Depuis le 12ème siècle, Oxbridge, le duo composé par les universités d’Oxford et de Cambridge, illustre le prestige académique britannique dans le monde. Elles comptent parmi leurs anciens élèves non seulement de nombreux représentants de l’élite politique mais aussi de nombreux artistes et champions olympiques. Toutefois, à cause de leur caractère inaccessible et des différentes polémiques qu’elles ont suscitées ces dernières années, peut-on dire que le prestige d’Oxbridge s’essouffle aujourd’hui ?
Since their creation in the 12th century, the eldest two British universities, Cambridge and Oxford, have been the flagship of British academic excellence. Eternal rivals, they are ranked 5th and 10th best world universities. Indeed, they count among their former students several figures of the political caste such as Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and more recently, the current Prime Minister David Cameron.
Thus, many students from all over the world dream of studying there. However, in students’ minds, Oxbridge appears not only inaccessible without exceptional academic skills but also reserved to upper-class children who have, at least, an alumnus ancestor as well. Indeed, a regular student had to pay nearly £8,000 for the school year 2011-2012. Furthermore, Cambridge University accepted Prince William even though he didn’t have the A-level marks required.
That’s why, as the academic duet seems to be kind of key to access the social elite, the self-censorship of potentially good candidates remains almost systematic. Their encouraging APPLY NOW policy, meant to allow the “admission system retaining applications of meritorious students only”, is globally regarded as hypocritical. Melissa Berill, a Guardian columnist, says that nothing has changed, even if Oxbridge said that “they work extremely hard to make sure they admit students based on merit, not class or family connections”.
In addition to the socially elitist vision of both universities, a few days ago, it is on racism issues that Oxbridge’s reputation was questioned. Indeed, inspired by the I, too, am Harvard campaign, the I, too, am Cambridge and I, too, am Oxford campaigns were launched by students from ethnic minority backgrounds to highlight the prejudices they have faced at the university.
One could say that even if Oxbridge is called the “holy grail of British education”, other universities are beginning to compete and seem able to supply more relevant and high-quality courses than the eldest two. For instance, the University College London attracts students from 150 different countries and London School of Economics and Political Sciences has over 18 Nobel prize winners and 50 world leaders. Could the emergence of an unexpected competition ultimately challenge the Oxbridge myth?
Ornella AUBARD & Laure DELAVALLEE