Harvard vs Oxford: Which University is Better?

In University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Ranked as two of the most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard and Oxford both receive thousands of applications a year from hopeful students applying from all over the globe. They are well-renowned for their high standards, their abundance of highly academically talented students, and their history, giving them both exceedingly elite reputations, that both live up to unquestionably. Both Oxford University and Harvard University are regarded highly by academics and scholars far and wide, but one question remains. Which one comes on top?  

Harvard and Oxford are two greatly differing schools, although they have common-ground in that both of these schools are greatly facilitated to help a university student learn and grow and prepare them for their working life. They both have their positives and negatives; Harvard boasts a wider range of degree courses (3,700 in total!), but is ranked lower than Oxford by The ‘Times Higher Education’ websiteOxford (as mentioned) is ranked higher globally, but graduates tend to have a lower salary than Harvard students. With their differences in mind, you can come to the conclusion that comparing them would be like comparing apples with oranges– you just can’t. There is no right or wrong answer to this article’s main question, it all depends on who you are as a person, and which school could best meet your needs. The facts and statistics provided in this article can also be taken different ways to the ones expressed- everyone’s opinions are different, and valid.  

If you are taking a simplistic view, Oxford is better in terms of acceptance rate, accepting 17% of applicants compared to Harvard’s tiny 4.5%. Additionally, Oxford beats Harvard in the Times’ Ranking – Oxford came first, whereas Harvard came third. Despite this, Harvard offers a much wider range of courses (a massive 3,700) compared to Oxford, which offers just 49 undergraduate courses. Harvard graduates also tend to earn more than Oxford graduates within 3 years of graduation, though the baseline fee for Harvard students is significantly higher than that of Oxford students.

I would recommend that you read the rest of this article to get some more insight into both universities. It will discuss the main differences between the two schools, helping you to make up your mind and decide which school would be the best for you. 

What Is the Applicant Success Rates at Harvard and Oxford? 

Oxford and Harvard are notorious for their extremely high standards, meaning that only a select few make it into their dream college each year. At Oxford University in September 2019, they accepted around 17% of those who applied; at Harvard, it was a miniscule 4.5%This clearly illustrates that Harvard are much more selective when it comes to deciding on which students they admit to study at their college, which can be a positive or a negative depending on your views. 

However, it must be kept in mind that Harvard received just over 20,000 more applicants than Oxford (they received 43,330, whereas Oxford received 23,000), plus Oxford accepts around 1000 more students than Harvard, which will take its toll on the statistic, so it is worth keeping in mind that the two statistics, although remarkable, should not be compared directly to each other, and instead used to understand your chances of getting into these top universities. 

Which University is Better According to The Overall Ranking? 

According to the ‘Times Higher Education’ website, Oxford University ranked 1st overall, giving it the title of best university in the world. Harvard ranked 3rd (Stanford took 2nd place). The ‘Times Higher Education’ website rank universities all around the globe according to the following factors: 

  • Teaching 
  • Research 
  • Citations 
  • Industry Income 
  • International Outlook 

Oxford University has been at number 1 for 5 consecutive years as of 2021, however it is worth taking into mind that in the ‘Teaching’ sector, Harvard came number 1 in the world. 

What Degrees are Offered at Harvard Compared to Oxford? 

The degrees available at each university can be the make-or-break point which helps you decide which is the overall better school for you. Oxford offers 49 undergraduate courses in total, which covers a wide range of topics such as Archaeology, Classics, English, Geography, Law, Medicine and more, and have a heavier focus on the more traditional side of education.  

Harvard, on the other hand offers a staggering over 3,700 courses, which Oxford cannot compete with. When it comes to deciding what to study, Harvard may be the place for you, as with their wide range of courses and topics to be studied, there will most certainly be something you will enjoy there. 

What Grades Do You Need to Get into Harvard Compared to Oxford? 

Of course, one of the main factors on whether you will be successful in your application to these universities or not is your grades- although at Harvard this is focused much less heavily on. 

The grades needed to apply for Oxford vary from AAA-A*A*A* at A-Level, depending on which course you apply for. However, it’s not impossible to get into Oxford with a B. For example, if you applied to study Geography, and you got an A* in Geography at A-Level, but then you got a B in Law, it would not matter because as Law is not relevant to Geography, it wouldn’t be focused on. The higher your grades are the more likely you are to get into Oxford, due to their emphasis on academic achievement. 

At Harvard, your grades are more of a benchmark; you have to achieve a certain score, and if you have attained this minimum requirement, then it is no longer needed, which means it is likely you won’t be rejected because of your SAT score 

Harvard focuses more on who you are as a person, and how you’ve portrayed yourself in your essay. So if applying to Harvard, you should aim to get a good score, but know that perfection is not mandatory. This score needed to move you on further into the application system is approximately a 1580 in your SATs, or a 35 in your ACTs.  

Note: SATs are not the same as the SATs you do in Primary School here in the UK; SATs are the American equivalent of A Levels, essentially. You can read more about the SATs, and what Harvard requires here. 

What Post-Graduate Careers Are Available to Harvard and Oxford Graduates? 

When students graduate, the next step for most people is to find a job, and with a top university like Harvard or Oxford on their CV, they’re likely to impress anywhere they go. Be that as it may, one question still lies… which students receive a better job post-graduation? 

Well, that all depends on many different factors: what subject they studied, what job they desire, and what you perceive to be a ‘good job’. If you believe making money is the most important factor in whether a job can be classified as ‘good’, then Harvard may be the school for you as they excel in this area.  

Business graduates from Oxford made an average of £50,900 per year 3 years after graduating. For Harvard, it is a staggering £150,930.40, which is almost triple! However, if employment rates exhibit the quality of a department for you, then this statistic may stunt your decision. 95% of Harvard business graduates receive job offers within three months of their graduation, which can be matched exactly by Oxford – 95%. 

 It is debated over what the genuine reason is for the massive contrast in salaries is, but it is definitely a pro to studying at Harvard, as it will most likely be easier to find a job with higher-pay in the US if you studied at one of their most superior colleges, e.g. Harvard.         

What Is the Cost of Going to Harvard University Compared to Oxford? 

Few families are fortunate enough to be able to afford university expenses with no trouble at all. Many students in the UK have to take out student loans, similarly with US students taking out federal loans. An undergraduate course at Oxford, as of 2021, costs £9,250, which is the average for a university in England, which is brilliant considering its status among English universities. However, if you live overseasthe course fee is ramped up to between £26,770 and £37,310! 

Oxford does offer a wide range of scholarships and bursaries, for example the Crankstart Scholarship. On top of the course fee, living fees can amount to anywhere between £1,175 to £15,390. Oxford can become very expensive, but they do offer a great range of support for those who need it. 

Harvard’s prices are often regarded as astronomical- one year can cost as much as $78,200 (£57,751.87)! However, most students do not pay this much. On the Harvard website, they supply a calculator than can work out how much Harvard would cost for you- and most of the time, the fee is bumped down significantly. If you qualify for financial aid, you may be in with a chance for a scholarship and grant! As stated by the Harvard website1 in 5 students pay nothing to attend, elucidating that Harvard can be afforded by anyone. 

What is Student Life like at Harvard and Oxford? 

Harvard and Oxford are situated on opposite sides of the world, and in very different environments. Oxford University ilocated in the city of Oxford in England, which is 60 miles west of London. Harvard University is sited in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, which is just a few miles west of downtown Boston. Both are positioned near major cities that attract tourists from all over the globe, due to their urban culture, tasty food, large shopping opportunitieshistorical landmarks and more. 

Oxford University does not have a campus; its many colleges can be found dotted all around the city. Oxford is located in the English countryside, so you are never far from its flowing rivers and delightful green spaces. 

Oxford is also ranked the 7th safest city in England and Wales for students, ensuring that during your time as a student, safety is not an issue that you will have to fret over. The rivers also account for Oxford’s renowned rowing tradition, and students can take part in rowing and punting races, some against the notorious nearby Cambridge University. 

Oxford has many fantastic leisure opportunities for students when they aren’t studying, including grand historical theatres, pubs and Michelin Star restaurants that can be enjoyed day or night. Transport is easy to obtain, and the capital city of London is less than an hour’s train ride away, which is a fantastic bonus. 

Harvard has a beautiful campus, with huge libraries, large scenic green spaces and mystical dining rooms. Students often compare Annenberg Dining Hall- the main dining room for Harvard students -to the Great Hall from the Harry Potter movie franchise, which is a label that correctly portrays the overall aesthetic of the architecture at the university. 

Harvard is based in a very urban setup, with concrete buildings and brimming streets a common sight around the campus. On the more natural side, it is near the Charles River, which sites beautiful nature trails and attractive views of the man-made jungle city above the glittering river. 

Another attraction near Harvard is Cape Cod; a stunning, 40-mile-long beach along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Many celebrities have chosen to reside here (a notable example being John F. Kennedy, the former president of the United States). The beach hosts a bounty of picturesque walking and bike trails, homely, cosy cafés, delicious food and more, so students can be sure to have a great time here. It is just over an hour’s drive away, making it the perfect place for a daytrip with friends. 

How Do the Universities of Harvard and Oxford Differ in Their Systems? 

US universities differ greatly from UK universities in the way they function. In the US, you study for 4 years to gain a bachelor’s degree. You choose a subject to ‘major’ in in your second year, leaving your first year to try out different subjects and topics you may have never experienced before, which can be great for those students who may be unsure on which subject and career they would like to pursue in the future. This is called the ‘Liberal Arts’ system. 

The application system is also dissimilar; US schools- including Harvard– tend to pick their students based on what type of a person they are, rather than just your grades, which is a huge advantage to those who feel examinations do not correctly reflect their capabilities.  

On the downside, the US relies on the student being largely independent, as the student has to cope with many different factors in relation to their application (submitting standardised tests, managing essays and finding recommendations to mention a few!) which can all become overwhelming when paired with the pressure of upcoming exams. 

In the UK, you only have to study for 3 years to get a bachelor’s degree (although degrees do vary in length). You also have to have the knowledge of what you would like to study right from the start-up, as you apply for the course you will study for the next year and beyond when you apply for the university.  

The UK system is much less complex, though; you are mostly evaluated on your marks, and how good you will be on the course you applied for. This illuminates how the focus is much more on your academic ability, which is an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on who you are, which could also mean that Oxford could potentially be harder to get into, despite the fact that the statistics that say otherwise. 

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