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How to organise a seminar, reading group, workshop or conference

All activities should be properly planned from the outset and should not take place in the Department without prior approval of the Executive Committee.

Applications for new activities should include a proposal with details of audience and any resource implications and a completed event booking and risk assessment form.

Event booking and risk assessment form

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) has a general responsibility for making sure that seminars, reading and discussion groups and language tuition groups (hereafter 'seminars') NOT organised by another member of staff follow these rules:

  1. In order to set up a new seminar an application should be made to the Executive Committee, by submitting a case which describes in some detail the subject to be covered, audience, regularity and length of each meeting. The case should note any resource issues and assure the committee that it is sustainable and fits in well with the other seminars and reading groups running at the time (fills a gap in the market, doesn't overlap and doesn't conflict).
  2. All seminars (except the MPhil and Part III seminars and the Part II primary source seminars) are open to all members of the University and should therefore be advertised on the Department's website. The times that the meetings take place must be agreed well in advance with the administrators and there is a procedure to be followed in cases where there are clashes (see below).
  3. The HPS History Workshop and Philosophy Workshop have a special role in providing opportunities for MPhil and Part III students to present in the Lent and Easter terms, and the DGS should check at the end of the year that there is someone ready to start them up again next year.

Avoiding clashes

Because we have so many seminars it is almost impossible to avoid clashes, so the following policy has been adopted.

When someone asks if they can run a seminar at a certain time the timetable and room booking diary will be checked to see what else is on at that time. If there are other activities taking place at the same time, but there is a room available, the person proposing the new activity must contact the organisers of the established activity they would be clashing with to ensure that there is no conflict of interests. If there is, another time should be found.


Funding for seminars requires approval from the Executive Committee (and is normally only available for well-established seminars). Where funding has been allocated, it is the organiser's responsibility to keep track of expenditure, e.g. by liaising with speakers in advance to check on the cost of their travel (and accommodation where necessary), and ensuring there are no overspends by keeping a spreadsheet of estimated and actual costs.

  • Research seminars (Departmental Seminar, Cabinet of Natural History etc) all have formal budgets agreed annually by the Executive Committee.
  • Workshops are usually internal activities with no external speakers and no budget, although occasional applications for funding special events may be made to the Lipton, Williamson and Rausing funds.
  • Reading groups have no budget.
  • Language groups, such as Latin and Greek Therapy, have a budget for paying a tutor agreed by the Executive Committee. Regular participation by at least six people is required.
  • Conferences and day-long workshops must have prior support from the Executive Committee, must be planned well in advance, and must have funding provided by ad hoc applications to appropriate funding bodies (BSHS, Wellcome, AHRC, British Academy, Royal Society). Organisers are asked to factor in the cost of employing a student helper on the day of their event. This person is responsible for making tea and coffee, clearing up after breaks, including lunchtime, and handing out information to participants. The rate of payment should be agreed with the office, but an hourly rate of approx £8.50 is usually appropriate.

It can be assumed that if the Department approves the activity the cost of tea, coffee and biscuits will be included.

Conditions for using the Department

The conditions of use of the Department, approved by the HPS Board, are as follows:

  1. Permission must be obtained from the Executive Committee. For a non-departmental event there will be a charge of £100 per room per day.
  2. There must be a member of departmental staff in attendance at all times when participants are occupying the building.
  3. Event organisers must employ an assistant to help participants to observe these protocols, to assist in providing tea and coffee and registration materials, and to re-organise the rooms at the end of the day.
  4. Outside normal opening times the front door must be kept locked at all times unless one of the organisers or their assistants is in position on the door to make sure that only participants come into the building. Participants may leave by the back door, and will have to make special arrangements to be let back in if they are leaving the meeting at unscheduled times.
  5. At the start of the event participants must be informed of the fire safety procedures to be followed if the alarm goes off. If the alarm does go off, the organiser must take responsibility for calling site security on 31818 to inform them of the situation and to have the alarm re-set once the situation is over.
  6. If moved, the tables and chairs must be put back to their usual layout at the end of the session. Rooms must be left clean and tidy and orderly with cups returned to the kitchen.
  7. All lights must be turned off and windows and doors closed at the end of the session.
  8. Participants must not be allowed in any part of the building other than the rooms which have been allocated for the event.

Weekend and out of hours opening of the Department is discouraged because of security issues associated with the Museum.

Diversity and inclusion

Checklist: conference and event best practice for diversity and inclusion