In addition to their focus on world-class education, a number of internationally renowned universities also attract students, sightseers and investors because of their aesthetic appeal. With their mix of grand architecture, green open spaces and rich historical significance, it’s no wonder some of the UK’s top campuses also enjoy a reputation as the world’s most beautiful universities.
From Glasgow and Edinburgh to Belfast, Greenwich and Royal Holloway, the United Kingdom is home to universities that capture the imagination of art and culture lovers around the globe. Standing head-and-shoulders above the rest are two of the most prestigious universities in the country – namely Cambridge and Oxford.
The Rich Historic Appeal of Oxford University
The University of Oxford was ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2017 and 2018. It also made THE’s list of the most beautiful universities in the UK. Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Instead of one main campus, it’s made up of 38 colleges and other buildings throughout the city of Oxford.
Some of Oxford University’s most beautiful features include:
- The Bodleian Libraries, the largest university library system in the UK and one of Europe’s oldest libraries.
- The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library complex; an iconic circular building built in the English Palladian style.
- The stately neoclassical Clarendon Building, which used to house the Oxford University Press printing presses.
- The Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Sheldonian is the university’s official ceremonial hall and features a magnificent ceiling fresco painted by Robert Streater.
- Hertford Bridge, a beautiful skyway joining two parts of Oxford’s Hertford College. It is nicknamed “the Bridge of Sighs” because it resembles the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
The Aesthetics of Cambridge University
The University of Cambridge was established in the 13th century and is known for its English Gothic stone buildings and stained-glass features. Cambridge came in second in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and also made it onto their “most beautiful” list. Cambridge is made up of 31 colleges and also comprises eight museums and a botanical garden.
Some of Cambridge’s most appealing attractions include:
- Queens’ College, which features the most complete medieval buildings of all colleges in Cambridge. It’s also home to the famous Mathematical Bridge, which was built without any nails and relies on mathematical calculations for its strength.
- The Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which spans 40 acres and includes 8,000 species of plants from around the world.
- Pembroke College, which features a famous chapel also designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
- Cambridge has its own “Bridge of Sighs”, a covered bridge at St John’s College, which crosses over the River Cam.
- King’s College Chapel is an architectural dream, with 16th-century stained glass windows, a lavishly carved wooden organ screen, and a beautiful altarpiece, Rubens' “Adoration of the Magi”.
These appealing features, combined with a proven track record of excellent educational standards, continue to attract talent in the UK and on an international level. Oxford is currently ranked fourth in the world by academics and third by employers, while Cambridge is ranked second in the world by both academics and employers.
The Beauty of Heritage and History
Many of the buildings in Oxford and Cambridge are Grade I listed, which means they are “buildings of exceptional interest”. These are just some of the treasured historical buildings in the United Kingdom.
Beautiful universities like Oxford and Cambridge don’t only appeal to students from around the globe; they also attract a variety of companies and investors. Listed properties like those at Oxford and Cambridge are extremely popular with business owners, and a Heritage Lottery Fund study has even shown that businesses operating in these beautiful buildings tend to be more productive and lucrative than those in less inspiring surroundings. Clearly, the aesthetics of Oxford and Cambridge play a big role in attracting investment to the “OxBridge” area.
Bidwells agents are proud to work with clients including the National Trust, the Imperial War Museum and Cambridge University colleges. We help clients who own historic buildings to preserve these unique assets and also explore their long-term value.
Bidwells clients appreciate our respect for, and understanding of, the UK’s architectural heritage. We continue to be inspired by the most beautiful universities in the UK and provide expertise on historical properties in the OxBridge region and beyond.