On Campus

Choosing an Oxbridge MBA

MANVENDER SINGH | Updated on February 24, 2014 Published on February 23, 2014

Thanks to the UK government tightening visa rules, the number of Indians going for higher studies to the UK has declined steadily over the last three years.

The volume of applications to the UK’s MBA programmes too has declined. For example, at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, application volumes have fallen over 25 per cent in the last three years; the situation is not very different at Oxford.

In 2011, Oxford’s Said Business School had to add an additional application deadline because it could not fill seats in its incoming class.

Earlier most students pursuing a one-year MBA would apply to both Oxford and Cambridge, but candidates are now choosing to apply either to Oxford or to Cambridge and are also hedging their bets by applying to other top MBA programmes outside the UK.

However, choosing between Oxford and Cambridge can be a difficult task for the uninitiated — after all, on the surface both schools are similarly ranked, are part of two equally prestigious universities and offer almost similar educational experience. How do you then decide which programme is a better fit for you?

Brand Recognition

Both the Said and the Judge Business Schools are relatively young in comparison to the other more established business schools and rely heavily on the brand name of their parent universities for recognition.

I have met very few people who knew about Said or Judge Business Schools; most, however, instantly recognised the universities.

I believe that both schools have a great future but it will take at least a decade more for the schools to establish their brands. However, in terms of recognition, Oxford has an edge over Cambridge globally. So if you care more about brand recognition and prestige, you should head to Oxford.

Alumni Network

While the class size at Oxford’s Said is 250 students, it is 150 at Cambridge’s Judge. This means that each year Said adds 60 per cent more students to its alumni network than Judge does. Said has a well-established alumni network than Judge and if a broader alumni base is something that is important to you, you should look at Said Business School.


On an average, MBA students at Judge are two years older than those at Said. For the last few years, the average work experience at Judge has been about 7.5 years while that at Oxford has been about 5-6 years. If you are approaching 30 or you are 30+, you will find the Cambridge MBA to be a better fit for you. However, if you have 4-5 years of work experience, you will fit yourself to be a better fit at the class at Said.


For a vast majority of students entering MBA programmes, getting a great job is the most important goal. It is only reasonable as candidates put in an incredible amount of effort, time and money to prepare for the GMAT, apply to schools and leave a comfortable life to become students again. Both Judge and Said attract similar type of recruiters and will open almost similar kind of doors. Said, however, is statistically more disappointing on this front. Last year, three months after graduation only 74 per cent of Said’s students were employed. This was among the worst for the top schools globally. But Cambridge had an impressive 91 per cent employed. If recruitment is important to you, a Cambridge MBA should be a much safer choice.


An increasing number of MBA candidates are exploring entrepreneurial opportunities during their MBA. Last year, approximately 7 per cent of students each at the Harvard Business School, Wharton and INSEAD took the entrepreneurial plunge right out of business school, and Oxford and Cambridge are not far behind. If you are one of those people who believes in making a difference to society through social entrepreneurship, Oxford Said’s strong focus on the subject and its Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship will provide you with great resources in this field.

On the other hand, if technology entrepreneurship is something that you are interested in, the city of Cambridge, also known as “Silicon Fenland”, will provide you with immense opportunities to interact with entrepreneurs.

How to Decide ?

If you are around 25-28, and brand recognition, social entrepreneurship and the strength of alumni network matter more to you, go to Oxford.

On the other hand, if you are 27-33 in age and recruitment numbers and a more mature class weigh more in your criteria for choosing a school, a Cambridge MBA should be a good fit for you.

I also believe that you can’t go wrong with either Said or Judge. I highly recommend that you talk to the current students and alumni of each school, and if possible visit each school to understand more about what exactly each school has to offer and which fits into your plans better.

(The author is co-founder of Aristotle Prep – an online test prep company for the GMAT and GRE that provides and publishes books across seven global locations for students in more than 60 countries.)

Published on February 23, 2014
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