Skip to main content

Our mission is to support & advocate for people with criminal records to be able to move on positively in their lives. Find out more

Introducing the Fair Study Toolkit

Unlock publishes new toolkit for Universities


We’re pleased to announce the launch of our new Fair Study Toolkit for Universities. This Toolkit is part of our work to ensure people with criminal records can access higher education. We believe the transformative potential of higher education should be available for all. For people with criminal records, higher education can offer a bridge to a positive future.

Widening access and participation plans encourage admissions and success for groups of people who are typically underrepresented in higher education. They do not reference people with criminal records, despite work by both the Office For Students and UCAS highlighting the need for support for this group.

People with criminal records can face challenges accessing higher education because:

  • The process of application itself can be a deterrent – often, there is no guidance available as to how criminal records data may be requested, assessed or managed. This can leave people feeling uncertain about their options, and many choose not to apply as a result.
  • Many higher education providers do not have the appropriate policies or processes in place to recruit from this group
  • Legal requirements relating to the processing of criminal records data are not well understood
  • Myths and misunderstandings about criminal records can mean that people are rejected unnecessarily
  • People with criminal records may be more likely to be drawn from other widening participation groups and face multiple barriers to access as a result
  • A small number of specific kinds of criminal records may mean that someone is not able to study the subject they choose

Our conversations with students, applicants and staff have shown us that there is a need for Universities to have clearer guidance on fair practice for criminal records. That’s why we released our first toolkit in 2019. This revised version explores some of the issues in more detail in a more navigable format.

If you are a person with a criminal record looking to apply to University, you can find advice on making an application here. We also have a searchable database of University criminal records policies if you are interested in applying to a specific institution.


Add Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

Do you need help & support with an issue you’re facing?

We provide support and advice for people who need guidance with either their own, or someone else’s, criminal record.

Please use the search box to start typing your issue. If you cannot find an answer to your problem then you’ll be given options to contact us directly.

Find out more about the helpline

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now