Your first few weeks | University of Oxford
New students chatting in Holywell Quad
New students chatting in Holywell Quad
Copyright © OUImages / John Cairns Photography

Your first few weeks

Welcome to the University of Oxford in what is likely to be an exciting and hectic few weeks. Here you will find information to help you settle in and find your way around.

1. Term dates

You will be sent the date on which you should arrive, along with a timetable of orientation activities by your college or department. Pre-sessional courses, freshers' events, teaching and examinations may take place outside of official term dates (known as Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity). Check with your college or department before making travel plans.

2. Find your way around at Oxford

Oxford is approximately 60 miles northwest of London with excellent road and national rail links, including direct coach services from several international airports. Traffic congestion and a lack of parking mean that bringing your own car to Oxford is not advised. Maps and directions are available.

The online access guide contains information on building accessibility and the contact details of people who can help you with access needs. The Mobile Oxford app can help you to navigate between buildings and help you do your day-to-day tasks. Whether it's finding a library book, checking the next bus or even finding what time the nearest post box is collected.  If you would like a guided audio tour of parts of the city, Know Your Oxford will help you get an insider’s view to student life in central Oxford. 

3. Freshers' week

Freshers' week, which takes place in Week 0 (the week before term begins), includes orientation activities for new students including the annual Freshers' Fair, registration, tours, and social events. Your college or department will send you details of activities you are expected to attend during your first few weeks. The graduate induction timetable [pdf] shows how your time may be divided between your college and department induction activities.

4. Council tax exemption and bank accounts

Once you have completed your University registration, an enrolment certificate will be available from Student Self Service to download and print confirming your enrolled status at the University of Oxford for the current academic year. This certificate may be used by students living outside of college or hall accommodation to claim for council tax exemption and also as supporting documentation if you have not yet opened a student bank account.

5. Health and welfare

There are a number of services available to support you during your studies. Advice and help is available from your college, your department, central University services, fellow students, and the Oxford University Student Union (Oxford SU). So no matter what the problem, there is always somebody who can help. Full details will be provided to you by your college when you first arrive. Visit health and welfare for more information.

The Counselling Service provides information on adjusting to university life, including how to manage the transitions and expectations of starting university. Find out more on the resources page.

6. Clubs and societies

Over 200 clubs and societies covering a wide variety of interests are available for you to join, meaning there is something for everybody at the University. Sign up during Freshers’ Fair in Week 0, or visit Oxford life to find out more.

7. Your University card

Your University card will be issued to you by your college (or department in the case of non-matriculated course students) on arrival in Oxford once your University registration has been completed. The card:

  • enables you to access facilities and services such as libraries, computing services and the Language Centre
  • acts as a payment card in some colleges and departments
  • allows entry to buildings which have swipe-card access control
  • provides you with a form of identity whenever you are on college or University premises
  • gains you a student discount at many stores, including 10% off in the University’s High Street Shop and online at

Look after your University card carefully as you will be charged a fee for a replacement lost card. If your card is lost, stolen or damaged inform your college or department administrator to request a replacement. Reporting a lost or stolen card quickly will help prevent unauthorised use including identify theft for which you may be held responsible. Return damaged, expired or found cards to your college or department administrator to destroy. 

Please be aware that you are not permitted to lend or loan your Card to anybody else. Doing so contravenes Section 6 of the Bodleian Libraries Rules of Conduct. If a student allows another person to use their card, they have committed a serious breach of Library regulations and it may result in disciplinary procedures, at a proctorial level, being initiated.

8. Matriculation

Matriculation is the ceremony that marks your formal admission to the University. Attendance is compulsory unless you are entitled to incorporate or you are told otherwise by your college or department. The required dress for matriculation is known as sub fusc.

9. Oxford glossary

The Oxford glossary explains words and terms which are unique to Oxford and may seem confusing at first.

10. Starting to study

Part of the challenge of university life is learning how to manage your time to fit the demands of your course. You will find that different courses have different work patterns, in both the kind of work and how many hours of formal teaching and personal study is required. You may be set work in Week 0 and you will need to organise your time to prepare your first assignment(s). If you are provided with a reading list, you may need to consult more than one library to find all of your key texts.

During Freshers’ week you will have tours of the libraries, including sessions on how to use the computer-based catalogues. Visit academic matters for course information and an introduction to the range of learning resources available.

11. Register to vote to have your say in a UK election

To have your say in an election or referendum in the UK, you must be registered to vote. Register to vote online at Registration takes five minutes, with the steps highlighted in this short video. Alternatively, you can register to vote by post, downloading the Voter registration forms page on the website. Further information, including how to update your name, address or other details on the electoral register can also be found on the Register to Vote page.

12. Health and welfare 

A range of services are available to support you during your studies at Oxford. You can get advice and details from your college, department, central University services, fellow students and OUSU. You are also strongly advised to register with a National Health Service (NHS) GP (general practitioner) in Oxford. The majority of students find that the most convenient arrangement is to register with their college doctor. For minor sickness and ailments, you may be able to consult and be treated by a college nurse, where available, and most colleges provide sickbays or have special arrangements for students who are confined to bed. Like all doctor-patient relationships, those between college doctors, college nurses and students are confidential.

If you think you might require disability related support, or any adjustments to your examinations, contact the Disability Advisory Service. The Disability Advisory Service works with students and staff to create an accessible and inclusive learning environment, providing advice on individual reasonable adjustments designed to remove or reduce barriers to learning. The service works with staff in colleges and departments to put in place any necessary support and help to arrange any examination adjustments which might be needed.

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