This is our landing page for all things related to our Unlocking students with conviction project.

On this page you will find out more about what we’re doing and the latest developments.



The project aims to ensure that more people with convictions are able to access, and benefit from, university education.

Upcoming changes to UCAS admissions procedures are welcome, and provide a key opportunity for universities to review their approach towards applicants with a criminal record.


Why is it important?

Every year there are 1.2 million new convictions in England and Wales. Approximately 7% of these convictions involve a prison sentence, 12% involve probation and the vast majority (over 80%) involve some other form of court disposal. There are now over 11 million people with a conviction. Having a conviction can mean shame, stigma and discrimination resulting in life-long barriers to many aspects of life, including university education.

People with convictions share characteristics that UCAS and the government call “disadvantaged” – i.e. those least likely to progress to university. People with convictions also often represent other groups who are disproportionately underrepresented at university/college including BAME people, care leavers, people from low income households, mature students, and people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and first-in-family. Despite education being widely recognised as a key factor in successful rehabilitation, and brings positive benefits for people with convictions, their families, communities and the institution itself, current admissions policies present serious psychological and practical challenges to access. This is a widening participation issue.

People with convictions are discouraged from applying. UCAS had a tick-box on its application form requiring every applicant to a university in the UK to disclose “relevant unspent convictions”. This discouraged people with a criminal record from applying. It’s what research from the State University of New York (SUNY) calls a “chilling effect”, which discourages people from completing the application process – it’s why SUNY has removed the box from its forms.

It’s not important at application. Many universities don’t use this information until after an offer has been accepted by the applicant. Safeguarding issues can be explored after the initial application process has been completed.

Universities have complex and differing policies and procedures. Good practice is often not followed. Some universities have a poor track record of treating individuals fairly.


More information about the issue can be found on our university admissions policy page.


What we’re doing

We’re working with UCAS to produce guidance for universities.

We’re supporting universities to develop fairer admissions policies.


Latest news

7th June 2018 – New paper published: University admissions and criminal records – Lessons learned and next steps

29th May 2018 – Ucas drops need for university applicants to declare convictions

You can also read older news posts on this website.


Useful resources

We are supporting UCAS to produce guidance for universities. This should be available in July 2018.

University admissions and criminal records: Lessons learned and next steps (June 2018)


Get in touch

If you’re interested in this work – perhaps you’re an university admissions practitioner and want to improve your policy – then please get in touch. Email



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