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Case of Lynn – Refused a place to study as the college had no policy for dealing with people with convictions

In 2005, aged 17, Lynn was convicted of racial assault, an offence she was deeply ashamed of. Due to her age, immaturity and the way she’d been brought up, Lynn didn’t fully understand the impact that her behaviour had on others although years later she had time to reflect on her actions.

At the time of her conviction, Lynn had been homeless and sleeping rough and now recognises that she’d made some bad decisions. Since then however she has made some positive changes to her life and done everything she can do to become a hardworking member of society.

After spending some time volunteering with a charity who helped young people avoid criminal lifestyles by providing them with knowledge and skills to live differently, Lynn realised that she wanted to develop her career in the criminal justice system. More specifically, she wanted to work with young people before they started offending.

Lynn didn’t have the necessary entry requirements to apply directly to university and so applied for an HNC course. It took Lynn about 2 years to be accepted onto the course, having to sit various panels to prove herself worthy of a place and to demonstrate that she did not present a risk to other students.

As part of the course, Lynn had to complete a 200-hour work placement. Not wishing to give the college any further reason to refuse her application to study, Lynn successfully found her own placement, being totally upfront and honest about her conviction.

Lynn’s college applied for enhanced checks for all students and on receipt of her certificate Lynn was told by the college that they would be unable to allow her to attend the placement. This meant that she would be unable to complete the course module and would ultimately fail the course.

Lynn said:

“I feel I am being forced out by the college. I haven’t been given a valid reason only told that they were following a college policy. However, when I challenged this, it turned out they didn’t have one in place for dealing with ex-offenders.


I’m facing prejudice and decisions are being made by people who don’t know me they just look at a piece of paper and see the crime not the person. They have me as high risk in the college scoring system but none of them have met me. I feel I’m being discriminated against and all I want to do is finish my education.”

Commenting on Lynn’s experience, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“This case shows the importance of education providers, such as colleges and universities to have clear policies in place that deal fairly with applicants with a criminal record. There was no good reason for Lynn to be refused a place – the college’s approach to her past shows a need to revisit their approach because they’re missing out on great students like Lynn.”


Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on promoting fair admission policies and practices by universities and colleges.
  2. We have practical guidance on applying to university.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  4. Other policy cases are listed here.

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