Case of Isabel – Refused permission to study at University with no right of appeal

At the time of applying to study for a nursing degree, Isabel didn’t have a criminal record. However, several months later she was charged with a driving offence and was due to appear in court two months later. During her admissions interview with the university, she explained that she had a court case pending and was asked by the university to inform them immediately she knew the outcome of the case. They provided her with a copy of their admissions policy which stated:

“Certain courses within the university, including the commissioned courses with HLS and a number of courses within the faculties of Engineering and Computing and Art and Design require a DBS check to be carried out and a decision to be made based on the criminal record as to suitability to be on the course. If an applicant is deemed to be unsuitable the university may reject their offer and this decision is final.”

In court, Isabel was given a fine and banned from driving for seven months. She immediately contacted the university to update them and was told that her case would need to go to a Faculty Review Panel for a decision.

The Panel considered Isabel’s case and decided that as a result of her conviction, they were unable to offer her a place on the nursing course. Isabel contacted a solicitor to assist her in appealing the university’s decision.

In her letter to the university, Isabel’s solicitor set out how the offence was not relevant to the course and that as a result of the time it had taken the university to make a decision, Isabel had missed the opportunity to study at another university. In response the university stated:

“We note that your client is now seeking to appeal the decision of the Panel. However, as set out in the University Admissions Policy and Personal Statement Form, it is for the Panel to make a decision about a student’s suitability to enrol onto a course which leads to a professional qualification. The Panel’s decision is final and there is no right of appeal.”

They confirmed that when considering Isabel’s suitability, the Panel felt that as she would be entering a profession where she would be working with distressed adults and children, it was important that she was able to demonstrate a level of reflection about the affect her actions had on the victim of her crime. The Panel did not believe that Isabel had adequately shown this.

Commenting on Isabel’s experience, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“It’s staggering to see a university act as judge and jury by revoking an offer and not give Isabel any opportunity for a right of appeal. This is clearly a university-wide policy and we have raised our concerns with them about the lack of an independent appeal mechanism. This is something that we’ll be raising in our work with the Department of Education, UCAS and others in promoting fair admissions policies.”

 

Notes about this case

  1. This case relates to Unlock’s policy work on promoting fair admission policies and practices by universities and colleges.
  2. We have practical guidance on applying to university.
  3. Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
  4. Other policy cases are listed here.
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