Find out everything you need to know about the rivalry and tradition of UK University Varsity Sport.

In addition to participating in BUCS leagues and cups throughout the year, most student-athletes will have an opportunity to partake in the historic and renowned tradition of Varsity.

Often considered to be the biggest sporting event on most UK university calendars, Varsity sees two rival universities compete against each other in a series of matches across a wide range of different sports.

These inter-university competitions have been an important part of the UK university sporting culture for many decades, bringing together students, alumni, and fans from across the country in a spirit of friendly competition.

What is Varsity?

Varsity is a term used in the UK to describe an annual sporting competition between two neighbouring universities.

Varsity matches are highly competitive and eagerly anticipated by students, alumni, and fans alike. They provide another platform for student-athletes to showcase their skills and abilities, and to represent their universities in front of large crowds of spectators.

Whether you are a student, an alumnus, or simply a fan of university sport, the varsity matches are must-see events that showcase the best of British university sport.

What happens at Varsity?

Throughout the event, the two universities will compete against each other in a wide range of sports, both indoor like badminton and table tennis, and outdoor such as football and basketball. Each sport is worth a fixed amount of points, with every victory contributing to the overall score.

The university with the most overall points at the end of the competition becomes the Varsity winner, securing a coveted trophy and most importantly, bragging rights over their rivals!

When does Varsity take place?

Varsity events often take place on a weekend between the months of February and April, once regular sporting seasons have come to an end. With students no longer having regular weekly BUCS league fixtures, teams can immerse themselves fully in the spirit of the Varsity competition.

Universities will often take turns hosting the annual event or in some cases, a neutral location will be used for the multi-sport event.

Popular UK University Varsity rivalries

Varsity rivalries tend to be based on the participating university’s geographical location.

Although many university rivalries are between institutions located in the same city or nearby, some inter-university athletic competitions occur between universities in different locations.

Here are four popular UK University Varsity matchups:

University of Nottingham vs. Nottingham Trent University

Separated by just 2 miles, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University are both located in the city of Nottingham, England.

2024 Champions: University of Nottingham

Leeds Beckett University vs University of Leeds

Both the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University are situated in Leeds, a city in the north of England in Yorkshire.

2024 Champions: Leeds Beckett University

Swansea University vs Cardiff University

The varsity matchups between Cardiff University and Swansea University, both located in Wales, showcase the deep-rooted athletic tradition shared by both institutions.

2024 Champions: Swansea University

University of Cambridge vs University of Oxford

The oldest Varsity matchup on record between Cambridge and Oxford took place in 1827! As two of the oldest universities in the UK, their Varsity competition pulls in some of the largest student crowds of the year.

2023 Champions: Cambridge University

Learn more about UK University Sport

With over 5,000 teams competing across 50 different sports each academic year, there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved with UK university sport alongside their studies.

We proudly work with the leading sporting and academic institutions throughout the U.K. and are able to offer students of all ages and levels of study the opportunity to combine their preferred academic qualifications with their sporting ambitions.

Learn more about UK university sport and how we can help you via the link below.

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