Oxford email addresses

The sections below describe the set-up for the majority of people within the University. A separate section near the end deals with the special cases.

For the purposes of this page:

  • Department includes Faculty and Sub-Faculty
  • College includes Society and Permanent Private Hall

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Email addresses are used by electronic mail systems to determine where to deliver messages. They consist of two parts separated by an at sign (@, sometimes called commercial at): name@domain

The domain part consists of a number of items separated by period marks. It identifies an institution or other organisation and sometimes a specific part of the organisation or even an individual server computer.

The name identifies an individual email user. A typical form is the first and last name separated by a period, but other forms using an underscore, initials, a job title, or a one-word server username are all valid. A username may be generated in a numerical series or based on a first or last name, or a job or project title.


Every domain which is valid for email has associated with it the Internet address of one or more computers which will accept email addressed to the domain. This information is accessible to any computer on the Internet, so a message will not leave the originating computer unless the domain part is valid. The accepting computer may be a server or it may be a router. A router will have additional information about the name component of the email address (and possibly the domain part if it handles several domains) and will send the message to the appropriate server. In either case, the name part will be used to identify an account on the server.

An email server accepts incoming mail and stores it in the correct account according to the recipient address on the message. The email user activates a client such as Outlook Web Access, Outlook, Eudora or Pine to check the account for new messages. The client can also be used to view new or old messages, or to organise or delete messages.

IT Services provides the web-based client Outlook Web Access which is self-contained and can be used anywhere world-wide. Other clients should be configured specifying IMAP as the server type. This keeps your active email on the server so that it is available whether or not you are using your own office computer.

Because of the large number of people entitled to use email in the University, and given the distributed and autonomous nature of computing facilities here, a comprehensive scheme of consistent email addresses was set up in 1992.

This provides for personal email addresses of the form firstname.lastname@unit.ox.ac.uk where the firstname.lastname part is the preferred name of the person concerned and unit is a name chosen by the department or college. Prior to that, email addresses had a computer (server) name for the domain and an account code for the name part.

This style of email address is called the generic Oxford University address (because it does not identify a specific server). It is only available to departments and colleges which are considered full institutions of the University (i.e. not to Recognised Independent Centres or Anglican Theological Colleges).

IT Services will generate the firstname.lastname part of your email address from your University Card record. The firstname will be the forename you underlined when using a paper University Card application form, otherwise your first forename. The lastname will be your full surname (with any spaces or apostrophes removed). If this name is not the one by which you are usually known (or it is inconveniently long), then you may ask that your email address be changed to reflect your preferred name. This allows for changes such as "Stephen" to "Steve" or dropping complete components of a multi-word or hyphenated family name.


Notice: Note that the University has a policy of transparency in email names, so initials or completely unrelated nicknames are not acceptable.


Each address is potentially linked to a central Nexus account. However, IT Services Registration will alter this default if a departmental or college server is to be used. The relevant local IT officer will usually arrange this on your behalf.

People with affiliations to both a department and a college will have an email address for each. This allows people a choice of how they wish to be addressed.

For example, Mary Brown is a member of staff at the Department of Food Studies and is a fellow of Enstone College. She has an email account (username food0032) on the central Nexus system. Her email addresses are:

Typically, Mary would advertise only one of these, but mail addressed to either of them will be delivered to the username food0032 on the Nexus system.

An email account is not the same as an email address. More than one address can be associated with a single account, and you will not usually get a new account when you move within the University, though you will usually get a new address


Each person is entitled to one email address of the form firstname.lastname@unit.ox.ac.uk for each unit (department, college, etc) to which they have a current active affiliation.

Preferred name

A person can change the preferred form of their name but we do not offer permanent multiple forms of the personal name for any unit or different forms between different units.

Overlap period

When a person changes name or ceases to belong to a particular unit, the old address will no longer be advertised but it will be supported for an overlap period which is currently two months. However, this overlap period may be shortened at the request of an appropriate member of a unit's administration, or at the user's own request. There will be similar overlap arrangements if a unit is closed or merged due to reorganisation by the University authorities.  There is an option for a longer overlap period (normally for up to six months) if authorisation is given.  Please contact the Service Desk to make a request.

One name only

The reason for restricting name variants is to avoid confusion because only the latest preferred version will be shown in any published items such as the Contact Information on the Oxford University web pages.

Difficult names

It is appreciated that many people have names which are not easy to spell or where the exact choice of preferred email name may not be obvious to someone wishing to initiate a new correspondence.

The system will respond to an incorrectly addressed message by referring the sender to the University's contact information page; this offers exact matching or approximate match which is a "sounds-like" option.

The contact page is also directly accessible by using the Contact Search link on the home page of the Oxford University web site. Where a person's family name has several parts, the contact search will match any single part, or the "approximate match" option can be exercised.

This will allow most addresses to be located but some restriction is unfortunately necessary to prevent people using this mechanism to obtain long lists of University email addresses for junk mail purposes.

Help with failed email

As a long-stop, every unit has a postmaster@unit.ox.ac.uk address which can deal with queries. This is a standard Internet protocol for all email addresses and anyone having difficulty should either be aware of this option or be able to get advice on it from their internet service provider.

The domain addresses @unit.ox.ac.uk are only available for units officially recognised by Planning and Resource Allocation. If reorganisation removes a unit from the University, the email domain will be discontinued.

Several unofficial units have web site names www.unit.ox.ac.uk but the existence of a web domain does not imply entitlement to an email domain.

For details of the current official University Structure and how to request a change, see the University Organisation Structure page from Governance and Planning.  To apply for a new domain, see domain name requests section on the University Organisation Structure.

The University maintains an online directory of local email addresses. This gives name, email address and department/college for each person, with separate entries for each unit that a person currently belongs to.  This is searchable via the University of Oxford webpages.

You can request to be ex-directory for email via the Service Desk but this can cause problems for people with a genuine need to contact you, so Council has specified that such requests must be authorised by your Head of Department or Head of House. However, if you are suffering actual harassment by email (keep the messages online as evidence until we can take action), IT Services will act as quickly as possible to protect you - contact the Service Desk.

Note that requests to have your telephone number ex-directory also require the same authorisation but should be submitted via your college/department Telecommunications Coordinator.

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