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Dealing fairly with students that have criminal records

Unlock is an independent award-winning charity covering England & Wales that provides trusted information, advice and advocacy for people with criminal convictions in overcoming the stigma and obstacles associated with criminal records. We also support employers, HR professionals and universities in implementing fair policies and practices towards people with criminal records.

These workshops are part of our Unlocking Students with Conviction project. 

What we do

We have significant expertise and experience of criminal records and disclosure issues. We work with Government, UCAS and others to improve good practice in university admissions. As part of this, we provide support to universities that are looking to:

  1. Improve their policies and practices and have fair and open admissions processes.
  2. Comply with recent changes to criminal record disclosure legislation.
  3. Train their admissions teams on dealing with individual applicants that have criminal records.
  4. Ensure the right support is in place to ensure students with criminal records can be successful at university


Why is this important?

  1. There are more than 11 million people in the UK that have a criminal record. Every year, over 240,000 enhanced DBS checks reveal convictions or cautions.
  2. The majority of these individuals have committed relatively minor offences, but many universities have concerns about the potential risks that might be involved when considering an applicant with a criminal record. For courses that lead to regulated professions, many universities are concerned about securing work placements required for successful completion of the course.
  3. The Government wants to double the percentage of Higher Education students from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020. People of Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background are more likely to have a criminal record because of over-representation in the criminal justice system.
  4. In the last couple of years there have been significant changes to the rules around the disclosure of criminal records, and there can be costly legal implications for getting it wrong.

Our in-house training

We run a one-day in-house workshop that will help institutions and admissions professionals to:

  1. Have fair and open admissions processes that build on the recent changes to UCAS processes and comply with recent changes to criminal record disclosure legislation.
  2. Develop the knowledge, skills and practical resources you need to be confident in admitting students with criminal records.

Aim of the workshop

By the end of the workshop, attendees will have a better understanding of how to:

  1. Apply a set of fair admissions principles to applicants with criminal records.
  2. Recruit students from a wider talent pool and improve student diversity.
  3. Minimise any potential or perceived risks.
  4. Minimise unintended consequences.
  5. Avoid costly legal implications for getting it wrong.


What it covers

  1. What good practice in admissions looks like
  2. Understanding legislation relevant to admissions, including the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974, the ROA Exceptions Order 1975 (amended in 2013) and the Data Protection Act.
  3. Determining what levels of disclosure can be requested for specific courses.
  4. Where placements are involved, what levels of criminal record check can be carried out.
  5. What is disclosed on criminal record checks.
  6. How to interpret and manage criminal record disclosure information.
  7. How to develop effective assessment policies and procedures.
  8. A review of existing policies/practices and recommendations for change.


Who is it for?

The course is aimed at staff with responsibilities for admissions, placements that involve DBS checks, safeguarding or student conduct committees.



“I was very impressed with your session at University of Nottingham last week and I am confident my colleagues felt the same. You were engaging, enthusiastic, a very clear presenter/teacher and made a difficult/complex subject much more accessible.” Admissions officer


“This workshop has given us lots of practical understanding and resources that we can use to improve our policies and make sure that we’ve got a fair and open admissions policy towards applicants with a criminal record” Head of Admissions



  • We run our ‘Admissions with Conviction’ workshop for specific universities. These normally start at 10am and finish at 4pm, although they can tailored to each institution
  • These are tailored to each organisation.
  • To arrange a workshop, or to find out more details, email

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