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Case of Saeed – A criminal record stopped an A-grade student studying medicine at university

At the age of 16, Saeed had fallen in with a ‘bad crowd’ which ultimately led to him being arrested and pleading guilty to involvement in a local burglary.

He received a four-month referral order. The order involved him meeting with a panel of local community volunteers, his victim and their representative and other relevant individuals. The panel discussed the circumstances surrounding his offence and together they agreed a plan of action to remedy the situation.

Saeed was told that providing he completed the order satisfactorily, then his conviction would be spent immediately under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and shouldn’t cause him any further problems. A year later, Saeed had got his life back on track. He committed himself to his studies and volunteered for a charity working with disabled children and adults.

The hard work paid off and Saeed defied all expectations and gained the best A-level results his school had ever seen. These results led to the offer of a place to study medicine at a top university.

Having been told that his conviction was spent immediately, Saeed did not disclose it on his UCAS form. However, immediately he realised that the university would be carrying out an enhanced criminal record check which would disclose his conviction, Saeed contacted the university and disclosed his conviction.

As a result of this new information, the university told him that he needed to attend a ‘Fitness to Practice’ interview to assess his suitability to train as a doctor. After listening to the evidence presented to them, the Panel agreed that the only option open to them was to withdraw its offer of a place. Saeed appealed the Panel’s decision but, this was also refused, and the university did not reinstate his place.

Saeed stated:

“I’m a kid who has grown up surrounded by violence and drugs. I always seem to meet bad people and I’ve realised that this is because I come from a bad place. Give me a chance and I’ll show the universities that I’m not a bad guy. I won’t risk their reputation.”

The university have said:

“In general, the university requests information on a candidate’s ‘unspent’ convictions only. This means that a spent conviction would not preclude a student from being accepted onto the vast majority of its courses.


Medicine, however is focused on preparing students for a specific professional career that has particularly demanding requirements. Medical practitioners hold a position of responsibility in society, and must deal with vulnerable people and sensitive situations. The public must have confidence in the integrity and probity of its doctors.”

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

“I’m delighted that Saeed has gone on to study medicine at another university, one which can clearly see the potential he has. That goes to show that his past was not a barrier – but the university was seeing it as that. They need to look again at their approach towards dealing with applicants with a criminal record.”


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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