Frequently Asked Questions – The Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium

The Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium has now closed for registrations for Hilary term 2024.

What are the benefits of participating in the Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium? 

The Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium will be an exciting opportunity to develop new skills outside of your subject area through dynamic talks and group activities. You will expand your network and employable skills while learning from peers in different courses, colleges and years of study. The Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium will also be part of an innovative new digital accreditation programme that will allow you to share your participation on your CV and social media such as LinkedIn. In addition, the work of interdisciplinary teams of students will be showcased at a celebratory event in Trinity term. 

What is the time commitment? 

Participants are expected to spend between two and three hours per week on the Vice-Chancellor’s Colloquium during Hilary term. This involves keynote lectures/discussions on Wednesday evenings (5pm-7pm) during Weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7 and smaller group discussions and activities at a number of colleges in alternating weeks (Weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8). Additional time might be spent reviewing digital content, for example, short videos produced by team member Tom Crawford (@tomrocksmaths) and working in interdisciplinary student groups on a pitch, poster or creative projects.  

Why are interdisciplinary skills important? 

As Oxford University Vice-Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey explained in her 2023 Oration when she introduced the Colloquium, there is a potential divide between STEM and humanities students in higher education. Across our academic divisions and colleges, the University of Oxford is a vibrant academic community. While some opportunities exist for students to learn things outside of their subject/discipline, this new offering will be intentionally designed as an interdisciplinary offering to help students develop a range of skills related to numeracy, data analysis, critical thinking, curiosity, imagination and communication. 

How can studying climate change support interdisciplinary skills? 

The Vice-Chancellor has chosen climate change as the focus of the first year of the Colloquium. This reflects the fact that responding to climate change is a strategic priority for the University (see the Environmental Sustainability Strategy). The climate also reflects an interdisciplinary challenge, with research across the sciences and humanities helping us understand the causes, impacts and solutions of climate change. During 2023/2024, the Colloquium will approach climate change as a means to explore interdisciplinary skills. For more climate-specific offerings, see the Oxford School of Climate Change and the Oxford Networks of the Environment

How will participants be selected? 

A maximum of 200 students will be able to participate in the pilot of the Vice-Chancellor’s Colloquium in Hilary 2024. You must complete a form to express your interest between Week 4 and Week 6 of Michaelmas. If oversubscribed, places will be allocated randomly, considering factors such as academic discipline, college, year of study, and gender. Students selected must discuss the Colloquium with their tutor and confirm their commitment to participate before the end of Michaelmas term. 

Can undergraduate students in the Department for Continuing Education join the Colloquium?

Yes – provided the student has a single sign-on (SSO) and they are able to join the sessions in person, they are elligible to participate in the Colloquium.

How will my participation be recorded?

In order to receive digital certification of participation, students will need to log their attendance through a Microsoft Form – included as a QR code in the lecture slides – and complete a self-assessment at the end of Hilary term. Attendance of 80% of the eight sessions is required to receive accreditation.

How will my participation be assessed?

There will be no formal assessment of participation in the Colloquium and you will not be required to submit any essays or participate in any form of examination. As a pilot, we will be gathering feedback through a self-assessment, and this is also how you can confirm your participation and reflect on the key learning outcomes.

What kind of topics might the lectures explore?

The keynote talks will bring together two academics from different departments/disciplines to respond to the same prompts and then engage in a discussion with students. Prompts may include:

  • Understanding causality by exploring the causes of climate change.
  • Critical/systems thinking by exploring the solutions to climate change.
  • Interrogating different types of data by exploring the impacts of climate change.
  • Communicating and evaluating choice by exploring what you can do about climate change.

What is the structure of the keynote lecture sessions?

The Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium will gather on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm at the Martin Wood lecture hall in the Department of Physics on Weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7 of Hilary term. Each session will be composed of a short (5-minute) introduction, two short lectures (approximately 30 minutes each) from academics in different departments/disciplines responding to the same prompt, and additional 25 minutes of questions and discussion, and a 30-minute explanation of the digital learning content and college-based group sessions the following week.

What would one of the college group sessions look like?

The group discussions and activities on weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8 of Hilary term will be hosted by a number of colleges and facilitated by DPhil students. We anticipate that Weeks 2 and 6 will be focused on engaging with the keynotes and supplementary digital content to explore in more depth key questions and themes related to interdisciplinary skills and climate change. In weeks 4 and 8, the college-based sessions will be focused on forming and supporting the projects of interdisciplinary teams.

How will the interdisciplinary team projects work? 

As part of the smaller group discussions and activities held at colleges on Weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8 of Hilary term, students will be encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams to collaborate on a capstone project for the Colloquium. There will be three tracks of team projects: pitching innovative solutions, posters capturing interdisciplinary perspectives, and creative works on climate. These student projects will be showcased at a celebratory event with the Vice-Chancellor in early Trinity term.

Can you tell me more about the three tracks for the interdisciplinary team projects?

To reflect the interdisciplinary range of skills and responses to climate change, we’ve included three tracks:

  • Pitching innovative solutions – enter our green dragons’ den with your entrepreneurial ideas for climate solutions.
  • Posters capturing interdisciplinary perspectives – use your interdisciplinary skills and insights to communicate a key concept related to climate change.
  • Creative works on climate – the sky is the limit for your creative projects (all formats of visual and performance art and creative writing welcome).

All three tracks of team projects should focus on communicating climate solutions.

How will the college (and project) groups be selected?

Students will be assigned to the college hosting their group discussions and activities when places in the Colloquium are allocated. Within the college cohorts, the DPhil facilitators will help participants form teams of four to undertake group projects in one of the three tracks. At least two academic divisions (Humanities, MPLS, MSD and SSD) must be represented in each team.

Who is the 'core team'?

The concept for the Vice-Chancellor’s Colloquium was developed by Vice-Chancellor Irene Tracey and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Martin Williams and is being delivered by a core team at the Department for Continuing Education with support from stakeholders from across the University, colleges and Student Union. In the Department for Continuing Education, the project is being driven by Matthew Weait (Director), Tom Crawford (Public Engagement Lead for STEM and, Bill Finnegan (researcher in climate education) and Alice Evatt (researcher in philosphy and climate).