Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Oxbridge is a name used to refer to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the two oldest in the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world. The name is a portmanteau of the two universities' names.
In 2006, the Times Higher Education Supplement's world ranking of research universities placed Cambridge and Oxford as the second and third most reputable research universities in the world, after Harvard. In the academic peer review survey section (the most important component of the THES's overall rank scoring), 3,703 academics worldwide were asked to name up to 30 universities which they considered the leading research institutions in their field. Here, Cambridge came first and Oxford second, with Harvard in third place.
Although both Oxford and Cambridge were founded more than seven centuries ago, the name "Oxbridge" is relatively young. In William Thackeray's bildungsroman, Pendennis, published in 1849, the main character attends (the fictional) Boniface College, Oxbridge. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the first recorded instance of the word, but it did not enter common usage until the middle of the 20th century. The book also introduces the term Camford as another portmanteau of the university names; "he was a Camford man and very nearly got the English Prize Poem"; although this term has never achieved the same degree of usage as Oxbridge.
Virginia Woolf used the term Oxbridge critically in her essay A Room of One's Own.
Other portmanteaux are occasionally derived from the term "Oxbridge"; such as "Doxbridge" - an annual inter-collegiate sports tournament between the colleges of Durham, Oxford, and Cambridge; or "Loxbridge" (referring to London, Oxford, and Cambridge) which is used as the name of a history group collaboration. However, such terms are only used for specific groups, and none has achieved widespread use.
Social critics in the United Kingdom also sometimes use "Oxbridge" or "Oxbridge Club" as shorthand for the "old boy network" that is said to dominate government, education, and other institutions.