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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Pick your shade of blue
By Mike Burnett
Who went to a university no-one's heard of

The Two Ronnies
Tally-ho! Always dress up for the occasion
On Sunday 6 April, millions of people are set to become students for a day at two of the most famous universities in England.

There will be no mortar boards or academic honours on offer, just the fun of cheering on Oxford or Cambridge for their annual showdown on the River Thames.

But choosing which one to support can be a tricky dilemma, especially when the closest most of us have come to these hallowed temples of learning is accidentally switching to University Challenge on BBC2.

Still, it is time to turn up your shirt collar, perfect your public school drawl and use the following set of dodgy criteria to decide which side of the river you stand on:

Toff factor:

Bill Oddie
Keep it real with Bill Oddie
When it comes to poshness, both universities have got it in spades or, more appropriately, silver spoons.

However, in terms of dressing up in penguin suits and drinking too much 'Champers', Oxford seems to have the edge with notoriously exclusive clubs such as The Bullingdon, The Assassins and The Keats Society.

Of course, you cannot get posher than good old Prince Charles and Prince Edward who paid their university dues at Cambridge.

But if you're looking for more down-to-earth role models, they do not come more 'earthy' than Cambridge alumni Nick Hornby and Bill Oddie, beating the likes of Timmy Mallet at Oxford hands down.

Cambridge by half-a-length

Rogue factor:

Cox: Timmy Mallett
Stroke: Bill Clinton
Seven: Frank Bough
Six: Peter Snow
Five: Will Self
Four: Rupert Murdoch
Three: Richard Burton
Two: Sir Walter Raleigh
Bow: William Hague
The cream of academia have also produced a few shifty characters over the years with Oxford laying claim to likes of disgraced politicians Jonathan Aitken, Jeffrey Archer and Jeremy Thorpe.

In fairness to the Dark Blues, although Archer claimed to be a student there, the current inmate of Hollesley Bay open prison in Suffolk apparently only studied at the Oxford Department of Education.

Cambridge might not boast such a quality rogues' gallery, but still have connections to the murky world of spying with former graduates Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.

Oxford by two lengths

Fictional detectives.. er.. factor:

Vanessa Feltz
Could Feltz help Cambridge to victory?
Who can think of Oxford without mentioning popular TV sleuth Inspector Morse?

From the moment Morse, played by John Thaw, first rolled up in his red Jaguar in the 1980s, he proved a huge hit with television viewers across the country.

Cambridge, on the other hand, is still searching for a fictional detective of any note.

There have been some bold claims that Sherlock Holmes went to Cambridge, but the evidence appears to be up the creek without a paddle.

Oxford by a mile

Hollywood factor:

Cox: Samuel Pepys
Stroke: Hans Blix
Seven: Stephen Fry
Six: Peter Cook
Five: Ali G
Four: Terry Waite
Three: Richard Stilgoe
Two: Michael Portillo
Bow: Vanessa Feltz

Sir Anthony Hopkins won praise in the 1993 film Shadowlands based on writer and former Oxford student CS Lewis, but Rob Lowe fared slightly less well in forgettable flick Oxford Blues (1984).

In a plot more superficial than Three Men And A Little Lady, Lowe plays a cheeky young American who blags his way into Oxford, its rowing team and the bed of a lovely, blue-blood vision called Lady Victoria - what could be more realistic?

Cambridge has also had its brush with Hollywood, most notably with 1981 Oscar-winning classic Chariots Of Fire - although the famous run round the quadrangle was filmed at Eton College, Berkshire.

And who can forget all those luvvies who have gone on to make their mark across the pond, such as Sam Mendes, Emma Thompson and John Cleese - jolly well done darlings!

Cambridge by a couple of lengths

Blag factor:

This is a golden opportunity to pretend you're one of 'them' - able at a moment's notice to regail stories of leisurely punts on the river while reading the classics (as opposed to taking evening classes in hotel management in Grimsby).

Of course, scarves, hats and t-shirts emblazoned with "Oxford" or "Cambridge" can be bought in any major city centre, but the only statement you will be making is that you are a homestay student from Nagasaki or a retired Texan on "vacation".

Another more proven strategy is to enrol at any old institution in either city and then become really vague when anyone asks where exactly you studied: "Yeah I was at Oxford, it was one of the lesser known colleges" (meaning: "I retook my A-Levels at a sixth-form college in Iffley").

Oxford's other university also keeps the distinction from its more illustrious neighbour conveniently vague by calling itself "Oxford Brookes University".

No doubt, the word "Brookes" sometimes accidentally goes missing from many of its students' resumés.

Dead heat

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