Debate: Rather be at Oxbridge than Doxbridge?


Down with Doxbridge? REANNE MACKENZIE and CHARLIE TAVERNER fight it out.

Steeped in tradition, with a strong academic reputation – is there a case for welcoming  a third member to the Oxbridge club? 

REANNE MACKENZIE argues that Durham is, and always will be, a wannabe. 

The idea of amalgamating Durham, Cambridge, and Oxford into the ugly sounding “Doxbridge” makes me at first laugh, and then feel sick.

Oxford and Cambridge have long been slung together as “Oxbridge”. Yes, we may pretend to hate ‘The Other Place’ but when it comes down to it, we know they are our kindred spirits – they’ve got punts, gowns, bicycles, supervisions and twenty-four hour libraries. We are close enough to have a ski-trip with them, chummy enough to play rugby against them, and if someone says they are from Oxford, we immediately relax: ‘ah, they’re one of us.’

Nowhere in this cosy duo does Durham fit in: this is a monogamous relationship and we aren’t up for a threesome.  Durham simply does not have the sheer amount of work, and dare I say it intellect, required at both Oxford and Cambridge. There are no supervisions, no weekly essays, and no (frequent) all-nighters in the library. They may have formals, and substandard clubs, but this does not justify the D in front of Oxbridge. It’s too hilly to ride a bike there and they even have reading weeks.

Yes, they are one of Britain’s top universities, they just aren’t the top. Durham is like the annoying, less good-looking younger brother: similar to the elder, but hasn’t quite got it. If they were really considered to be on the same level as us, surely it would have been Doxbridge from the very beginning but, sadly for them, it wasn’t.

What really must be the most convincing evidence that ‘Doxbridge’ does not exist is that when I first typed it into word, spell checker immediately popped up with a lovely squiggly red line, and asked if I meant ‘Oxbridge’. Says it all really.

Graduation at Durham: not so different?

CHARLIE TAVERNER, Comment Editor of the Durham Palatinate, argues that arrogance is preventing us recognizing ‘Doxbridge’. 

Doxbridge isn’t a term to replace Oxbridge, and it’s not to say that Oxford and Cambridge are not in a class of their own.  But if you look at the unmistakeable blend of tradition and excellence, something is needed to make these three universities stand out from the rest.

Beyond Doxbridge, few other universities have the collegiate system. If they do, it is neither as steeped in tradition nor such a key aspect of the student experience. Oxford, Cambridge and Durham colleges, barring a few modern builds, are all integral landmarks in the town. From King’s in Cambridge, to Christchurch in Oxford, and University College in Durham’s medieval castle – there’s not much distance in terms of tradition. After all, Durham’s historic bailey is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You can point to the likes of York, Lancaster and Kent and say that their collegiate system isn’t far off the Durham model, but these new builds don’t have histories and deep-seeded college rivalries stretching back to the nineteenth century and – for Oxford and Cambridge – beyond.

Academic excellence connects all three universities. While the argument that Durham is as good, if not better than Oxbridge, might stick better up here in the north than amongst The Tab’s readership, it is more often for reasons of arrogance than truth. Durham has extremely high standards across the board, and deserves to be in a wider group of three. Rankings tables are always questionable, but particularly in arts and humanities, Durham often forms a triumvirate at the top with Oxford and Cambridge.

Those of us in Durham have a reputation for being a bunch of privileged, chip-on-the-shoulder Oxbridge rejects. However, turning this on its head, it means Durham is full of some incredibly clever and talented people in its own right – even if they failed those fateful interviews.

There’s no denying that Oxbridge is the pinnacle of British education. But Durham’s blend of exceptional people, doing exceptional things in an environment steeped in educational tradition – just like at Oxford and Cambridge – deserves to be recognised by the marker of ‘Doxbridge’.

What do you think? Use the comment board below to share your thoughts. 

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