FRESHERS' EVENT GUIDANCE

"Participants thoroughly enjoyed the event, as it gave them an opportunity to meet some friendly faces and make them feel at home in Oxford (even as they were mostly attending the event in their own homes!)…if nothing else, the event gave us cause to reminisce fondly." – Oxford10 Committee Member – feedback from Freshers event in 2020

Background

Many alumni groups host pre-arrival events throughout the summer for potential students starting a course at the University in Michaelmas Term. These events provide an opportunity for incoming students to make friends, ask questions and get an idea of what to expect when they arrive. Attendees can benefit greatly from speaking to current students, recent graduates and alumni offering information and advice for living and studying at Oxford. They also enable groups to engage meaningfully with students and stay connected to the University. It is also a great opportunity to encourage students to maintain contact with the group.

Purpose of guidelines 

This document sets out an approach so that events for incoming student hosted by University alumni groups are welcoming and accessible. It aims to advise alumni group representatives on:

  1. Good practice in planning, promoting and prioritising the wellbeing of undergraduate and postgraduate students attending such events; and
  2. Hosting events that support the Collegiate University in tackling myths and misconceptions about Oxford. 
IN-PERSON EVENTS

Expand All

The latest information from the University for offer-holders can be found here.

Before the event
  • Colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) will be in contact with offer-holders over the coming months to provide further information on the arrangements for their courses, as it becomes available. They are also the best initial point of contact for any queries offer-holders may have at present.
  • You may wish to pass on the following information link to students who join your events:
  • If you held an event last year and are planning one this year, consider contacting students who attended last year (if you still have their contact details and consent to contact them) to see if they might like to be involved this year. Particularly consider those who may have been in touch to join your group following the groups’ promotion to departing students.
    • Also consider asking your members for their memories of their time at Oxford and any useful hints and tips they would like to share with prospective students.
  • Think about the format of the event – will it be a Q&A session, presentation, general discussion, etc? We would recommend a format that includes a combination of information giving but also provides the opportunity for attendees to ask questions.
  • Plan your content – content is crucial – make sure it is engaging and tailored to your audience.
  • Consider asking participants to submit questions in advance by email.  This will also allow an opportunity for any participant that may not be comfortable asking a question during the event.
  • Also consider the timing of the event to ensure maximum participation – a daytime event, for instance, may prohibit some people from attending.
  • Invite students to join your group
    • Please give careful consideration as to how you will collect and manage this data in line with GDPR or local data protection guidance. Contact details should not be shared without the explicit consent of the person in question. Please see the Group Handbook for further information.

The Collegiate University encourages events for upcoming students that are accessible and inclusive and that make attendees feel comfortable and safe. Despite best intentions, some venues may have the effect of making some attendees feel daunted or demoralised and even worried that Oxford might not be for them. The guidelines also seek to safeguard students and alumni alike by reducing any perceived or actual risks associated with minors being in the company of adults, on private property. Holding an event in a public environment does not remove that risk, but it does reduce it.

  • It is recommended that the venue is neutral, public and accessible. Many students will not have their own transport and may be reliant on public transport, which means they will incur a cost to attend the event. Please factor this in to your decision when deciding on a venue.
  • Traditional private members’ clubs (such as the Oxford and Cambridge Club, London) are best avoided, but can be considered if no other venue is available, provided that there is no dress code and that it is made clear to attendees that they are not required to become members of the club, or pay an entrance fee over and above any small charge associated with attending the event.
  • Other types of private members’ clubs or associations (such as private sports clubs) and private schools are suitable venues, on the same provisos as for traditional private members’ clubs.
  • Please do not hold the event in a private house (such as a group member’s home).
  • If the group feels it has no alternative but to host an event in a private home (which we do not recommend), please give careful consideration to mitigating the risks of having young adults or minors in a private residence. For example, make sure that parents/guardians are invited.  Please be aware that many people will still feel uncomfortable in an event environment and would be prefer to be able to socially distance from others.

Groups are encouraged to hold events for new students that are informal and inclusive and an effective way to convey this tone to attendees is to let them wear whatever they feel comfortable in. Dress codes can be problematic, because they can inadvertently exclude students who do not own the required garments or who feel uncomfortable wearing them. The guideline below seeks to address this.

  • It is recommended that there is no dress code. Where a venue operates a dress code, it is suggested that the group seeks to arrange with the venue a concession to the code for the duration of the event.

If a group is considering providing alcohol at the event, it is important to bear in mind that attendees could be under the legal drinking age for their location. There are risks associated with serving alcohol and groups should take measures to keep attendees safe. The guidance below seeks to address this.

  • Groups offering alcoholic drinks are requested to do so in line with local licensing laws and to observe the minimum legal drinking age for their country/region.
  • Where alcohol is offered (for example, a glass of wine on arrival or as a toast), groups are asked to safeguard attendees from alcohol misuse and peer pressure to drink alcohol.
  • Please ensure that non-alcoholic drinks are readily available. 

Many students are on a tight budget and might be unable to afford to attend the event if they are to be charged. Groups are therefore encouraged to waive, or at least cap, any fees in order to make their events inclusive to student on all budgets. The following guidelines seek to address this.

  • It is recommended that attendees are not charged an entrance fee or for refreshments.
  • If charging is unavoidable:
    • it is recommended that a venue offering low or concessionary rates for hire and refreshments is booked.
    • it is recommended that the charge is capped at £5 (or local equivalent) per attendee and covers any reasonable costs (such as for venue hire, first drink and nibbles) that will enable the attendee to participate fully in the event.
    • the charge is to be advertised up front to prospective attendees.
    • charges are to be used only to recoup the group outlay for hosting the event, or to cover venue hire or refreshments (these events are not intended to generate a profit).
  • To keep costs down, some groups hold their events in a member’s place of business. Many groups use any profits generated from other events to subsidise their events. Some groups choose to split the costs among members.
  • Upon meeting certain conditions, financial support may be available from the Networks Team – please contact us to find out more.
VIRTUAL EVENTS

Expand All

The Collegiate University encourages virtual events for new students that are accessible and inclusive and that make attendees feel comfortable and safe.

Various video conferencing platforms are available for you to consider, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, some of which you may be familiar with. These include:

Think about the platform you’re using, to ensure the event is accessible to all. For instance, choose a platform that also works on a mobile device as some participants may not have access to a desktop computer or laptop.

Anticipate connectivity issues and other technical issues - have a trial run with the technology, particularly if it is new to you. Test it out with friends or colleagues.

You may also like to choose a platform which offers a ‘chat/messaging’ function, so participants can submit questions during the event.

It’s worth having a ‘waiting room’ area, if the function is available, so attendees can’t check in before you and enables you to manage who joins the event.

You should be mindful of data protection and associated legislation relevant to the country you are in with whichever platform you decide upon.

The Oxford University Society of Munich has written a guide to hosting virtual events in general and using platforms such as Zoom, which you can view here.

Data protection – some points you should consider:

  1. How secure the platform you’re using to host the event is.
    1. Groups in UK & EU countries - any software should be GDPR compliant.
      Find out more here (UK specific, see the appropriate data protection organisation within your own country)
    2. Rest of world groups – You should be mindful of data protection and that any software you use should adhere to data protection legislation in your country.
  2. How you will process registrations and manage the data collected. Contact details of participants should not be shared with others without their explicit consent.

Further guidance on data protection for alumni groups can be found here.

The latest information from the University for offer-holders can be found here.

Before the event
  • Colleges (for undergraduates) or departments (for graduate students) will be in contact with offer-holders over the coming months to provide further information on the arrangements for their courses, as it becomes available. They are also the best initial point of contact for any queries offer-holders may have at present.
  • You may wish to pass on the following information link to students who join your events:
  • If you held an event last year and are planning one this year, consider contacting students who attended last year (if you still have their contact details and consent to contact them) to see if they might like to be involved this year. Particularly consider those who may have been in touch to join your group following the groups’ promotion to departing students.
    • Also consider asking your members for their memories of their time at Oxford and any useful hints and tips they would like to share with prospective students.
  • Think about the format of the event – will it be a Q&A session, presentation, general discussion, etc? We would recommend a format that includes a combination of information giving but also provides the opportunity for attendees to ask questions.
  • Ensure instructions are sent out to participants sufficiently in advance of the meeting, which explain how attendees can participate in the session.
  • Some students may have accessibility needs – please consider this when setting up your event and work with the student to work out the best way to support their attendance.
  • Plan your content – content is crucial – make sure it is engaging and tailored to your audience.
  • Consider asking participants to submit questions in advance by email.  This will also allow an opportunity for any participant that may not be comfortable asking a question during the event.
  • Also consider the timing of the event to ensure maximum participation – a daytime event, for instance, may prohibit some people from attending.
  • Consider where you are located – choose somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Also be mindful of what is in your background. Some video conferencing facilities offer the option to blur your background.
  • Ensure that you are fully prepared and log in to the session at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time to check systems are running as they should be, etc.
During the event
  • Ensure participants are aware how to message/raise hands, etc before the event officially starts, if these functions are available.
  • Advise participants to switch on ‘mute’ when joining the conversation (and possibly turn off their video when not speaking, to save on bandwidth)
  • Ask group leaders/current students/presenters to introduce themselves briefly and give an outline of the event at the start, so attendees know what to expect.
  • Try to make the session as interactive as possible and encourage participation, so that attendees get the maximum benefit out of it.
  • Think about having separate ‘rooms’ so that smaller conversations can take place.
  • Be aware that some participants may be joining from public spaces or shared rooms etc so may not be able to talk or participate verbally. Make sure the “chat” or messaging function is available and questions are responded to.
After the event
  • Invite freshers to join your group!
    • Please consider GDPR or local government guidance on how to collect this data and hold it securely. Do not share anyone’s contact details without explicit consent. See the Group Handbook for more information.
  • Forward on any presentation materials to participants.
  • Consider sending out a post-event survey to participants, to gain feedback.
  • Consider using any social media channels you might have to set up sub-groups within them which attendees can join and connect with one another post-event.

Virtual events should be free where possible to ensure inclusivity, as many students are on a tight budget and may not be able to afford to join.

It should be made clear to those joining the event that they are not required to become members, or pay anything above a small charge associated with joining the event.

  • Any charge should be advertised up front to attendees.
  • Charges are to be used only to recoup the group’s outlay for hosting the event.

Subject to meeting certain conditions, financial support may be available to alumni groups to enable the hosting of a Freshers event. Please contact the team to find out more.