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Connecting to OWL as a Visitor

1. Introduction

This service is very similar to that provided in coffee shops and airport lounges.

Accounts for this service are available from nominated persons within each department or college in the University. If you are visiting an individual at the University, ask them to obtain an account from their local IT support officer. If you are part of a group or conference, then your group organisers will be responsible for obtaining a batch of accounts and distributing credentials to you.

Please note that the visitor service:

  1. is provided as a service for colleges and departments to deliver to eligible visitors.  For non-eligible visitors (eg general public, B&B, wedding reception guests etc) units should consider subscribing to the University Public Wi-Fi Service.
  2. must not be used by members or staff of the University. They may use eduroam, the OWL and the VPN service, or a locally provided SSID, to access the wireless network.
  3. has regrettably no support available from IT Services for visitors in configuring their devices to use the service. Visitors should not be sent to the IT Services helpdesk for assistance as we will have to turn them away.

2. Connecting to the service

  1. The Visitor Network was designed many years ago when smartphones and laptops were uncommon and consequently doesn't always work well if a single account is used with multiple devices. We strongly recommend that you obtain one visitor account per device you plan to use.
  2. Make sure your device is associated to the OWL wireless network; no other special configuration is required
  3. Open a web browser and attempt to view a page on the Internet. You will be redirected to our secure login site and then asked for your Visitor Network credentials
  4. We also have some terms and conditions that you must accept before being allowed full access
  5. Your web browser will be redirected after the log in process completes, either to your original site or the main University website, signifying a successful login
  6. Sessions remain open for up to 10 hours, at which point you must log in again. This is a security measure, and will continue for the period that your account remains active
  7. If you switch off your computer for more than 15 minutes, your session may also time out. Use the same web browser method described above to log back in - it may be an automatic login if your browser still has a valid cookie

3. After Login

This service will be unencrypted. We strongly recommend that you only use secure protocols when transmitting private information. Establish a secure VPN connection to your home institution, if one is available.

Many email clients are not configured to use secure protocols. Be especially careful when sending and receiving email. The University of Oxford will not be held responsible for loss or theft of data as a result of using an unencrypted protocol over this network.

Connections to OWL are rate limited. Each client is capped to 8Mbps for download and upload. This measure has been introduced to provide fair service for all visitors.

Please treat this resource with respect. Do not give your username or password to any other person; notify your host or group organizer immediately if you have lost your account credentials. In particular:

  • Users are not permitted to use university IT or network facilities for any unlawful activity including unauthorised (re)distribution of copyrighted material.
  • The University may bar access at any time to computers which appear to cause unreasonable consumption of network resources
  • You must abide by our full IT regulations at

We remind you that the visitor service is provided as a service for Colleges and Departments to deliver to their visitors. Colleges and Departments should note that there is no support available from IT Services for visitors in configuring their devices to use the service. Visitors should not attempt to use IT Services helpdesk for assistance as we will have to turn them away.


Written by IT Services. Latest revision 11 December 2017