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Applying to Oxbridge as an International Student


4th June 2019

Historic buildings that form part of the University of Oxford

Last week’s blog post guided international Oxbridge applicants through the early stages of preparing their application to Oxford or Cambridge Universities – from choosing a university, course and college, through to submitting their application on an online UCAS form.

This week, we’re focusing on the part of the application process students dread most – the admissions test and interviews. Rest assured that these aspects of the application aren’t nearly as scary as they’re often made out to be, and as long as you take the right steps, the logistics side should be pretty straightforward too!

Along with considering the logistics of admissions tests and interviews, this blog will offer international applicants advice on how to budget for their studies and ensure they have applied for the right visas if their application is successful.

1. The Admissions TEst

Virtually every course at Oxford and Cambridge requires students to sit an admissions test. The tests are specific to each degree and are intended to give a fair comparison across all candidates and to test how you think rather than how much you know. Admissions tests are crucial element for the application process and students should spend a significant amount of time preparing for these. In many cases, your admissions test score may determine whether you are invited to interview.

These tests are designed to be very difficult, so if you’re finding it very difficult to get a high score while you’re practicing, don’t worry. In fact, in many of these admissions tests, a mark of 60% is considered a very good score.

We can offer help and guidance on preparing for these tests, so do get in touch with us if you’d like more information!

International students must be prepared for Oxbridge admissions tests

As well as revising for these exams, you need to consider how and where you will sit them. All admissions tests have to be taken at a registered testing centre. Your school may already be registered as a testing centre – if it is not, you can ask them to register. The deadline for this is 1st September – so, earlier than the application deadline – do make sure to check with your school in plenty of time!

An Oxford or Cambridge University style interview

2. The Interview

 If you are invited to interview, congratulations! That is already a significant achievement and indicates you have done very well in your application and admissions test.

The vast majority of Oxford and Cambridge interviews are done in person in the UK, however it is possible to make arrangements to do these online, or in some cases in person in your own country.

Please read the information below carefully to understand what would be possible for you – this is dependent on where you are resident, your nationality and the way in which you apply:  

You will be expected to attend your interview in person if any of the following are true:
• You are a UK national and UK resident
• You hold a passport for anywhere in the EEA or Switzerland
• You have non EEA / Swiss nationality, but are already resident within the UK / EEA / Switzerland on a visa

 It is recommended that you attend an interview in the UK, but you may be offered an alternative Skype or telephone interview if:
• You hold a passport for a country outside of the EEA / Switzerland, and would not need to secure a visa in order to travel to the UK
A Skype or telephone interview will be arranged if:
• You are resident outside of the EEA / Switzerland and would need a visa to travel to the UK

Applicants to Cambridge also have the option to sit interviews in one of 7 international locations (New York, Toronto, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai) if they submit their COPA form on time.

(Please note that if you wish to be interviewed in PR China, Singapore or Malaysia, the COPA deadline is BEFORE the UCAS deadline: normally around the 20th September. For those wishing to be interviewed elsewhere or in the UK, the deadline is shortly after the UCAS deadline – normally around the 19th October. See our Previous Blog for more details.)

For more advice on how to how to prepare for Oxford and Cambridge Interviews, check out our previous blog ‘Busting Myths about the Oxbridge Interview’. We are also able to offer interview preparation, including online mock interviews carried out with expert Oxbridge graduates. You can find more information about these services here or by dropping us an email or call. 

3. Offers

Oxford and Cambridge make all their offers by mid-January. Your offer may be conditional on achieving certain grades in public exams, or may be unconditional, if you have already achieved all the exam grades the university requires. Some colleges still send out traditional offer letters, but many now send your offer letter via email. 

If you achieve an offer from either Oxford or Cambridge, then CONGRATULATIONS!

You will have until mid-July to officially accept your offer through UCAS (in 2020 the date is Saturday 18th July). 

The Oxford University skyline
Visa application form

4. Fees and visas

If you’re offered a place to study at Oxford or Cambridge, you will need to consider how to fund your degree and which visas you will need to apply for in order to study in the UK. The universities should be able to offer you some support with this process, but here is a brief guide to the basics.

As an overseas student (currently defined as outside the EU), there are three costs you need to consider. These are your tuition fees, college fees, and living expenses.

Tuition fees are the most significant cost, ranging from around £20,000 - £50,000 per year (depending on the course) at Cambridge, and £24,000 - £37,000 at Oxford.

College fees are what you pay your college for living costs – these range from around £6,800 - £13,000 per year. 
Living Expenses will depend on lifestyle, but Cambridge recommends you budget at least £10,000 per year for these.

You can find more detail on all costs at Cambridge and Oxford here.

In addition, many international students will need to apply for a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK. To apply for this, you will need proof of your offer from the university you intend to study at, evidence that you have met their entry criteria, and proof that you can cover the financial commitments in advance. You can see more information on applying for your Tier 4 Visa from Oxford and Cambridge here.

In general, Oxford and Cambridge have generous budgets for student support – if you feel during your time there that you need support, you should contact the bursary at your college who will be able to advise. Both Oxford and Cambridge advise their students that they should not work during term time (given the intensity of their academic workload). However, you should also be careful to check the terms of your Tier 4 visa with regards to your right to work in the UK.

There are also various international scholarships available to international undergraduate students – you can see those offered by Oxford and Cambridge here

We hope the information has helped to demystify the Oxbridge application process and answered some of your burning questions about how the application process works for international students. If you’re looking for more direct support with your application to Oxford and Cambridge, we are always happy to help, so please don’t hesitate to drop nus an email or schedule a call!