Procedures for dealing with applicants with criminal convictions

The online UCAS form and University postgraduate application form requires applicants to declare any relevant criminal convictions that are not spent.

What does 'spent' 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). For most programmes of study, convictions that are spent are not considered to be relevant and you will not be required to reveal them. You should note that certain offences are never spent, and that for certain courses, you are required to declare all convictions whether spent or unspent. For these programmes, you must reveal both spent and unspent convictions at interview if a course has been denoted as requiring a criminal records check. Please see the entry requirements for your course choice to see if this requirement applies to you.

The application will be considered on academic grounds in the first instance. If it is decided that an offer of a place can be made to the applicant, the University will need to consider wider issues, including the safety and interests of all members of the University community, prior to issuing an offer of a place. 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. If an Admissions Officer wishes to consider seriously an application, the boxes should be checked and the following action taken in each case:

No conviction declared:

Proceed as normal.

Conviction declared:

The Admissions Officer should refer the applications to the Admissions Processing Unit Manager for further action. The Admissions Office 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. Further information may also be available from the UCAS Verification Unit).

In the case of convictions which have resulted in a sentence of imprisonment (including suspended sentence), the Admissions Processing Unit Manager will notify the Head of The Recruitment & Admissions Office who will take a decision on non-custodial offences whether or not the candidate should be offered a place and/or whether the offence should be referred to the Academic Registrar and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for a final decision on whether to admit the student to the University. Consideration should also be given to the need to alert other parties (e.g. Accommodation Office, Faculty Office, placement providers) to the circumstances and/or set up appropriate supervision arrangements prior to the applicant's registration as a student.

If the conviction is spent it will be disregarded except where satisfactory completion of the degree programme would give automatic right to practice a profession exempted by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act or where the course involves unsupervised contact with vulnerable persons. When forwarding the application to the Admissions Processing Unit Manager, Admissions Officers are asked to draw attention to this as an issue if appropriate.

In the case of convictions that have resulted in a sentence not involving imprisonment, Admissions Officers should normally reach a decision in consultation with the Head of The Recruitment and Admissions Office. Objective reasons for the decision should be recorded. If an Admissions Officer is concerned that the nature of the offence in question warrants further investigation, he or she may choose to follow the more thorough procedures described previously.

Written confirmation of all decisions to proceed with an offer or a rejection should be sent to the candidate by the Admissions Processing Manager and must be recorded and filed with the online/paper application form.

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

  1. This is most likely to occur where a Referee refers to criminal convictions within a confidential reference, but the UCAS Verification Unit also occasionally alerts the University to undeclared criminal convictions.
  2. Admissions Officers should notify the Head of The Recruitment and Admissions Office of their suspicions. In the case of an applicant for undergraduate admissions, the Admissions Processing Unit Manager will seek the advice of the UCAS Verification Unit. The Verification Unit should be able to ascertain whether or not the Admission's Officer's suspicions are well founded. In the event of an applicant having failed to disclose a very serious conviction, UCAS may decide to cancel the application. If the application is not cancelled, Admissions Officers should follow the standard procedures for declared convictions. However, they should bear in mind the need to obtain the permission of the Referee before discussing, with an applicant, any information for which the sole source is a confidential reference. In the case of an applicant for postgraduate study, the Head of The Recruitment and Admissions Office will write to the candidate, obtaining where necessary permission from the referee to disclose information from any confidential reference.
  3. 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

  1. The Head of The Recruitment and Admissions Office will be responsible for all correspondence relating to the declaration of criminal convictions by an applicant.
  2. At all stages, all staff should ensure that procedures are in place to maintain confidentiality and restrict access to correspondence relating to an applicant's or student’s criminal record declaration.