The Univ Alternative Prospectus aims to attract potential applicants to University College by offering peer to peer information advice and guidance. We wanted to tackle any misconceptions about applying to Oxford, particularly those of concern to non-traditional students. All material is written by current students.
The project was guided by the college Access Officer in conjunction with the students of the Junior Common Room and a designer. The college reduced expenditure on traditional printed publications and decided to spend the majority of print budget on the alternative prospectus. The process of collaboration resulted in an entirely student written publication with tailored, individually art worked pages. The designer used was Andy Welland (www.ephemeralforever.com) We printed at The Guardian newspaper print presses on a berliner format.
The alternative prospectus is a long-running Oxford tradition and an important ‘conversion tool’ at the point when a prospective applicant considers which Oxford college to apply to. Feedback via our post-interview exit surveys has highlighted the material as a significant factor in applicants’ decision making.
We wanted to move away from a very pedestrian alternative prospectus and make the publication more interesting and feature-esque in content. For example, our facts page and the page regarding the tutorial are very strong standalone pieces. We wanted to overcome barriers to applicants such as specialist language (and for this purpose we used a crossword to explain jargon)! We decided to try and create something that people would want to read and enjoy rather than something they felt they just ‘had’ to read. Both the visual aspects and the register of our language used would be of utmost importance.
Involving the college community in innovative ways
Students from across the college were invited by their JCR officers to submit photos for the publication on flickr and to a dedicated email account. The flickr group that shows the contributions of students can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/universitycollegeoxford/
The images vary from budding photographers to mobile phone snaps. We also invited students to bring in various pieces of paraphernalia from student life which we then scanned in and used to develop ideas around student life.
Students also put a large map up in the college and allowed fellow students to pinpoint their favourite places in Oxford. This was then worked into the ‘Univ guide to Oxford’ map which we placed in the middle of the prospectus to allow for a ‘pull out and keep’ possibility.
Several tutors were involved in the alternative prospectus too as they participated in candid tutor interviews as part of our ‘Meet the tutors’ page. They also kindly supplied photos of themselves as university students. We believe this page helps to break down any preconceptions prospective applicants have about what an Oxford tutor is like.
Each page also has a tiny little alumnus and description in each corner to make our famous students more accessible.
• Use of newspaper print (which is very good value for money and easy to carry being very lightweight).
• Reduction in traditional print media to free up budget
• Collaborative working with students
• Easily recyclable nature of the material
• The increased amount of print (5000) means we can distribute to young year groups without fear of running out
• The copy produced by the students is also innovative in its warmth and consideration of audience. For example the inclusion of information around transitioning from A-level to Oxford workload has not been seen in any publication before.
Impact and dissemination
Approximately 80% of students in our post interview questionnaire 2010 have stated the alternative prospectus to be their most useful piece of information when deciding which college to apply to. The publication is also unique in the fact that applicants are disseminating between themselves on websites such as www.thestudentroom.com. Individual elements such as our pull-out map have been used by other organisations in Oxford such as the flagship UNIQ summer schools.
Dissemination points included:
On flickr as an album with zoom feature
Open Days and in-school visits
The Access Officer gave an interview for ‘The University Blog’ http://theuniversityblog.co.uk/2011/06/22/applying-to-oxbridge-isnt-scary/
Emailed out to the wider college community
Posted in facebook albums and pdf shots on www.facebook.com/universitycollegeoxford
Promoted on our social media accounts including twitter: @univoxford
Emailed out as part of the wider university teacher e-news letter and teachers then requested copies to be sent to their schools
Building and extending the project with video
Giving our student ambassadors the ability to create outreach materials has encouraged a DIY ethic. They have gone on to create a stop-motion video that can be accessed at: https://vimeo.com/32195549 This self-sustaining group of students are key to ensuring the project continues to evolve and suit the needs of our prospective applicants.
‘A Whistle-Stop Tour of University College, Oxford’ is produced using ‘Stop Motion’ animation. (Hundreds of photos are stitched together to produce a DIY film effect.) The technique creates a stilted movement, injecting humour and interest into the video as students move about the College grounds. Hundreds of photos are stitched together to produce a DIY film effect. The soundtrack was composed specially for the project by a supportive friend of the College. The video incorporates images from our Alternative Prospectus and College crest.
The video has had more than 2000 views on YouTube since June 21, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDWX565YgDs. We embedded the video on our Facebook page where it received over 3100 ‘impressions’, bringing the total views to well over 5000.
One of our student ambassadors involved with the project said:
“The popularity of YouTube for young people made the stop motion movie format perfect. It’s easy to watch and share, and is great for those without the opportunity to visit Oxford. The simplicity makes it; there’s no ‘information-overload’, just a chance to take a peek at something people often think is not within their reach.”