Policy on dealing with criminal convictions (undergraduate applications)

Policy and procedure for dealing with unspent criminal convictions of applicants to undergraduate courses at the Department for Continuing Education


1. Introduction

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, the Department for Continuing Education (‘The Department’), may request information about relevant, unspent criminal convictions during the admissions process, so that appropriate steps can be taken to facilitate effective support and/or assess whether a candidate poses an unacceptable risk to students and staff.

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

This policy and procedure applies to and is limited to all applicants for undergraduate courses run by the Department for Continuing Education that are not matriculated, i.e. undergraduate certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas. Matriculated undergraduate courses are governed by the University Policy on criminal convictions (https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/decisions/criminal-convictions).

2. Information to be declared

The Department 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. 

3. 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 members of the Department, who will form a Criminal Convictions Panel (see section 5 below for more information as to how the Panel will be constituted).

4. Information to be compiled

a) It is the responsibility of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) or their delegate, and the Deputy Head of Student Administration (Policy and Student Services) (DHSA) to compile information in relation to any case for the Panel to consider, known as ‘the dossier’. The dossier may include:

  • A statement from the Probation Service, Social Services or senior prison officers.
  • A character reference from the candidate’s application referee or equivalent.
  • A statement from the applicant setting out any information which they consider to be relevant to the decision.

b) Upon the Panel being established to consider a case, the candidate should be notified and be provided with a link to the Department’s policy (this web page): https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/policy-on-dealing-with-criminal-convictions-undergraduate-applications.

c) 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 candidate. In no case may those conducting the investigation contact a third party, whether nominated by the candidate or not, without first obtaining specific consent to do so from the candidate. Information about criminal convictions is classified as ‘criminal offence data’ under section 11(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018, and, as such, its use is subject to specific legal protections. It should, however, be made clear to the candidate that in the absence of their consent being given, it may not be possible to continue with consideration of their application.

5. Panel proceedings

a) The dossier 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:

  • The Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Department or their delegate (Chair).
  • The Director or a Deputy Director of the Department.
  • A member of the Academic Board of the Department.
  • The Deputy Head of Student Administration (Policy and Student Services) of the Department (Secretary).

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

  • The nature of the offence(s) listed under 2.
  • 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, or 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 candidate will have contact.

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

  • To require further information from the candidate 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 candidate.
  • To recommend that the application is rejected.

6. 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 the Chair.

7. 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.

8. 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 Secretary, 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 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. The Department will be responsible for ensuring that any information that the department chooses to retain is handled in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

9. Contact details

If you are a candidate who has been asked to provide information about any relevant, unspent criminal convictions, and you have any concerns or queries relating to the process or whether the conviction is relevant, you can contact the Head of Student Administration confidentially at head-studentadministration@conted.ox.ac.uk.


Last published 4 March 2022