Oxford offers so many different ways to get involved no matter what your cause or passion and the amazing friends you’ll make along the way mean that the time spent volunteering will be one of your best experiences at university.
Working in the Community
Oxford Student Union (Oxford SU)
If you’re looking to do volunteering but don’t know where to start, have a look at Oxford SU’s Volunteering Portal. There you will see opportunities from charities, community groups, and other organisation which you can sign up for. Once you start volunteering you can log the hours you volunteer and the skills your gain along the way, which all go towards milestone awards. When it comes time for you to start thinking about your CV and job, you can download a report as evidence of all the volunteering you’ve done to show to potential employers.
Oxford SU also has a number of initiatives to help you get involved in your local community:
If you’re passionate about fundraising for charity, the SU’s Raise and Give (RAG) is the place to go. RAG is the group that has it all – hitch hikes, sports tournaments, talent shows, street collections and the prestigious RAG Ball. All the money raised goes to four charities elected by students each February. Charities that have been chosen to benefit from RAG include Oxfordshire Mind, Keen Oxford, Meningitis Now, and Beat Eating Disorders.
If you’re interested in access work then Target Schools is the group for you. Target Schools run four shadowing days for sixth form students to experience ‘a day in the life of an Oxford student’ with an Oxford undergraduate. All safeguarding training is provided and you can take part in as many or few days as you can.
Do you have a passion for radio presenting, technical support, or journalism? Oxford SU has a recording studio which is home to the SU radio station Oxide. You can sign up to present a show or join the committee. If journalism is your thing, you could become an editor or writer for the long running (since 1991) newspaper the Oxford Student - which produces a new issue every week of term and is sent to all Oxford colleges.
There are positions available in all of Oxford SU’s campaigns; LGBTQ+, Disabilities, Women’s, Class Act, International Students, Suspended Students, and Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE). The campaigns organise research projects, do lobbying, and are the community hub for the students they represent. All the campaigns can be found online.
If you want to get involved in the democratic running of Oxford SU, you could run to be the Chair of Council and oversee the fortnightly Student Council meetings which make SU policy, hold Sabbatical Officers to account, and discuss the most important issues facing students at Oxford. Alternatively you could run to be an Oxford SU Returning Officer and look after the Annual Elections which see over 20% of the Oxford student population participating to choose the leadership of Oxford SU. There are many other opportunities including Elections Committee, Scrutiny Committee, and Steering Committee, which all work to ensure Oxford SU is working for its members.
If you have an idea which doesn’t fit into something Oxford SU currently does, they can still support you and help you make it a reality. SU Projects are proposals to Student Council which receive staff support, space on the SU website, and a start-up fund. Check out the SU Projects page to submit your idea.
The Oxford Hub
Oxford Hub is the centre for local volunteering at Oxford. If you're looking for an opportunity to get involved in the local community, there are over 22 student-led projects to get involved in. You can support young people with their learning in local schools, help run a local sustainable food growing project, or organise activity days for young carers in Oxford city. There are opportunities to suit all interests but if there isn't something that's right for you, you can get help to set a new project up.
Oxford Hub has its own home at 16-17 Turl St, housing a cafe bar restaurant (The Turl St Kitchen), as well as a cosy lounge and events space open all day during term-time. To find out more, visit the Hub in person or online.
It surprises many to know educational attainment in Oxford secondary schools falls well below the national average. Over 200 student volunteers work with young people in city schools to enable them to reach their full academic potential. School Plus volunteers offer one to one or small group support for pupils in a number of academic subjects as well as offering occasional one off events for visit days in specific subject areas.
Branch Up runs activity days for local children from a range of challenging backgrounds. Volunteers organise regular activity days for up to 15 children a session in term time, matching them with a dedicated mentor for the day. The initiative places a high value on one to one relationships fostered through the project, allowing the children to benefit from positive adult relationships that they may not have in other areas of their lives.
Oxgrow and the Hogacre Community Cafe
Oxgrow is a community food growing initiative built on the site of a former college playing ground. Oxgrow now acts as giant community allotment, maintained by volunteers from both the student and permanent resident community. Oxgrow enables volunteers to learn more about food growing and to increase the amount of food grown locally in Oxford City. In 2013 a group of student volunteers also worked to redevelop a disused pavilion on the site into a community cafe to serve the local community and to generate income for Oxgrow and the rest of the Hogacre site.
Work-based student volunteering
Oxford Student Consultancy
The Student Consultancy is a programme of learning and development activities that links students to local Oxfordshire businesses and community organisations. The programme provides employability skills training and work-based experiences to undergraduate and postgraduate students and an opportunity for local SMEs, charities and community organisations to access free consultancy services.
Students from all disciplines and year levels participate in the programme and work in teams of four to address a strategic issue or business problem affecting the organisation. Since it was started in April 2009, more than 750 students have participated in the programme and worked on over 250 projects including: Community Action Groups, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford City Council Housing, Oxfam, Pegasus Theatre and the Oxford Playhouse.
Oxford Legal Assistance (OLA)
Oxford Legal Assistance (OLA) is the first pro bono programme at the University of Oxford open to undergraduates as well as the University's first programme involving practical legal work for the benefit of people living in the local area. OLA co-ordinates a range of projects with Turpin and Miller, a local legal aid law firm, and the Oxford Citizens Advice Bureau where second year Oxford Law undergraduates can both develop their practical legal skills and help the local community.