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Charlotte – A lack of understanding of the filtering rules meant I was almost refused a place at university

Charlotte contacted our helpline for some advice due to issues she was having in being accepted onto a nursing course at university.

As part of the application process, Charlotte was asked to complete a declaration form by the university which asked her to:

“Declare any cautions or convictions you have ever received.”

Wishing to answer the question honestly, Charlotte disclosed her caution from 2007 for a drug offence, even though it would have been filtered from her enhanced DBS check and she had no legal need to disclose it.

Following the declaration, Charlotte was asked to attend a meeting with the course leaders. They wanted to find out more about the caution so their healthcare panel could decide whether to allow her onto the course. The panel were of the opinion that it was highly unlikely that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) would allow her to register and the panel deferred her start date until they had received clarification from the NMC.

Whilst waiting to hear back from the university, Charlotte began to do some further research into her situation. She realised that as a result of the filtering legislation introduced in 2013, she hadn’t needed to disclose her caution to the university and even though she had, they shouldn’t have taken it into consideration. Charlotte provided the university with copies of the relevant information assuming that, as there would be no issue with her registering with the NMC, she would be able to start the course straight away. However, the university stood by their decision and asked her to attend a healthcare panel meeting. They also confirmed in an email to her that:

Drug offences will always appear on enhanced DBS checks and you will always need to declare it for every job that you apply for.

In desperation, Charlotte contacted our helpline. We were able to reassure her that her caution would be eligible for filtering from her enhanced DBS check and that the university should disregard it. Failure to do so would mean that they would be taking into account information which they were not legally entitled to have access to. We advised Charlotte that she should make the panel fully aware of the filtering legislation, and stress to them that as her caution would no longer appear on her DBS certificate, the NMC would have no reason to refuse her registration.

A week later Charlotte contacted us again with an update. During the meeting she had provided members of the panel with the information around filtering. They confirmed that they knew nothing about the filtering process but would be looking into the matter with the university’s HR department. Charlotte was later contacted by the university who confirmed that in light of the information she had provided, she had been accepted onto the course.

Charlotte said:

I cannot thank Unlock enough for the information and support provided, which has been invaluable at a time when I felt incredibly stressed and frustrated.



This case demonstrates how some universities are unaware of the filtering rules and believe that certain occupations (for example nursing) are exempt from the filtering process. It’s important therefore to find out as much as you can about what you will need to disclose to a university prior to making your application. Having this information should ensure that you don’t over-disclose but will also give you the confidence to challenge a decision should you need to.

It also supports our work to encourage university admissions team to ensure they have training on understanding the rules.


Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.


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