Oxford student nightlife
Looking down Queens street at night taken from the High street Junction
Copyright © Greg Smolonski. This image comes from Oxford University Images - All rights reserved.

Nights out

We all deserve to be part of a community where we feel safe, welcome and respected. As part of the Oxford University community, it is important to prioritise our own safety, as well as the safety of others at all times, but particularly on nights out.

Here are some tips to help you feel secure, stay safe and look out for yourself and your peers on a night out.

Nightsafe Oxford

The University works with the police, council, local businesses, charities, and Oxford Brookes to support everyone to feel safe on a night out in Oxford. Whether you need a safe place, a phone charger or just a friendly face, there is lots of support under the Nightsafe network. You are invited to report any areas in the city where you feel unsafe on the Oxford women’s safety website (not to be used in an emergency).

Safe Lodge scheme

Any Oxford University student can ask for help from any participating college lodge, under the Safe Lodge scheme. Look out for the green circle by the lodge entrance where you can go in and ask for a phone call back to your own college welfare team and a taxi home.

Keep in touch with friends

If you are planning a night out with friends, you might want to set up a temporary WhatsApp group – that way you can text each other if you find yourself alone, if you have separated from the group or find yourself in a difficult situation, and check in with a friend if you've lost contact.

Staying safe alone

It can feel safer to go home with friends or in a group - try not to walk home late at night on your own. Consider using a Personal Safety App such as Hollie Guard. If you carry a personal safety alarm, keep it in an easily accessible place and carry it in your hand if you feel at risk.

Try to stick to busy streets and near other people, avoiding poorly-lit areas, deserted parks, or quiet alleyways and walk facing oncoming traffic.

Every modern phone has some form of emergency safety function to call 999 if you are unsafe, so it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with this. You can also let your phone know who your emergency contacts are so it can alert them if you contact the emergency services. Some phones can be configured to automatically send your location to your chosen emergency contacts.

Spiking advice

Anyone can be at risk of having their drink ‘spiked’ (when a drug or extra alcohol is added to your drink without your knowledge). Spiking can happen anywhere and can be carried out by strangers or by people you know. Asking bar staff if the venue offers drink covers, or choosing drinks that come in bottles can reduce the risk of being spiked.

The signs of being spiked

It can be difficult to tell if your drink has been spiked, but there are a range of things to look out for:

  • Nausea, dizziness, confusion
  • Hallucinations or paranoia
  • Disorientation or poor coordination
  • Loss of ability to communicate properly
  • Unconsciousness
  • Feeling strange or more drunk than you thought you should be

If you leave your drink unattended, don't come back and drink it. If your drink changes in appearance or taste, stop drinking it.

If you think you or a friend has been spiked you can:

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff
  • Stay with them and keep talking to them
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home on their own or with someone you don’t know or trust
  • Don’t let them drink more alcohol - this could lead to more serious problems
  • Call an ambulance if the symptoms get worse and / or report the incident to the police by calling 999 or 101

Being spiked is never the victim's fault. The responsibility lies with the person who has chosen to do the spiking. Please make sure your friend is not left alone, and gets home safely. Reach out for help and support if needed.

Personal safety is always important, however if someone is assaulted or spiked, it is not their fault. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are - the only person to blame is the person who has done the spiking. Please reach out for help and support if you need it.

Using public transport

If you are planning to use public transport, always check the times of the last train or buses.

Be aware of the details of a trusted, licensed taxi or minicab company or have a suitable booking app available on your phone.

Never take an unlicensed minicab, as these are unchecked, uninsured and can potentially be very dangerous.

Being a Bystander

If you see someone else in trouble, assess whether it is safe for you to intervene or not, before getting involved.

If safe to do so, it is normally less risky to approach the person you are concerned about / who is being targeted to see if they are ok. This can show solidarity and diffuse the situation, without directly communicating with the person causing the trouble, and risking aggravating the situation.

If it is unsafe, or feels unsafe to step in you can:

  • Shout for help
  • Ask someone nearby e.g. in a local shop or bar to support you to intervene
  • Call the police on 999 if the situation is an emergency (e.g. if a crime is happening, or when someone is injured, being threatened or in danger)
  • Film what is happening from a safe distance, including (where possible) street signs, landmarks etc. Ask the person being targeted what they want you to do with this once it is safe to do so.

Ask for Angela

Sometimes you can find yourself in a situation that isn’t safe or that makes you feel uncomfortable. In premises that operate Ask for Angela, you can discreetly ask for help from a member of staff if this happens.

None of these suggestions guarantees you will be safe, but they can all make you less vulnerable to being targeted by others.

If you are on a night out and somebody compromises your safety, it is not your fault. Free confidential and non-judgemental support is available to you through the University's Support Service. Whatever has happened and whatever the circumstances, we are here to support you.

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