The Varsity Series

Varsity fixtures take place against Cambridge. Whether the team involved is the Rugby XV playing at Twickenham in front of a 30,000 strong crowd or a 3rd XI in front of their friends and family, the Varsity match is still the most important fixture in any Oxford team’s calendar. The training and hard work that go into the run up to Varsity are exemplary.

The man who began the Varsity match tradition was Charles Wordsworth of Christ Church college Oxford, who in June 1827 arranged a two-day cricket match against Cambridge at Lords.

The first Boat Race between the two universities was in 1829, and was rowed over 2 and a quarter miles between Hambleden Lock and Henley Bridge. The second Boat Race was not until 1836 which was rowed over more than double the distance, from Westminster Bridge upstream to Putney Bridge. It was in this race that one of the Cambridge oarsmen tied a light blue ribbon to the bows of the Cambridge boat (the colours of his school, Eton College).

The colour dark blue was then ascribed to Oxford because it is the colour of Christ Church College, and the Oxford crew sported white jerseys with dark blue stripes during the race. These colours have remained over the years and now sportsmen, who have represented Oxford in a Varsity match against Cambridge in a Full Blue sport, are entitled to wear a dark blue blazer.

There are many different Varsity Matches (men’s and women’s) with new ones being added each year, one of the most recent being Mixed Lacrosse and Lifesaving.


Rules Regarding Varsity Match Eligibility

Drafted and approved by the Joint Blues Committee of Oxford and Cambridge on 28 February 1983.

  • Alteration approved on 13 November 1997 which came into force from 1 October 1998
  • Reviewed 12 March 2001 to come into force 1 October 2001
  • Additional review in May 2013 to come into force 1 October 2013
  • A further review in June 2014 took place to come into force 1 October 2014*

A resident bona fide student member of the University is eligible to compete in a Blues Status Oxford versus Cambridge sporting contest, subject to the stipulations that he or she is:

a) A matriculated and fully registered member of both a College and of the University for the current year according to both College and University academic registers; and

b) Registered for, and actively studying for, a recognised degree, diploma or certificate of the University where matriculation for all members of said course is compulsory*  and;

c) In residence for at least the undergraduate (8 week) term in which the Varsity match falls, or the preceding one (if the match occurs in the ‘holiday’ period following the term in question), fulfilling University residence requirements as applied to all undergraduates; the undergraduate University residence requirements therefore would apply to all graduates ; and

d) Not already the holder of 8 Blues, having previously competed in 8 Blues status Varsity Matches in any one sport.

And either

e) Is an undergraduate, in which case his or her eligibility continues until 30 September in the year in which he or she completes his or her undergraduate course;


i) Is already the holder of a degree from a recognised University and is therefore reading for a further degree or for a diploma, certificate or higher degree of the University, in which case his or her eligibility is limited to four (4) further appearances. These four years need not be consecutive.

ii) The eligibility of such a graduate student is limited until his or her results are published in the Reporter (Cambridge) or the Examination Schools (Oxford).  However, should extra work be required after a viva to complete academic requirements, then Varsity eligibility is extended until these requirements have been met but shall not extend beyond the academic year in which the original viva takes place.   See Note: 2 below


1. For all other non Blue status Oxford vs. Cambridge matches i.e. second team competitions, the current British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) eligibility criteria shall apply.  This allows any current student on a recognised course of study within the University, irrespective of matriculation or number of years of previous participation, the right to play.**

2. For the avoidance of doubt, the academic register or equivalent must have the student status shown as ‘active’ for at the very minimum the term in which the Varsity Match falls, not withstanding all other eligibility requirements.

* Sentence underlined in section b) came into force from September 2015.

**Currently the ISIS/Goldie crews (Second teams) are eligible for a Half Blues.


If you have any further queries please contact any of these staff, who are all members of the ‘Joint Blues Committee of Oxford and Cambridge Universities’: