decay. The structure was poorly maintained and stone was pillaged. In 1772 demolition was mooted, but it was instead decided to lease the buildings. Later still it was purchased by the Earl of Powis, and together, he and his wife directed the transformation of the castle grounds.

After 1610, the cloth industry declined but the wealth of the town was little affected until about 1640, when the activities of the Council were suspended and the town's population promptly fell by 20%.

Eventually, the Council resumed and except for brief interludes, Ludlow continued to host the Council until 1689, when it was abolished by William and Mary. The castle then fell into decay. The structure was poorly maintained and stone was pillaged. In 1772 demolition was mooted, but it was instead decided to lease the buildings. Later still it was purchased by the Earl of Powis, and together, he and his wife directed the transformation of the castle grounds.

From 1760, the population began to undergo a significant expansion. New structures were built along the outskirts that would become slums in the 19th century and later, torn down.

In 1832 Dr Thomas Lloyd, the Ludlow doctor and amateur geologist, met Roderick Murchison at Ludford Corner to study the rocks exposed along the River Teme and on Whitcliffe, advancing Murchison's theory for a Silurian System that he was to publish in 1839.[10] Immediately above the topmost layer of the marine rock sequence forming Murchison's Silurian period was a thin layer of dark sand containing numerous remains of early fish, especially their scales, along with plant debris, spores and microscopic mites. In contrast to the underlying sediments of the Ludlow Series which were deposited in a shallow warm sea some 400 million years ago, the Ludlow Bone Bed represents terrestrial (land) conditions and thus a fundamental change in the landscape. At the time, this was believed to be the earliest occurrence of life on land. Murchison thus took the Ludlow Bone Bed as the base of his Devonian Period, although over a century later this boundary was to be moved a little higher, the overlying rocks being ascribed to the Pridoli. The science of Geology has taken a number of local names from these studies and now applies them worldwide, in recognition of the importance of this area to scientific understanding, for example Ludlow Series and Whitcliffe Formationian. The site is now an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and still attracts international studies.

A traditional greengrocers' shops amidst Ludlow's narrow streets.

By the late 20th century, the town had seen a growth in tourism, leading to the appearance of many antique dealers, as well as art dealers and independent bookshops (now mostly gone). A long battle of words between local activists and local companies and Tesco was eventually solved when the mega retailer obtained planning permission to build a supermarket on Corve Street, but only after agreeing to conform to the architectural demands of the local council. The building is designed to follow the shape of the old town plans with a curving roof. Bodenham's, a clothing retailer, has been trading from a 600-year-old timbered building since 1860 and is one of the oldest stores in Britain.

In 2004 the council was granted funding from Advantage West Midlands to build a new Eco-Park on the outskirts of the town on the other side of the A49, with space for new "environmentally friendly" office buildings and a park & ride facility.

More construction work began in 2006 on the same section of by-pass by Bennett's development company on a much-debated piece of land on the town's fringe known as The Foldgate. The land has now been drawn up for commercial use with a petrol filling station, Travelodge hotel and pub chain pub/restaurant, opened in late 2008. The previous plans to include a number of "high-street" stores was thrown out when an independent official branded it "damaging" and "out-of-place" with the character of the old town.

Ludlow was described by Country Life as "the most vibrant small town in England."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blenheim Palace

executive summary by Darmansjah

Blenheim Palace is a monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England, residence of the dukes of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1722. Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Its construction was originally intended to be a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from a grateful nation in return for military triumph against the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim. However, it soon became the subject of political infighting, which led to Marlborough's exile, the fall from power of his duchess, and irreparable damage to the reputation of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh.

Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, architectural appreciation of the palace is as divided today as it was in the 1720s. It is unique in its combined usage as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill.

The building of the palace was a minefield of political intrigue by Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill family for the next 300 years, and various members of the family have in that period wrought various changes, in the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough's marriage to American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. The exterior of the palace remains in good repair.

The palace remains the home of the Dukes of Marlborough, the present incumbent of the title being John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough. Like his forebears he lives for part of the year in the palace, his family occupying the same suite of rooms as the 1st Duke and Duchess.

The palace, park, and gardens are open to the public on payment of an entry fee (maximum £21 as of December 2012). Separation of tourist entertainment attractions (the "Pleasure Park") from the palace ensures that the atmosphere of a large country house is retained. The palace is linked to the park by a free miniature railway, the Blenheim Park Railway. The progression from home to business has been essential to the palace's survival in the 20th and 21st centuries. Varied commercial concerns include a maze, adventure playground, mini-train, gift shops, butterfly house, fishing, cafeteria and bottled Blenheim Natural Mineral Water. Game, farming and property rentals also provide income. Concerts and festivals are staged in the palace and park. Day-to-day control of commercial aspects are outsourced to Searcys, while the Duke retains final control over all matters in the running of the palace.

The public have free access to about five miles (8 km) of public rights of way through the Great Park area of the grounds, which are accessible from Old Woodstock and from the Oxfordshire Way, and which are close to the Column of Victory.

In the state apartments, guests are more likely to be the invitees of a large company, or a couple who have paid to marry at the palace, rather than guests of the Spencer-Churchills. However, the ducal family still entertain in the state rooms, and dine on special occasions in the saloon, around the great silver centrepiece depicting the 1st Duke of Marlborough on horseback—the same piece that Consuelo Vanderbilt liked to call her cache mari because it conveniently hid her detested husband from view across the table. The many residents of Blenheim have each left their mark on the palace. Today, it is as likely to be used as a film location (such as Kenneth Branagh's 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet) as it is for the setting for an aristocratic house party; yet it still hosts both. Blenheim Palace remains the tribute to the 1st Duke which both his wife and the architect Sir John Vanbrugh envisaged.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Oxford and Cambridge Universities

executive summary by Darmansjah

Rivalry between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge is a phenomenon going back many centuries. During most of that time, the two were the only universities in England and Wales, making the rivalry more intense than it is now.

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, sometimes collectively known as Oxbridge, are the two oldest universities in the United Kingdom. Both were founded more than 800 years ago, and between them they have produced a large number of Britain's most prominent scientists, writers and politicians, as well as noted figures in many other fields. Competition between Oxford and Cambridge also has a long history, dating back to around 1208 when Cambridge was founded by scholars taking refuge from hostile townsmen in Oxford

In 2012 the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, based on a survey of 13,388 academics over 131 countries which was then the largest evaluation of academic reputation to date[3] found that both Cambridge and Oxford belonged to the elite group of six universities touted as the 'globally recognised super brands'; The other four were Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Oxford and Cambridge both have:
    well-regarded publishing houses (Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press)
    botanical gardens (University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Cambridge University Botanic Garden)
    museums (the Ashmolean and the Fitzwilliam)
    legal deposit libraries (the Bodleian and the Cambridge University Library)
    debating societies (the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union)
    business schools (the Saïd Business School and the Judge Business School)
    science parks (Oxford Science Park and Cambridge Science Park)
    theatrical societies and groups (the Oxford University Dramatic Society and The Oxford Revue, the Cambridge Footlights, The Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club and the Marlowe Society)

Collegiate structure

Oxford and Cambridge also share a common collegiate structure: each university has more than 30 semi-autonomous residential colleges (see Colleges of the University of Cambridge, Colleges of the University of Oxford), which provide the environments in which students live, work and sleep.

Applicants must choose a specific college when applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or allow the university to select one for them, as every undergraduate and graduate student must be a member of one of the colleges. However, all colleges are part of the university and students studying the same subject attend the same lectures and exams, irrespective of which college they belong to. Degrees are also awarded by the central university and not by the individual colleges.

Colleges within each university regularly compete with each other in a variety of sporting and other events (e.g. rugby, rowing, athletics and chess), but will pool their talent to form university teams for inter-university contests.

Teaching method

The principal method of undergraduate teaching (other than lectures) is the "supervision" or "tutorial": terms used at Cambridge and Oxford respectively, though the meaning is the same. These are typically weekly or more frequent hour-long sessions in which small groups of students - usually between one and three - meet with a member of the university's teaching staff or a doctoral student. Students are normally required to complete an essay or assignment in advance of the supervision/tutorial, which they will discuss with the supervisor/tutor during the session, along with any concerns or difficulties they have had with the material presented in that week's lectures. Students typically receive one to four tutorials/supervisions per week.

Neighbouring universities and other institutions

Within the cities of Oxford and Cambridge are campuses of other universities, respectively Oxford Brookes University and Anglia Ruskin University. In addition, various English language schools, secretarial and other non-university colleges are based in the two cities.

Production of educational materials

Both Oxford and Cambridge have lent their names to educational materials and institutions associated with the two universities. In addition to their printing houses, the Oxford English Dictionary is a prominent English-language dictionary worldwide, while Cambridge Assessment provides a number of widely recognised qualifications for students (including GCSEs, A-levels and English-language proficiency certificates such as the Certificate in Advanced English).

Differences between Oxford and Cambridge

The cities

The city of Oxford is larger (having a population about 30 per cent greater than Cambridge's in 2007) and has historically been more urban and industrial, whilst Cambridge more closely resembles an agricultural market town. Oxford is associated with the motor industry (BMW currently produce the Mini in Oxford, and several Formula One teams are based in Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties), whereas the area surrounding Cambridge is known as Silicon Fen, one of the most important technology centres in Europe, and has a lot of medical technology firms.

Both cities were built near rivers. However, the river is a more prominent feature in Cambridge, flowing through the city centre rather than around it as it does at Oxford. punting is especially popular in Cambridge along the famous stretch called 'The Backs', which features a number of bridges and 'the backs' of several colleges that abut the River Cam (punting is also popular at Oxford).

Despite many ancient buildings in both Oxford and Cambridge, there are also distinct differences in architecture. Oxford has a uniformity of building material, as a large proportion of the buildings are in the local sandstone. Cambridge, on the other hand, has little local stone, so the building material has been brought in from many different sources, resulting in a greater variety of character. The contrasts in architecture in Cambridge are more pronounced, as can be seen when comparing King's College with the neighbouring Senate House.

Oxford is featured more often in literature and the cinema; films with scenes shot in Oxford include Shadowlands and the Harry Potter movies, while Radcliffe Square was used in the filming of His Dark Materials: Northern Lights. The television series Inspector Morse and Lewis are also set in Oxford. Cambridge may be best known in film as the real-life location of the court race scene portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire (although the scene was filmed at Eton College instead), or for the television series Porterhouse Blue

Oxford for humanities, Cambridge for sciences

There is a somewhat common impression that Oxford is stronger in politics and the humanities, while Cambridge is stronger in the sciences and engineering. Despite both universities stressing that there is no significant difference between them in either the sciences or humanities today, this disparity in the popular imagination has existed since at least the late 1820s, when The Times newspaper reported on the appointment of Oxford and Cambridge academics to the newly established professorships of University College London: "it is known to be the intention to choose classical professors at Oxford, and mathematical at Cambridge", although in the event both the classical and mathematical professors were eventually chosen from Cambridge.

In his book, The Decline of Privilege: The Modernization of Oxford University, Joseph A. Soares, an American sociologist, suggests that Oxford developed a superior political and literary reputation because of its unparalleled connections to England's governing class, its status as the oldest and most traditional university in England, and the greater romantic appeal of Oxford to writers:
    British cabinets in the twentieth century, Oxford men and women outnumbered Cambridge graduates nearly two to one ... Of eleven prime ministers counting back from Tony Blair, eight were undergraduates at Oxford, and none were at Cambridge ... Oxford has been second to none as a gatekeeper to the political elite...

Academics and novelists have viewed Oxford as the quintessential English university ... authors who portray universities in their novels, as Ian Carter's definitive study of British university fiction since 1945 demonstrated, have been attracted to Oxford by a huge majority. Of the 204 novels written between 1945 and 1988 that featured British academic life, 119 depicted Oxford; Cambridge, with 26 appearances, came in a distant second place ... Carter showed that fictional Oxford signified those values thought to epitomize English society: tolerance, civility, pluralism, and democracy ... To judge from novels on academic life, one would surmise that England's soul dwelled in Oxford.

Because of its relation to the power elite and its hold on the middle-class imagination, Oxford often provided the mental landscape for national self-examination ...

[A] major charge against Oxford was that ... it was anti-science and unconcerned with contributing to economic growth. As we shall see ... there was substance to this criticism before World War II, but there has not been since then.

In contrast, Cambridge has been associated with a large number of Nobel Prize-winning breakthroughs and the majority of Britain's most culturally significant scientists, including Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. The authors of Oxford Figures also suggest that Cambridge's unrivalled intellectual reputation in England, especially although not exclusively in technical fields, could be partly attributed to the emphasis it placed on mathematics for many years:

“Cambridge developed, from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, a highly competitive examination culture geared towards ranking students on a mathematical examination, after prolonged coaching. Furthermore ... no student could go on to [study classics unless they had already done well in mathematics]. This system produced ... many of the best mathematicians and scientists of the nineteenth century, as well as some of the best lawyers, clergymen, and other professionals...

Although the Cambridge system in its most competitive form was dropped in the early twentieth century ... [the effect it had on the quality of Oxford applicants] can be seen in the rueful reflections in 1912 of Arthur Joliffe, Fellow and tutor at Corpus Christi College from 1891 to 1920, upon the evidence presented by candidates for Oxford entrance scholarships:

it is undeniable that the average candidate [at Oxford] is not as good as the average candidate at Cambridge. The genius from the small grammar school, the promising student from a provincial university, the ablest boy at the large public school, all are sent to Cambridge in preference to Oxford as a rule. Some of the candidates sent to Oxford from large public schools are occasionally so bad that one can only suppose that their masters think that a willingness to come to Oxford is a sufficient qualification for a Mathematical Scholarship there.
Notwithstanding the above, significant changes have occurred at both Oxford and Cambridge over the last century, including Cambridge's diversification away from intense mathematical study and Oxford's renewed emphasis on ground-breaking scientific research, such as its influential work in the development of penicillin. However, the withdrawal of equal academic dress from Oxford's scientist alumni may perhaps reflect a current institutional preference towards the arts. Also, Oxford offers the course of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, while Cambridge does not. Software tycoon Bill Gates gives scholarships to Cambridge, while Oxford is home to what is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious academic award for graduates - Rhodes Scholarship - instituted by Cecil Rhodes. US News and World Report rankings support this stereotype; Cambridge tends to rank higher in the sciences, and Oxford in the humanities.

Entrance to Oxford and Cambridge is academically competitive. According to the 2011 Universities Guide from The Guardian newspaper, the five top universities in the UK based on undergraduate students' performance in public examinations while at high school (as measured on the UCAS tariff scale) were Cambridge (546), Oxford (530), Imperial College London (500), the London School of Economics (493) and Durham University (466). Depending on which subject an applicant wishes to specialise in, there are often compulsory subject-specific entrance tests as well.

After an initial screening of submitted applications, short-listed candidates at Oxford and Cambridge are invited to a series of tests and interviews with the academics who may eventually be teaching them. Oxbridge interviews have acquired something of a mythical status in the British media, becoming a source of various humorous anecdotes and urban legends due to the perception that the interviews themselves are bizarre, intimidating and/or frequently involve unusual questions and requests. Interview prompts reportedly used in the past include "Do you think you're clever?" (from a Law interview at Cambridge) and "Talk about a light bulb" (from an Engineering interview at Oxford). Admissions staff have said that there are no correct answers to such questions, but that applicants are assessed on their ability to approach unfamiliar, open-ended problems and discuss them articulately, incorporating new ideas and evidence as the discussion progresses. Candidates are also expected to show a willingness to challenge their own preconceptions about the topics under discussion, as well as the preconceptions adopted by their interviewers. This is essentially a test of whether the student would do well under the tutorial/supervision system at Oxford and Cambridge, and a poor performance at interview may negate an otherwise strong application.

In recent years, Cambridge has placed slightly more emphasis than Oxford on public exam results during the selection process. Cambridge routinely asks applicants who take A-level exams to report their exact scores, not just letter-grades;[27] this is partly to distinguish between high A-grades and borderline A/B grades. In contrast, disclosure of exact scores for Oxford applications is voluntary. In 2010, the new A* grade for A-level exams (an A* indicating a high A) was introduced. Cambridge started requesting that its applicants achieve at least one A* grade if they were taking A-levels, letting students earn a place through their performance in public examinations; Oxford initially stated that it relies more on its own internal aptitude tests and waited to see how effective the A* grade is at highlighting the best candidates, before deciding to implement it as a requirement for most courses starting in 2012.

Due to the similarities between the two universities, and to ease the burden of interviewing so many applicants each year, high school students are not normally allowed to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same application cycle. This restriction does not apply to potential organ scholars or students who already have a degree and are applying for a second undergraduate degree or a graduate degree at Oxbridge.

Over the last few years, British universities have been subjected to the increasing popularity of national university league tables, which rank universities based on criteria such as their student-staff ratio, drop-out rates and spending on services and facilities. Oxford and Cambridge have been a constant presence at the top end of the tables, never appearing outside the overall top three and rarely not holding the first and second places, but their dominance in individual subjects has been challenged by other institutions.

As of 2012, Cambridge has been ranked above Oxford in three out of the four major UK university league tables. Cambridge has been ranked 1st and Oxford 2nd in the tables compiled by the Guardian, and The Sunday Times, and 3rd behind the London School of Economics in The Complete University Guide, whereas Oxford is ranked 1st and Cambridge 2nd in The Times Good University Guide.

International league tables of universities across the world, which use a variety of different criteria (often research output in the sciences and reputation among peer institutions), have also generally favoured Cambridge over Oxford; for example the 2010 U.S. News & World Report's World's Best Universities ranking placed Cambridge as 1st in the world and Oxford the 6th. The Academic Ranking of World Universities produced in China ranked Cambridge 5th in the world in 2010 and ranked Oxford 10th.

However, in the International 2013 Times Higher Education rankings, Oxford is ranked 2nd globally and Cam