Criminal convictions

Procedures for dealing with applicants with criminal convictions.

We believe everyone with the potential and ambition to go to university should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of background. People with criminal convictions face obstacles and barriers to accessing university, yet higher education has the power to transform their lives by helping them move forward and make a positive contribution to society. Therefore, as the leaders of our institutions we pledge to give applicants with a criminal record a fair chance by:

  • asking applicants about criminal records only if – and when – it is necessary
  • asking targeted and proportionate questions during the admissions process
  • making our policy transparent and accessible to all applicants
  • if necessary, offering applicants a chance to discuss their case in person before a decision is made
  • considering flexible adjustments and alternatives for applicants
  • ensuring staff are trained to make fair and impartial judgements about applicants
  • supporting students with criminal records to help them achieve academic success
  • communicating positively about the benefits of a fair admissions process.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The University will only request a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check of criminal convictions where an applicant applies to a course leading to certain professions or occupations which are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974). If applying via UCAS to these relevant courses applicants are made aware that they will be asked to declare, when undertaking the DBS check, whether they have any criminal convictions, including spent convictions. Postgraduate and other direct applicants will also be notified of the requirement to undertake a DBS check for specific programmes.

Current programmes requiring a full DBS check prior to registration include:

  • Social Work (BA/MA)
  • Pharmacy (MPharm)
  • Medicine (BMBS) at Kent and Medway Medical School

Medical students

There is a requirement for students applying for the medicine programme to undergo an enhanced Disclosure Barring Service check before registration.

There are statutory provisions regarding disqualification by association which means that depending on the outcome of your DBS check, you may not be eligible to register on the programme.

Please see the terms and conditions of the medical programme for more information.

What does 'spent' conviction mean?

If a person does not re-offend during their rehabilitation period, their conviction becomes 'spent' (as defined by The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). The Rehabilitation period is defined by law and varies in length depending on the nature of the office and at what age it was committed.

You should note that certain offences are never ‘spent’, and that for those courses requiring a DBS check, you are required to declare all convictions whether spent or unspent.

The application will be considered on academic grounds in the first instance.

The University has the powers to refuse the application of any individual; to lay down such conditions as it sees fit for the admission of an individual; and also to terminate the registration of an individual who is subsequently discovered to have omitted or falsified relevant facts or information concerned with his/her application.

What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 aims to help people who have been convicted of certain criminal offences and have not reoffended since being convicted. People with few or minor convictions will therefore be able to 'put their past behind them' and be treated as everyone else with regard to employment and equal opportunity.

What is a relevant criminal conviction?

Relevant criminal offences include convictions, cautions, admonitions, reprimands, final warnings, bind over orders or similar involving one or more of the following:

  • Any kind of violence including (but not limited to) threatening behaviour, offences concerning the intention to harm or offences which resulted in actual bodily harm
  • Offences listed in the Sex Offences Act 2003
  • The unlawful supply of controlled drugs or substances where the conviction concerns commercial drug dealing or trafficking
  • Offences involving firearms
  • Offences involving arson
  • Offences listed in the Terrorism Act 2006.

If your conviction involved an offence similar to those set out above, but was made by a court outside of Great Britain, and that conviction would not be considered as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, you should declare it as you would any other unspent conviction.

Warnings, penalty notices for disorder (PNDs), anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) or violent offender orders (VOOs) are not classed as convictions for the purpose of this section, unless you have contested a PND or breached the terms of an ASBO or VOO and this has resulted in a criminal conviction.

Action to be taken on receipt of an application that includes a declaration of criminal convictions

Applications will be assessed without regard to the conviction and in line with the University's Admissions Policy. If as a result of this assessment it is decided not to make an offer to the applicant, the application can be rejected in the normal way.

For courses indicated as requiring a full Disclosure and Barring Service check:

No conviction declared: 

Application will proceed as normal.

Conviction declared:

For programmes covered by DBS checks the relevant School will invoke appropriate ‘fitness to practice’ procedures and liaise with the Admission Office regarding the outcome of the decision process.

The University will obtain as much information as possible about the nature of the offence concerned. In particular, the applicant should be asked to provide references from his/her Probation Officer and/or prison authorities (applicants for undergraduate study who are serving prisoners at the time of application will be required by UCAS to submit their application via the prison authorities who are expected to indicate the suitability of the applicant to undertake a course of study and whether the applicant would be available to commence a course if an offer was made and accepted.)

Consideration will also be given to the need to alert appropriate parties (e.g. Accommodation Office, Faculty/School Office, placement providers) to the applicant’s circumstances and/or set up appropriate supervision arrangements prior to the applicant's registration as a student.

Objective reasons for decisions should be recorded. Written confirmation of all decisions to proceed with an offer or to reject an application should be sent to the candidate by the Admissions Processing Manager and will also be recorded on the applicant’s record.

Action to be taken where there is reason to suspect that an applicant has unspent criminal convictions that have not been declared

If an applicant is convicted of a criminal offence after submitting an application or after an offer of a place has been made, the applicant is under a duty to disclose this information to the University. Should information concerning criminal convictions come to light after an offer has been made, the above procedures should still be followed.

Both the UCAS regulations and the University's regulations are clear that an offer may be withdrawn if the candidate makes a material omission in respect of their application which might have affected the basis of the decision on which the offer was first made.

Recording information relating to criminal conviction

The Head of the Recruitment and Admissions Office will be responsible for ensuring all correspondence relating to the declaration of criminal convictions by an applicant is handled appropriately. At all stages, all staff involved in the process should ensure that procedures are in place to maintain confidentiality. Access to correspondence relating to an applicant's or student’s criminal record declaration should be restricted to those staff directly involved in the process.

Further information for applicants with convictions

Applicants wishing to obtain independent advice and support regarding disclosure of their convictions are advised to contact the charity UNLOCK at

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