MBA School Choice: Oxford Saïd Vs. Cambridge Judge

Both are embedded in famous and prestigious universities, but admissions, culture and career outcomes differ

On the face of it, there is more that binds than separates the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. After all, the two universities, both established in the Middle Ages, are often collectively lumped together as ‘Oxbridge.’ One of the biggest challenges faced by applicants considering the two UK schools is looking at them as separate entities.

Both of the MBA programs run for one year and start in September, and offer an internship option in the final semester. Both are embedded in very famous and prestigious universities and are often defined by the collegial systems in place at the universities. The young business schools — Saïd’s precursor was founded in the 1960s; Judge in 1990 — bask in the strong brand associated with the wider institutions. 

“Many applicants are attracted by how interconnected the business schools are to the parent university and the college system,” says Stacy Blackman, president of admissions firm Stacy Blackman Consulting. “The college systems at Oxford and Cambridge are a strong selling point for both schools due to the networking opportunities and diverse experience that this provides.” 

But scratch beneath the surface and differences begin to appear. Judge has outperformed Saïd in the FT and Economist MBA rankings of the past two years, in part reflecting the higher salary outcomes of the smaller Judge cohort and a greater focus on social enterprise at Saïd, which is known to pay less than more traditional MBA industries like finance. 

The University of Oxford's Saïd Business School offers a Full-Time MBA and an Executive MBAOxford Saïd vs Cambridge Judge: Location 

The schools also benefit from close proximity to employers in London, with both located about an hour from the UK capital by train. Cambridge and Oxford are busy and historic university towns. The University of Cambridge has about 21,500 students enrolled (as per 2017 data), whereas the University of Oxford has just under 24,000 enrolled, giving it a larger town feel. 

Cambridge has the “Silicon Fen” ecosystem of technology and biotech startups, which continues to be a big draw for students and entrepreneurs. “One of the primary motivations that drove my choice of the Cambridge MBA is its proximity to the Silicon Fen, one of the most important technology centers in Europe,” says Somesh Dwivedi, a Cambridge Judge MBA alumnus who turned down offers from two other schools. 

Oxford Saïd vs Cambridge Judge: MBA cohorts and culture 

Both business schools are looking for diverse students, with Saïd typically attracting a higher number of nationalities and Judge drawing from a wide range of sectors, such as the arts. 

Some 50 different nationalities are represented in Judge’s MBA cohort, which has an average of six years’ work experience. About 36 percent of the class is female and the average GMAT score is 693. Around half come from finance and consulting, 46 percent from industry and 5 percent from the public and other sectors. 

Saïd has 62 nationalities among its cohort, which has on average five years’ professional experience. Some 39 percent of the class is female and the median GMAT is 690. 

The school does not publish the industry breakdown of its intake, but a former Saïd admissions officer, who now works for Stacy Blackman Consulting, says: “They tend to attract about 25 percent of their class from finance, 20 percent from consulting, 10 percent from social impact/NGO, and 45 percent from industry, with a strong technology representation.” 

Saïd declined to comment for this article.  

The school has a significantly larger class with 315 students, compared with only 200 at Judge. “The smaller class size at Judge lends itself to closer collaboration, whilst you’ll get a wider networking base at Oxford,” says Emma Bond, a director at Fortuna Admissions. 

“But at both schools you become a member of a ‘college’, so can access the wider university network. And with Judge’s new building, the school is looking to grow its class, so these differences may reduce.” 

Cambridge - Judge is a popular destination for many full-time MBA studentsOxford Saïd vs Cambridge Judge: MBA curriculums 

As of 2018, the Saïd MBA costs £57,200 in tuition, while the Judge MBA is £55,000. 

Both programs offer compulsory core subjects in accounting, strategy and more, as well as giving students the option to choose electives from a wide portfolio. But Judge offers specializations — in areas such as digital transformation and social innovation — whereas Saïd does not. 

Judge is also big on “experiential”, or practical learning. “It is one of the most practical programs around, evidenced by the fact that there are up to four consulting projects baked into the curriculum, giving students ample opportunity to apply classroom learning to real-life business scenarios,” says the Judge alumnus Dwivedi, who consulted Bentley Motors as part of his MBA. “It was one of the highlights of the program.” 

Saïd, meanwhile, has a specific focus on students tackling “world” problems based on case studies with a focus on social and environmental responsibility, says Bond. 

Jielin Zhang, a Saïd MBA graduate, adds: “One thing that is truly unique about Saïd is its strong focus on leveraging business tools to advance social innovations and to create social impact through research, incubation and application. Some courses and initiatives are very much contributing to solving existing social, economic, and environmental challenges.” 

Oxford Saïd vs Cambridge Judge: MBA admissions requirements and selectivity

The two schools have similar admissions requirements; they require a good GMAT or GRE score (admissions firms say you should aim for 650 or more), similar levels of prior work experience (two at Saïd and three at Judge), and a good undergraduate degree, though Judge is hotter on undergraduate performance, says Fortuna’s Bond. 

Judge also has three required essays, whereas Saïd only has one compulsory essay. The latter asks for two reference letters, but Judge only requires one.  

The bigger difference, according to admissions consultants, is that Judge places more weight on the admissions interview. “If you’re successful, you get invited to an interview day and these seem to be really important to attend,” says Bond. 

Saïd received more applications in 2017/18: 1,586 versus 1,286 for Judge. The schools do not release their acceptance rates. However, on a ratio of application to class size, Judge has a slightly lower rate than Saïd. 

Judge declined to comment for this article, saying: “We avoid participating in selective comparisons that may not reflect all of what CJBS is trying to achieve for students.” 

Both Cambridge and Oxford are about an hour's train ride away from LondonOxford Saïd vs Cambridge Judge: MBA career outcomes 

Some 92 percent of Judge’s MBAs had job offers three months after graduating last year. For Saïd it was 91 percent. Judge’s MBAs made £71,682 in average salary in Europe, compared with £71,094 at Saïd (excluding the UK). 

At Saïd about 29 percent ended up in finance, 22 percent in consulting, 10 percent in social impact and 21 percent in technology. At Judge, 19 percent of those employed were in consulting and 25 percent in finance. Technology is the largest employment sector for the remainder of the graduates.

Bond says: “If you’re focused on social entrepreneurship you probably want to be looking at Said… whereas if you’ve got a strong tech focus or want to try out strategy consulting, you might want to aim for Judge and the Silicon Fen. Those Judge grads who do stay in Cambridge are likely to be working for tech start-ups.” 

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