Both Oxford and Cambridge are comprised of a collection of colleges, each a self-governing institution, complete with endowments, property and resources. All students and nearly all academics are affiliated to a college, which provides welfare, teaching, accommodation and social benefits, among other things. Oxford is home to 38 colleges, whilst Cambridge has 31. Three of Cambridge’s colleges (Murray Edwards, Newnham and Lucy Cavendish) admit women only, whilst all other Oxbridge colleges are mixed sex. Colleges are not required to admit students for every subject, and indeed there are certain subjects that not all colleges will offer.
One of the major benefits of the college system is that it is a microcosm of the university as a whole, complete with its own amenities, extracurricular societies and accommodation. To be a part of a college is to be a part of a community of peers, and when compared to the rather anonymous halls of residences found at most other universities, this sense of shared adventure and academic purpose really marks out the Oxbridge experience.