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Profile: Jane Barraclough

Woman smiling in field wearing grey scarf and black coat

Jane Barraclough (2020, History)

Jane is in her third year studying history at Univ. She was previously Women*’s rep for the JCR, Co-President of the 1979 Society, and Vice President of Oxford femsoc.

Why did you choose to apply to Univ/for History?
I’m lucky in that I never had much doubt about what I wanted to study at uni. From a very young age (probably due to a considerable amount of time watching Horrible Histories) I absolutely loved history and found it by far the most engaging subject at school.

As for Univ, I can’t say that I’d heard of it before visiting Oxford on a July Open Day. I didn’t have any plan about which colleges to visit and just wandered around, having a look at the places which seemed welcoming. On my way back to the station I saw a balloon arch outside Univ and thought it might be worth having a look. I was given a tour by someone who candidly explained that he had had some difficult moments at university but he only had good things to say about the College. He told me about how much it feels like a family, about how much fun the social events are and just in general how being a part of the Univ college community can really pick you up when the pressures of university life get to you. After this conversation applying to Univ seemed like the obvious decision. There’s a reason it’s called the “goldilocks” college – not too big, not too small, just right.

Group of Oxford students wearing sub fuscHow do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
It’s hard to pinpoint specific ways that I have changed over the last two years. I feel very similar to the person I was when I arrived two years ago and yet I’ve definitely done a lot of growing up. At school, you tend to mix with people who live nearby and have similar interests so coming to Univ has definitely expanded my horizons. I’ve got friends who come from all over the country – the world, in fact – with all sorts of life experiences.

And without a doubt, I’ve developed a more rigorous and analytical approach to how I think, of course about history but really about the world in general – we do like to share opinions at Univ!

What’s your favourite part of Univ?
Brunch, Stav’s garden in summer and the blankets in Old Library – it can get a bit drafty in there!

Has anything surprised you about Oxford/Univ/your course?
I think it’s normal to hear a lot of horror stories before coming to Oxford. Whether it’s about crazily harsh tutors, a ridiculous workload or a complete lack of support I don’t know anyone who didn’t arrive at Oxford with just a little bit of trepidation. I can only speak for myself but those horror stories have proven to be far from true. Of course, there are times when the workload is tough, and essays are difficult but everyone’s in the same boat and there is so much support and understanding. By no means is there an expectation that it is your whole life. I don’t think I realised how much there actually is to Oxford besides work.

Do you have any advice for freshers and/or prospective students?
Take everything one step at a time. If you’re a prospective student then, of course, read around your subject and really develop a love for it, but most importantly make the most of being at school whilst you’re there – there will definitely be parts of it you’ll miss when it’s over. If you’re an incoming fresher then enjoy your summer before uni begins! You may have pre-reading or some work to do before you start but don’t spend your entire summer doing this. You’ll have plenty of time to work when term begins so make sure you spend time doing stuff that you enjoy. Uni is brilliant in many ways but make sure you prioritise the here and now. Also, when you first arrive just say hello to people! Everyone’s feeling a bit nervous but if you’re friendly then I promise you will find your feet and your people, very quickly.

Group of Oxford students celebrating end of examsWhy did you run for Women*’s Rep? 
At the start of my second year, I became treasurer of Oxford Feminist Society and in that capacity attended the Student Union “women*’s committee” meetings and the meetings where the Women*’s reps of the colleges come together to discuss problems and share advice. I realised that if I was going to the meetings anyway, I may as well apply to be the Univ rep!

The role of Women*’s rep is fundamentally to represent the women* of the JCR. This might mean anything from stocking a bathroom in college with free sanitary products to lobbying the College on feminist issues. There is no denying that Oxford colleges have come under scrutiny for their handling of complaints of sexual harassment and as Women*’s rep, my job was to work with college management to make sure that students at Univ are both heard and protected.

What do you do outside your studies? 
I’m not sure that before I came to university I thought I would be describing my extra-curricular activities as “feminism” but that seems to be the case now. As well as having been JCR Women*’s rep and treasurer of Oxford femsoc, I have also been co-president of the 1979 Society, or Univ’s own femsoc, named after the year women were allowed to attend the college.

When thinking about feminism in Oxford I find it important to see it like this – Oxford was founded in 1096, 1920 marked the year when women were first awarded degrees by the University, and it wasn’t until 2016 when the final all-male college accepted women. We’ve come a long way but fundamentally this university was built for men and by men and was run by men for almost 1,000 years. I think the work of feminist societies can bit by bit ensure that although Oxford wasn’t built for women* we are integral parts of its future.

Describe Univ in three words.
Brunch, cat, Shelley

Published: 27 March 2023

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