The universities of Oxford and Cambridge merit their reputation as exceptional institutions because they outshine their supposed rivals in the UK.
Although a handful of other universities are often described as "elite" institutions equal to Oxbridge, a study from the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) argues that there is no comparison.
The report, Oxford and Cambridge: How Different Are They?, published on 19 November, says Oxbridge's students are "exceptionally talented", their research is second to none and the resources they have at their disposal are greater than at any other institution in the UK.
Almost 60 per cent of students accepted to Oxford have eight or more A* grades at GCSE, compared with 14.4 per cent of those admitted to Imperial College London, the report says.
And 55 per cent of those accepted to Cambridge have more than 540 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service points, compared with 33 per cent of those recruited to Imperial and 18 per cent accepted by University College London.
Students at Cambridge spend 40 per cent more time studying during the week and Oxford students 30 per cent more than those at other Russell Group universities.
They are also more likely to be satisfied with their teaching.
However, the Hepi report notes that Oxford and Cambridge recruit more students from independent schools - for 2006, the figures were 42 per cent and 47 per cent respectively, compared with 38 per cent for Imperial and 34 per cent for UCL.
In research, the two institutions submitted by far the highest volume of high-quality research in the research assessment exercise 2008.
The report notes that Oxford and Cambridge enjoy "exceptional" sources of income, such as funding for their old and historic buildings.
As well as having the largest endowment income, they benefit financially from their university presses.
Annual transfers from the Oxford University Press to the university total about £25 million.
"From all these perspectives - certainly when all are considered together - these two really are different from other universities in the sector, including the small number of institutions with which they are sometimes compared," the report concludes.