Much brouhaha stirs up over intercollegiate athletics, but the institutions’ ostensible educational goals aren’t without their competitive edges as well; they just receive less media attention and, depending on the department, funding. A little rivalry can be healthy for a student body, encouraging them to constantly sharpen their academic skills. And, like their sportier counterparts, some of these end up snagging national (and even international!) attention.
Oxford vs. Cambridge:
Probably one of if not THE quintessential academic rivalries of all time, British intellectual juggernauts Oxford University and Cambridge University enjoy an ancient, mutually stimulating, sometimes seemingly symbiotic bond. While their educational approaches apparently differ, with Cambridge the more progressive and down-to-earth and Oxford leaning towards the conservative and prestigious, graduates always leave with an enviable, world-class education. Both were founded in the 12th century and stand as Britain’s oldest continuously-operated institutes of higher learning. Suffice to say, they’ve enjoyed ample time to cultivate a connection! In fact, a portmanteau of their names (“Oxbridge”) celebrates this lofty, laudable academic pair, whose rivalry ultimately comes off as more friendly and productive than cutthroat.
McGill vs. Queen’s
These two prestigious, public Canadian colleges enjoy some of the nation’s most generous funding (almost always in the top five), stellar rankings and alumni bragging rights, and quite possibly, its most heated rivalry. However, the majority of pokes and prods occur over athletics, which (sorry, Americans!) don’t count as academics. But when a 2002 Newsweek article declared McGill a “hot” school for its relatively affordable price tag and fabulous educational opportunities, Queen’s allegedly foamed over their exclusion. To the point Alma Mater Society President Mike Lindsay even published a little scolding in the National Post! Ouch!
Keio vs. Waseda
Japan’s answer to Oxbridge, Keio University and Waseda University both call Tokyo home and share a pretty rambunctious connection. Athletic competitions between the pair have erupted in riots, though their academic relations remain far more sedate. For over a hundred years, the nation’s top two private schools jockey back and forth between the coveted third rank position behind University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. Sometimes, though, they tie. And boy howdy does this add fuel to the fire! As it stands, Waseda views their competition as snooty, trendy jet-setters, while Keio’s perspective sticks them with the “bumpkin” label in turn.
MIT vs. CalTech
It’s only natural that the prodigious minds populating America’s premier science and technology colleges would eventually embroil themselves in gleeful academic battle. Both influential, world-class institutions delight in exchanging witty, mock-insulting banter and oftentimes point out their similarities, and their similarities are legion. Despite a rivalry spanning all the way back to the 1930s, CalTech and MIT didn’t launch any sort of prank war until around 2005. Students willingly travel across the country to “kidnap” affects, like CalTech’s cannon, though post-9/11 risks limit their options.
Harvard vs. Yale
As with many higher ed rivalries, the one between the two famed Ivy League institutions extends well beyond more high-profile athletics. Both Yale and Harvard are some of the United States’ oldest, most elite universities, and their academic competition started well before 1928. This particular date, however, saw the duo compete in their very first English essay competition. Princeton and Cornell representatives served as judges, and the winner received $5 thousand worth of books yearly, gifted from the sister of Harvard’s then-president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell.
Royal College Colombo vs. St. Thomas’ College
For the past 17 years, two of Sri Lanka’s most popular schools have engaged one another in the lauded Royal Thomian Tamil Debate Encounter. Royal College Colombo (the nation’s oldest public school) and St. Thomas’ College (an impeccably prestigious private Anglican institution) annually participate in the longest-running Tamil language debate series of all time, and such strong competition renders them solid academic rivals. Currently, RCC stands as the prevailing champion, with 9 wins to STC’s 6. They even enjoyed a 7-year winning streak lasting from 2002 to 2006.
Both academics and athletics ruffle feathers between University of California, Berkeley (usually referred to as “Cal”) and Stanford. The latter started around 1899, when Stanford discovered its hallowed Axe had been stolen. Since then, pranks ranging from sign misspellings to more artifact and mascot thefts abound. Even UCLA enjoys taking a few jabs at how their associates enjoy more Nobel Prize-winning faculty members (19 vs. 16) and named periodic table references (4 vs. 0) than the opposition.
Tokyo vs. Kyoto
Seeing as how University of Tokyo and Kyoto University sit neck-and-neck as Japan’s two most popular schools, with the former typically enjoying the number one spot, it’s only common sense that competition would spring up. The two engaged as far back as at least 1869, and super fierce battles rage across academic and athletic lines alike. Infamously persevering regional differences might very well play into their rivalry, too.
Wellesley vs. Smith
Smith and Wellesley, as private, Massachusetts-based women’s colleges under the Seven Sisters banner, were destined rivals. Although apparently far more equitable than most think, the former holds a reputation for economic snobbery, while the latter projects itself as more “of the people.” Twenty-three percent of Smith students receive Pell Grants, versus the 13% at Wellesley. Neither college compromises on academics, however, and launched engineering programs to encourage women towards the traditionally male industry. Despite the back-and-forth, these schools spend more time pumping out politicians and other world changers than cutting one another down maliciously.
Brussels’ Secular Universities vs. Brussels’ Catholic Universities
Have fun trying to make sense of the higher education milieu in Brussels! Basically, in the 1830s there existed two main universities: Free University of Brussels (secular) and Catholic University of Leuven (take a wild guess). They competed for public funding. In 1968, French and Dutch speakers at the latter found themselves arguing too much and ended up separating the school into two brand new ones; Universite catholique de Louvain represented the Francophones, while Katholieke Universitiet Leuven did the same for the Dutch. 1969 saw the former split into two separate institutions, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Dutch) and Universite Libre de Bruxelles (French). So now it’s a two-versus-two situation, competing over both ideology and money.