OxTweet brings together Oxford students from a variety of subjects to share what it is like to live and study at Oxford. It allows potential applicants to gain an honest representation of life at Oxford, pose questions, and have them answered by students on the courses that the enquirers are planning to read. OxTweet is the brainchild of two undergraduates: Jamie Miles, who is reading PPE at Magdalen, and Simon Clark, a physics student at St Peter’s.
Jamie wanted OxTweet to help school students to gain a richer picture of the University when deciding whether to apply, what course to study and at which college:
As the first student from my school to go to Oxford, I felt that information on what it is like to live here was lacking. I wanted to see what rooms looked like, the food, the people and what an average day entailed. When you are considering a place to study or you have your offer confirmed, this information is invaluable. There was official University material; however, one is always sceptical about the degree of honesty in these publications, as it is inevitably biassed.
In particular, a few outdate myths persist, and would-be applicants may want to be reassured that people don’t go around speaking in Latin, and students from comprehensive schools can get into Oxford.
To address this challenge, Jamie set up a Twitter list, OxTweet, to provide a forum in an informal environment:
To make the project a success, I needed OxTweeters from a variety of subjects with a variety of interests, so the first thing I did was contact my friends. In no time, the OxTweet flock was formed and we began to document our lives. The project then gained fantastic momentum through advertising via the social media of various colleges, the student press, and word of mouth, which led to more people wanting to become OxTweeters.
OxTweet is now a thriving community of Oxonians who reach out to Oxford-curious tweeters. Its members read a variety of subjects: music, chemistry, physics, biology, medicine, biomedical sciences, mathematics, computer science, engineering, PPE, law, music, classics, languages, fine arts, and archaeology. They both tweet about their lives and respond to questions tweeted by their followers. It’s a relaxed and friendly interchange, in which there is no such thing as a ‘stupid’ question.
As well as tweeting, Jamie and Simon video-blog through the term, both from their college rooms and on location. Each has several thousand followers who eagerly await the next installment and ask questions about their lives.
The tweets will continue to exist in cyberspace, providing a rich and extensive resource about the reality of attending Oxford.
One Year On…
OxTweet is still going strong. There are now well over 20 OxTweeters who represent an even broader range of subjects and collectively have more than 7,000 followers. Jamie Miles’ YouTube channel of short videos on student life and applying to Oxford now has over 2,600 subscribers. This year they have additionally been treated to insights into his preparation for finals, one video even going under the title ‘Exams are fun’! Jamie has also been advising Cambridge students on setting up a similar initiative there. And Simon Clarke has taken the tradition to the next level of study by tweeting about life as a PhD student at Exeter University.
Early in 2014 OxTweet celebrated its first birthday with a big fillip in the form of a grant from OUSU. This has enabled Jamie to have 1,000 postcards printed for distribution to schools being targeted by the University’s access officers and to participants at the UNIQ Summer Schools. He used his YouTube channel to launch a competition for the design of the postcard. In addition to the UK, entries came from as far afield as the USA, Russia and China. The winner – announced, naturally, on YouTube – was Susanna Kierkegaard from Sweden, who will herself be studying at Oxford from Michaelmas 2014.
With Jamie preparing to leave Oxford this summer for the world of work, co-ordination of OxTweet is passing to two fellow students at Magdalen, although Jamie plans to keep in touch. So, with such a strong base of tweeters and supporters, OxTweet can look confidently ahead to its second birthday in January 2015.
Top Tips for Success
In Jamie’s words,
- We have the tools to connect people, but these tools are only as impressive as the uses we put them to. One should never feel limited by resources. There are a wealth of free tools available to everyone and we are only limited by our creativity to find new and amazing ways to use them.
- Never underestimate the impact a great team can have on ensuring a project’s success. I am always thankful for the energy and time my friends continue to contribute to the OxTweet initiative.
Follow #oxtweet on Twitter to keep up to date with all of the OxTweeters.
See Jamie’s video blogs on YouTube.
Visit the Engage website, a guide for academics on digital technologies for public engagement, knowledge exchange and impact.