Policy on criminal convictions | University of Oxford

Policy on criminal convictions

Please note that in accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we may request information about relevant, unspent criminal convictions during the application process so that appropriate steps can be taken to facilitate effective support and/or assess whether an applicant poses an unacceptable risk to students and staff.

The University has adopted a policy for any case where an applicant for an undergraduate place has a relevant, unspent criminal conviction which has either been declared by an applicant to the University or which has otherwise come to the University’s attention (such as where information is disclosed by a third party).

1. What has to be declared?

The University will only ask about relevant, unspent criminal convictions.

'Relevant' convictions are:

  • 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; and
  • offences listed in the Terrorism Act 2006.

Convictions that are 'spent' (as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974) or will be spent at the point of starting the course of study do not need to be declared.  If you are uncertain as to whether your conviction is spent, please seek independent advice. 

2. Process for handling cases of declared criminal convictions

If you declare a relevant, unspent criminal conviction, this is assessed separately from the academic assessment of your application by designated University and college staff members who will form a Criminal Convictions Panel (see below for more information as to how the Panel will be constituted).

3. What information should be compiled:

It is the responsibility of the Director of Undergraduate Admissions and the Director of the Student Welfare and Support Services to compile information in relation to any case for the Panel to consider (‘the dossier’). The information may include:

  • A statement from the Probation Service, Social Services or senior prison officers;
  • A character reference from a member of staff at the applicant’s school or equivalent;
  • A statement from the applicant setting out any information which he/she considers to be relevant to the decision.

Upon the Panel being established to consider a case, the applicant should be notified by the college to which they have applied that the process has been set in motion, and be provided with a link to the University’s policy.

It might be necessary in preparing the dossier for those concerned to approach third parties for further information, for example a probation officer named by the applicant. In no case may those conducting the investigation contact a third party, whether nominated by the applicant or not, without first obtaining specific consent to do so from the applicant. Information about criminal convictions is considered to be sensitive personal data and as such its use is subject to greater protections under the General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018.

It should, however, be made clear to the applicant that in the absence of their consent being given it may not be possible to continue with consideration of the application.

4. Panel proceedings:

The dossier of information will be considered by a panel concerned solely with non-academic aspects of the decision as to whether the conviction is such that the applicant ought not to be admitted to the University or whether special measures ought to be put in place to facilitate effective support for the applicant and/or to protect other students and staff from perceived risk. The panel will be constituted as follows:

  • Deputy Chair of Admissions Executive (Chair)
  • A representative of the Senior Tutors Committee
  • The Senior Tutor, Dean or other appropriate officer of the college by which the application or offer is being considered
  • The Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for the relevant School
  • The Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach
  • The Director of Student Welfare and Support Services.

When considering a criminal conviction, the Panel will take into account the following factors:

  • The nature of the offence(s) listed under 1.
  • The time that has passed since the offence was committed.
  • Any additional information provided by other sources, such as the Probation Service, Social Services or senior prison officers, in the form of independent references or reports.
  • If more than one offence was committed, whether each was a separate offence or part of a series of similar offences.
  • The potential impact on fellow students, staff and others with whom the applicant will have contact.

One of the following decisions will be made by the Panel:

  • To require further information from the applicant or a third party;
  • To recommend an offer to be made with no further conditions;
  • To recommend a conditional offer to be made, for example with a condition relating to pastoral issues such as support for the applicant.
  • To recommend that the application is rejected.

The Panel’s recommendation will be communicated to the college, which will then form its own view on whether or not to initiate its own review of the student’s application. Other than for the purposes of the investigation involved in compiling the information to be considered by the Panel, communication with the applicant should be solely through the college.

5. Recording the Panel’s recommendation:

The conclusions of the Panel and the reasons for its conclusions should be recorded. The draft must be seen and agreed by the Panel and signed off by its chairman.

6.  Handling of an appeal:

Appeals will be considered by the Chairman of Admissions Executive. The decision on an appeal will be conveyed to the applicant in a letter from the Chairman of Admissions Executive explaining that the decision is final.

7.  The handling and holding of information gathered in considering an application:

Members of the Panel should not share information on the case, whether provided in the dossier or elicited during discussion of the Panel, with any third party. Once the Panel has made its recommendation, all members of the Panel should hand all papers related to the case to the Director of the Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach who shall ensure that they are destroyed. A single copy of the papers together with the record of the proceedings should kept in a secure place within the Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach department, separate from any other papers for a period of six months, and in the event of an appeal, for a period of six months after the conclusion of the appeal, and then destroyed.

8.  The college will be responsible for ensuring that any information that the college chooses to retain is handled in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018.

Contact details:

 If you are an applicant who has been asked to provide information about any relevant, unspent criminal convictions and you have any concerns or queries relating to process or whether the conviction is relevant, you can contact the Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach confidentially at study@ox.ac.uk.

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