Feature

Is ‘Doxbridge’ a thing?

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Supreme Court now has more Durham grads than any other non-Oxbridge uni

Diversity in the Supreme Court is all people want to talk about right now.

With Lady Hale’s elevation to the head judge role and Lady Justice Black’s appointment to justice stardom, the bench is now the most gender diverse it has ever been.

But one area of judicial diversity that is often overlooked is university attended. Oxbridge domination is rife: stats from last year show 74% of top judges attended either Oxford or Cambridge, as did 78% of QCs.

The Supreme Court is an Oxbridge-heavy bench. However, with Black’s appointment Durham is now the third most represented university (tied with Edinburgh, or not if you are looking at English judges).

The term ‘Doxbridge’ has been floating around for some years now (its Urban Dictionary entry dates back to 2009), and we can see why: there are some undeniable similarities between the trio. The Durham collegiate system certainly has an Oxford and Cambridge ring to it, as does its historic, cathedral architecture.

And a law degree from Durham is similarly prestigious. It consistently ranks highly in university league tables, its building was once crowned the ‘most impressive law school building in the world’, and its academic fame has been taken up a notch thanks to new head Thom Brooks (who has become an authoritative and well-known Brexit commentator). One student tells Legal Cheek:

Durham seems to be highly respected. When I tell people I go there, I always get the ‘oooooh you must be smart then’.

And it appears to have the rah-factor (sorry). Durham is nestled between Oxford and Cambridge in terms of its public school uptake: 61% of its students are from state schools, compared to 56% at Oxford and 62% at Cambridge.

A combo of all these factors, and more, led commenters on a recent Legal Cheek article about LLB university choices to declare Doxbridge the new Oxbridge. “Durham, part of that elite trio of unis, Doxbridge, is the perfect choice”, one commenter noted. Another said: “Durham is at the top with Oxford and Cambridge”, while one reader went for: “Aside from Oxbridge, Durham vastly outstrips every other uni in terms of its representation in City law firms”. But does it?

According to interesting research by Chambers Student, after Oxbridge Durham is the most represented undergraduate university in magic circle trainee cohorts and the cohorts of “other large London” firms. It’s also the third most frequently occurring university in “all London firms” and in “medium to small London firms”.

Infographic via Chambers Student

Stepping away from London-headquartered outfits, Durham again comes in third when we consider US firms in the capital. As for “all national and regional firms”, Durham comes in second place just behind Manchester, beating Oxbridge by some margin.

We’re impressed. But now it’s time for some scepticism.

For starters, it is worth noting at this point Durham is one of the biggest Russell Group law schools and, therefore, churns out a higher number of grads than many of its rivals. Three-hundred-and-ten people accepted places to study law at Durham last year, compared to 235 at Oxford and 215 at Cambridge. This makes Durham one of the biggest Russell Group law schools (though the likes of Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool are bigger).

Further, when you move away from the narrow focus that is law firm trainee cohorts, Durham’s shine dims — a bit. Research shows Durham plays a healthy, but not dominatory, role in the make up of magic circle and silver circle firm partners. Twenty-four percent of these partners hail from Oxford and 20% from Cambridge. Third place is Bristol (14%), and in joint fourth there’s Nottingham, King’s and Durham on 10% each.

Infographic via Laurence Simons

And then we turn to the bar, where, frankly, the Doxbridge fanfare falls silent.

Though Durham’s website states “many of our graduates are called to the bar and become established barristers at both London-based and regional chambers,” the Legal Cheek Most List shows new tenants at the country’s top 50 chambers are disproportionately, and I mean massively disproportionately, Oxford or Cambridge grads.

For three chambers, five out of five of their newest barristers are Oxbridge educated, while four out of five new tenants went to Oxbridge at 12 sets. It’s three out of five at 20 sets, two out of five at 11, and one out of five at three. And a scan of the non-Oxbridge new tenants doesn’t fill us with Doxbridge confidence either: we stumbled across just as many Durham grads as we did the rest of the Russell Group lot, and a fair few non-Russell Groupers too.

So, while Durham certainly has a foothold in the law firm trainee market, Doxbridge does not seem to be a profession-wide thing. “Durham is not ‘at the top’ — it’s a good RG university, not on a par with Oxbridge,” one of our commenters concludes. “It’s on a par with Bristol, Warwick, QMUL, KCL, Sheffield and other universities in the RG.” With this we are inclined to agree.

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77 Comments

University of Life

Ah yes let the ego fuelled university bashing season begin

(31)(1)

Anonymous

Lol Doxbridge always makes me giggle.

I’m yet to meet anyone from Durham who isn’t a thick rich kid. Smart rich kids go to Oxbridge, unlucky ones to London.

(5)(6)

Anonymous

I turned Durham down (having got the place and the grades) to go to Liverpool because on the open day (actually an overnighter) for those who had places, there were so many posh entitled kids whinging about not getting into Oxbridge and how unfair it was.

No regrets. Now at the Bar.

(8)(7)

Anonymous

lol liverpool

(8)(6)

Anonymous

Lol, where ru then?

(4)(1)

University of Life

Session*

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Personally my impression of Durham has always been that it is for posh kids who wanted the Oxbridge drinking society/rugby team culture but didn’t fancy the hard academic work, or simply couldn’t get in. I would regard UCL as second best to Oxbridge, and LSE and Bristol as better than Durham.

(54)(12)

Anonymous

Any chance you’re a UCL graduate?

(14)(3)

Anonymous

Nope.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

I had offers from Durham and Bristol. I opted for Bristol and have no regrets.

Durham, at the time and possibly still now, may have a slightly more “prestigious” reputation, but it is marginal. Considering the whole university experience and at how more rounded of a person somewhere like Bristol makes you, it is a no brainer. In fact, I’d take any reasonably reputable Russell Group university over Durham. Likewise, I’d take them over Oxbridge (albeit I can’t say I had an Oxbridge offer, but I also didn’t apply as that isn’t my cup of tea)

(14)(18)

Anonymous

Do you realise Durham has just about the best extra curricular offering of any university? It regularly competes at the highest levels in sports, and the arts are outstanding, with more theatre and music to get involved in than practically anywhere else.

Perhaps you mean something else by ‘well rounded’, but your post is complete nonsense in my experience. Durham has amazing opportunities to grow outside of your degree. Unless you mean popping pills in a student club, in which case, no, that’s not as big at Durham as say Bristol or Manchester.

You also say it’s better to go to Bristol than Oxbridge though so you’re probably just a bit of an idiot generally. Bristol is a great uni but I don’t see why you feel the need to be a dick about Durham.

(19)(16)

Anonymous

I never “popped a pill” in a student club, although I did enjoy the nightlife at Bristol.

The way you describe it reinforces my perceptions. Organised extra curricular activities – I picture things like lacrosse, or perhaps fine wine tasting at a local art gallery. I imagine it is great fun to chat about at dinner in your gowns.

In somewhere like Bristol you have a great city to explore, with a lot going on outside of organised University societies and such and you generally meet a much more diverse range of people.

(11)(13)

And when I finally got sober, felt ten years older

I popped a pill in Bristol
To show the Wurzels I was cool

(24)(1)

Anonymous

Well I appreciate that you think Durham is all wine tasting and polo but in that case you’re an idiot. It’s not as if there’s not a vast number of rahs at Bristol too. The idea we’re all champagne swigging red trousered Etonions is about as fair as thinking all Bristol grads are louche, drug munching ravers who disappointed their upper middle class parents. It’s obviously incredibly stupid.

(14)(2)

Massingbird

Not to self – use the word louche more.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Bristol is also a lovely place to live.

(9)(3)

Anonymous

Durham was my backup offer (AAA) as opposed to King’s where I actually studied (AAAB).

I have no qualms about saying that my first choice would have been Oxford, but failing that, being in the City and able to easily attend open-days and networking events was very helpful.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

University is like religion.

The ‘correct’ one is always the one you just so happen to belong to…

(96)(0)

Anonymous

Uncharacteristically interesting and though provoking comment on LC.

(35)(2)

Anonymous

Times may have change but I recall that Durham used to outright reject anyone who had also listed Oxford/Cambridge in their UCCA/UCAS applications…

That’s not just a coincidence – it was a cold hard fact. Outright rejection no reason. Implying that the admissions tutors at Durham (at the time) suffered from either some sort of bizarre inferiority complex or being right up their own arses…

(5)(21)

Anonymous

Wasn’t true in the early 2000s when I applied — I got into Oxford and Durham (though didn’t accept Durham as first or second choice). Can universities even tell what other places you applied to? I do remember that Durham’s offer was almost as high as Oxford’s offer so they might discourage people putting them down as second choice by giving offers that you would only accept as first choice.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

They can’t see where you’ve applied, but as Oxford and Cambridge have earlier application deadlines it’s a reasonable assumption that if your application is in by the earlier deadline you’ve applied to Oxbridge.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I can agree with what you are saying. I knew a girl with 5 A grades at AS Level and 4 predicted A grades at A Level. She had applied to Oxford and Durham et al. to study Theology.

The very next day after she had submitted her UCAS application, Durham bounced her.

She rung their admissions office to query why she had been bounced so abruptly.

Their curt response was that “everyone gets 5 A grades these days.”

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Myth. They can’t even see where you apply.

(25)(1)

Anonymous

They can’t see where you’ve applied, but as Oxford and Cambridge have earlier application deadlines it’s a reasonable assumption that if your application is in by the earlier deadline you’ve applied to Oxbridge.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Not true got into Durham , Oxbridge , York and Bristol 10 years ago .

(5)(3)

Anonymous

Back in the days of UCCA, all universities were sent the full form – so yes, they could see where else you applied.

I did say things might have changed but that did use to be the case. It’s possible they changed it for these very prejudicial reasons…

But I tell you what, skirt that and ignore the actual point because you choose to yeah ?! No skin off mine…

(4)(1)

Anonymous

No skin off your what?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Downticked by a %age of the massive amount of wannabe trainee lawyers the Durham Law Faculty conveyor belt churns out no doubt…

You guys are so mean… *sob*

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I can agree with what you are saying. I knew a girl with 5 A grades at AS Level and 4 predicted A grades at A Level. She had applied to Oxford and Durham et al. to study Theology.

The very next day after she had submitted her UCAS application, Durham bounced her.

She rung their admissions office to query why she had been bounced so abruptly.

Their curt response was that “everyone gets 5 A grades these days.”

(1)(2)

Anonymous

That was true in 2012 when I applied to Cambridge and Durham; it also happened to my friend who applied to Oxford and Durham….We both got rejections from Durham!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Heer 4 da comments..

(11)(0)

Anonymous

First question for any Durham graduate: “which Oxbridge college did you apply for then?”

(32)(2)

Anonymous

“Is ‘Doxbridge’ a thing?”

No *End Thread*

(45)(1)

Anonymous

I went to Durham. Obviously the stats show that it has a great record at getting people into the top law firms. But basically it’s not academically better than Bristol, UCL, LSE etc.

I don’t get the hatred for Durham that always pops up here. It’s a brilliant uni to go to. It’s not academically as good as Oxbridge – everyone there was rejected from Oxbridge. Anyone who goes on about Doxbridge is an idiot. But it’s obviously no worse than the other top Russell Groups. Some people will prefer Bristol or Warwick (for example), some want to be in London, and for some people Durham is the best option.

(38)(1)

Ox grad

Completely agree with this.

(11)(0)

NC Trainee

When applying to uni I had Durham as my second choice and very much viewed it as Oxbridge 0.8. I believed in Doxbridge.

It’s probably a useful term in that all three have some form of collegiate system, but during my 3 years st Oxford I never once saw or heard the term, other than watermarked on photos of nights out enjoyed by my Durham friends on their ‘Doxbridge’ sports tours.

I went to a very good school – 1/3 pupils go to Oxbridge at the very least. Before my year group/year above, the older years had gone with Bristol as the Oxbridge back up. Our year went with Durham. Which very good uni enjoys the “next best outside of London” varies with the different perceptions of 6th formers and teachers year on year. Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Warwick. They’re all good unis.

Comparisons with Oxbridge make Durham look a bit desperate. It should have pride in what it is without need for comparison.

(12)(0)

Anonymous

I’m a Cambridge grad and I agree – Durham is a good university in its own right. Not everyone who is bright can go to Oxbridge; there are only a limited number of places….for example, Modern languages, my subject, there are only about 200 students admitted each year I think…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Katie King went to Bristol and she achieved a strong 1st, ~74%. That is a pretty impressive achievement and not something that just anybody can do. Looking at Katie’s CV it seems like she kept herself busy with various extra-curricular activities, and has clearly taken care of her health judging by her excellent skin quality too – far from just a book worm. I wonder what her favourite gin is.

(10)(15)

Anonymous

To bad that was not enough for her to become an actual lawyer.

(6)(6)

Katie King

Not everyone wants to be a lawyer.

(25)(5)

Anonymous

*Too bad

At least KK can cope with to/two/too.

(12)(1)

Anonymous

Everybody wants to be a Kat,
’cause a Kat’s the only Kat,
who knows where it’s at!

(3)(1)

Kittiewake

A Kit Kat isn’t!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Not all lawyers want to be lawyers

(17)(0)

Anonymous

Why does she write for LC then ?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I think she likes the attention. It also pays her a bit of cash to fund her handbag collection etc.

(2)(6)

Anonymous

A 74% first from Bristol Law is truly excellent. Easily good enough for admission on to the BCL.

KK’s true passion must be journalism, because most people on this website would kill for marks like that.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

Please check your facts legal cheek. Durham law school has not historically accepted significantly more students than other universities. The school usually has around 200 law students per year with the exception of the 2016 intake as many more students than expected firmed Durham, increasing the numbers above its planned expansion. This rather invalidates your point that a higher proportion of law graduates is one of the main reasons Durham is well represented in trainee cohorts. And you’re also forgetting non-law students secure training contracts too so why not look at the size of the whole university then?

(15)(2)

Anonymous

“you’re also forgetting non-law students secure training contracts too so why not look at the size of the whole university then?”

This. Specifically, the cohort sizes of courses likely to convert to law, such as History, Classics, English Lit, etc.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I hope you find an NQ job in a better environment after qualification, and can hold the gropers to account.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Don’t believe everything someone on the internet says but these 3 really do look like gropers….

(0)(1)

Anonymous

On the off-chance this is real, do you not think this will be better dealt with by going to HR now, rather than complaining anonymously online? I’d imagine there would be worse repercussions for your career from anonymous comments like this than from a complaint through the proper routes (presuming this is the reason you are not complaining now). And while sexual harassment is awful and inexcusable, what’s the point of shaming someone for having sex with a colleague at a Christmas party?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

No it’s not

(1)(0)

Durham Grad

LOL, Legal Cheek used my troll comments in an article.

Having said that, many QCs have labelled Durham as the UK version of Harvard. Very fitting. Hey ho!

(2)(5)

Anonymous

“UK version of Harvard”

MEGALOL.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Durham= king of the oxbridge rejects

(8)(1)

Anonymous

I doubt they’re bothered when they end up with the TC

(7)(2)

Anonymous

The vast majority of students at institutions such as Durham, Bristol, Warwick, and yes, Oxbridge, will be similarly academically capable. It is incorrect to say one is objectively better than the other. Many top Russell Group members could have attained a place at Oxbridge and many Oxbridge students are not as incredibly intelligent as people give them credit for. This is evidenced when looking at UCAS entry tariffs for law at the institutions, Durham (558) and Oxford (562) are 4 points apart! As long as you attend a top 5/10 university, and then gain the relevant experience and skills alongside a strong 2.1, you can achieve whatever you want – perhaps not at the bar though. This obsession over universities is so pointless, like something you would read on thestudentroom.

(10)(4)

Anonymous

Yeah, but Oxford doesn’t let in everyone with 562 UCAS points does it?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I think ‘entry tariff’ is a bit misleading. Durham doesn’t ‘let in everyone’ with 562 UCAS points either. The score refers to the A-levels achieved by those who take a place at the university. The academic standard of Oxford and Durham law students at A-level is therefore virtually identical. The students get the same A-level grades, but I’m going to guess that Oxford students did better at the interview. Oxford law only has a limited number of places, some exceptional students will be forced to go elsewhere.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Dixbridge, more like.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Nope. Next.

(0)(0)

yeah but

Across both years of trainee intake at my firm (mid tier UK firm) there are 13 Durham grads (most Historians) out of circa 30 trainees and ALL of them are Oxbridge rejects and is something they own and make jokes about.

All of them are also quite posh (think indentikit home counties blondies) and rugbyLADs.

(7)(1)

Ogre

I luv me some of dem home counties blondies…

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Let’s face it, all of these universities are going to be full of relatively well off students, most of whom will have gone to the best schools. More surprising if Durham was not like that than it is!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Stats indicate the ranking is: Oxford, Cambridge, ‘unknown’, Durham, Bristol, UCL, Kings, Warwick, Leeds, Manchester…

So, inline with the bar profile…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

(0)(0)

Da Digger Ting

DIS HAS STR8 JUST TRICKLED DOWN FROM DEM NORMAN YOKE TIMES INIT.

SICK OF THIS DUMBHAM/DOGXFORD/CUNTBRIDGE ELITE.

SUCK OUT.

(0)(0)

Huh?

I don’t follow the argument. If Durham is far better than all other non-Oxbridge universities in every category but the Bar – where it is no less good than the best non-Oxbridge universities, the conclusion that follows is – overall – Durham is generally better than the rest. But I can a lot of self interest in wanting a different conclusion….

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Well to be honest, I think it’s less of Doxbridge than it is doxbridge, minus the capital D.

Durham may not be on part with Oxbridge but as a Durham student in my second year, I can wholeheartedly assure you that we are far superior socially, athletically and acadimacaly than other universities like UCL, LSE, Kings, Bristel, etc.

(3)(10)

Anonymous

Your technical prowess in grammar is truly testament to the quality of Durham grads

(11)(2)

Anonymous

“acadimacaly”

I love it

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Good bait comment sir. The ‘Bristel’ gave it away, however. You should be more careful in the future.

(0)(2)

Majority of people on this thread

I like arguing about not having enough icing on my cake.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Another irrelevant, waste of time article written by Legal Cheek.
Maybe Legal Cheek and some of the users commenting on this article should learn that irrespective of which university you go to, you will meet smart kids/stupid kids/rich kids/poor kids.

Repetitive, boring drivel and for all those supporting such in the comments really ought to get a life and an understanding of the world.

(0)(1)

'Bunny'

For those who wish to reflect – I am a Durham Law Graduate, from a state school in the Black Country (alright = Governors’ Scholarship to a Tudor monarch established Grammar School).

What stood out for me from this article was when I graduated (in the late Eighties), the intake/output was 90 students per year.

Do we really have a need for three plus times that now ?!

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.