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Oxford Physics and Cambridge Natural Sciences: Offer Rates Analysis

Table of Contents
Oxford Physics and Cambridge Natural Sciences Offer Rates Analysis
Table of Contents

This article is included in the ‘Oxbridge Essentials® “Physics Volume”

I. Comparison of Application Popularity

i. Overview of 2020 Application Data for Physics at Oxford and Natural Sciences at Cambridge

The animated chart below shows that Chinese students rank 4th at the University of Oxford for the number of applications to Physics. At the University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences encompasses Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and more, which is why it has a large number of applicants and has always been Cambridge’s number one super-popular major.

As the University of Cambridge does not disclose application numbers for Natural Sciences (Physics direction), it is impossible to accurately compare this specialization with Physics at the University of Oxford.

ii. Chinese Student Application Proportion from 2016-2021

In the six years from 2016 to 2021, Chinese mainland (excluding Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) applications for Physics at Oxford accounted for about 7%, which is equivalent to 1 in every 14 applicants choosing Physics. During the same period, over one-fifth of Chinese students applying to Cambridge chose Natural Sciences, a proportion that is roughly on par with Mathematics at Oxford. Hence, Oxford Mathematics and Cambridge Natural Sciences are the two hottest majors for Chinese students applying to Oxbridge.

iii. Application Difficulty for Chinese Students from 2016-2021

The scatter plot below intuitively shows that the intensity of applying for Physics at Oxford and Natural Sciences at Cambridge is not too high (the size of the circles in the graph indicates the acceptance rate), of course, this is in comparison to other popular majors.

Oxford Physics is in the second tier—having a relatively high number of applications but still a comparatively high acceptance rate; Cambridge Natural Sciences occupies the top spot in the first tier, notably with a high acceptance rate as well. Oxford and Cambridge Chinese Student Admission Data (free trial, subscription required)

II. Comparison of Application Trends

In the last decade, the number of applicants to the Physics program at Oxford has nearly doubled, with the global acceptance rate correspondingly dropping to about 12%. The number of applicants for the Natural Sciences program at Cambridge has fluctuated, with a growth rate not as high as that for Oxford Physics. Its global acceptance rate has slightly declined, but not dramatically. The Natural Sciences program still managed an acceptance rate of around 21% in the 2020 application season, which is considered high among the many popular majors.

Given that Chinese students tend to have a considerable advantage in the sciences, particularly in Physics, the overall admission data for Chinese students applying to Physics at Oxford and Natural Sciences at Cambridge tend to be better than the global acceptance rates.

III. Gender Comparison in Application Difficulty

Looking at the global data for male and female applicants to the University of Oxford, about 10.5% of those applying for Physics are male, while only about 3.5% are female.

The gender ratio for applicants to Cambridge’s Natural Sciences is close to 3:2. This ratio shows a significant difference compared to Oxford’s Physics, mainly because there are more female applicants for Chemistry and Biology directions.

In terms of acceptance rates, male applicants to Oxford’s Physics program have an advantage over females, with a significantly higher acceptance rate. For the Natural Sciences program at Cambridge, female applicants have a much higher acceptance rate than males. It’s challenging to pinpoint the exact reasons for this, but it can be generally inferred that females have an advantage in subjects like Chemistry and Biology, which would noticeably boost their acceptance rates.

IV. Other Dimensions of Comparison

Due to limitations in length and the functionality of dynamic data display, the above comparison of the application difficulty for Computer Science at Oxford and Cambridge was made from only three dimensions.

The Youyi official website ( offers dynamic charts of Oxbridge admissions data that support analysis by various criteria, such as region, application method, and college. These charts enable detailed analysis of global admissions data for various majors at Oxford and Cambridge over the past decade and data for Chinese students admitted in the last six years. For more content related to applications for Physics at Oxford and Natural Sciences at Cambridge, please refer to the additional resources.

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