A University wasn't a requirement for City status in England, just a cathedral.(or, more specifically, a Bishop). Which is why Wells, in Somerset, is a city, despite being a small market town.
I *think* that a Royal Charter is required to create a city so the criteria doesn't apply any longer.
Yeah, I knew the cathedral was a definite. As you say, it's all done by Royal charter now.
Aren't both Oxford and Cambridge cities without cathedrals? I'm guessing their city status has something to do with royalty attending the universities.
Cambridge is cathedral-less: the area's cathedral and bishop are located some fifteen miles down the road, at Ely. I'd figure that Cambridge's city status is, in one way or another, an exception derived from the place's being the site "since forever", of a prestigious university.
Oxford has a bishop, and a cathedral -- said cathedral being within -- and the place of worship serving -- Oxford University's Christ Church College. All Oxford and Cambridge colleges, except maybe some of the newest ones, have in-built chapels, in which services of worship take place. Christ Church College, Oxford, has a centuries-old reputation for being the university's most insufferably snooty-and-snobby college -- it's where the gilded and supercilious scions of the aristocracy have long gone for their studies: students at Christ Church have long taken it for granted that they are "the People, and the Only People" -- proles at other colleges, are beneath contempt. (OK, a bit of exaggeration and cherished-Oxford-myth stuff there.) Thus, Christ Church bods have long been fond of saying: "you low-lifes have mere chapels in your colleges. We've got a cathedral."