Bloomsbury Institute becomes the first higher education provider to Ban the Box for all.
Bloomsbury Institute in London is the first higher education provider in the UK to adopt Ban the Box principles for staff as well as students, a move that could encourage other universities to follow suit.
The Ban the Box campaign is about giving law-abiding people with convictions a fair chance to compete for jobs. Applicants are not required to tick the box and disclose criminal convictions when they apply, so employers don’t miss out on talented applicants who might be put off, or be sifted out at the first stage because of misconceptions about what a criminal record really means.
Rachel Tynan, Policy and practice lead at Unlock, a founder member of the Ban the Box campaign said:
“Ban the Box can give people with convictions the confidence to apply. They know they’ve got more of a chance because they’ll be judged on their skills, strengths and experience, before their past.”
Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords in higher education, but what’s often overlooked is that many of the students universities are looking to recruit are disproportionately criminalised. Care leavers, forced migrants, first in family and students from some ethnic backgrounds are identified as under-represented at university – yet these are groups that are over-represented in the criminal justice system.
Whilst there has been progress on student recruitment, with many universities no longer asking applicants about criminal records unless there is a legal need to do so – for example, for teaching or healthcare courses – the sector has not yet done the same for staff. Until now. Rachel Tynan continued:
“Think about it, a graduate with a previous conviction wants to go on to teach where they studied – yet they’re faced with having to tick a box about their conviction and the possibility of rejection. That’s the reality of most universities’ recruitment at the moment. Banning the box is the first step to an open, fair and inclusive recruitment policy, ensures that universities are recruiting from the widest pool of talent, regardless of background.”
The issue of reducing reoffending and supporting those with convictions is clearly on the public and political agenda, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid acknowledging the need to act on the Supreme Court’s ruling that parts of the disclosure regime are unlawful. The court described the disclosure of warnings and reprimands given to under 18s for minor offence as ‘an error in principle’. These punishments were devised so that young people who committed minor crimes were not disadvantaged by a criminal record for the rest of their life.
By extending their Ban the Box commitment to both staff and students, Bloomsbury Institute has taken a timely and important step in encouraging other institutions to open their doors to anyone with the determination to fulfil their potential.
At a ceremony celebrating Bloomsbury Institute’s new approach, Academic Principal and Managing Director John Fairhurst said:
“I’m delighted that Bloomsbury Institute has Banned the Box not only for students, but for employees as well. If our stated purpose – and the purpose of education – is to unlock potential, who are we to deny anyone the opportunity to rebuild their life because of a previous criminal conviction?”
Lord Neuberger, former President of the UK Supreme Court said:
I am proud to have been invited to Bloomsbury Institute’s Ban the Box signing ceremony. Educating, training, and, where appropriate, rehabilitating people of all ages is of inestimable value not only to the people concerned, but also to society. And that includes giving any former offender the opportunity to gain access to higher education.
Sarah Bailey, Deputy Director, Student Engagement, Wellbeing and Success at Bloomsbury Institute comments:
“We know there are numerous barriers that prevent thousands of talented, ambitious students from enjoying the opportunities of higher education. And we know that with the right support, people who may have been written off in the past can succeed and go onto achieve great things.”
We’ve published a guest blog from Senior Lecturer in Law, Joe Stevens, explaining more.
Unlock is an independent, award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who face stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence. There are over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record.
Unlock is a founder member of the Ban the Box campaign in the UK and we continue to promote it as part of our Fair Access to Employment project. We support employers to put the principles of the campaign into practice, using our knowledge and experience of working with both individuals who have convictions as well as employers who are actively looking to improve their recruitment policies and practices. In the last five years over 120 employers have signed up.
Unlock also campaigns for reform of the criminal records disclosure regime. In 2014 changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 came into force which reduced the time it takes for most convictions to become ‘spent’ and so longer need to be disclosed when applying for most jobs and education courses. However, we think more fundamental reform is needed – for example, sentences of more than four years in prison can never become spent.
In 2018 Unlock intervened in a case at the Supreme Court which involved the disclosure rules that apply to standard and enhanced criminal record checks. The Government appealed against earlier rulings in the High Court and Court of Appeal that found the rules to be incompatible with the law. The Supreme Court ruling in January 2019 found against the government and identified two areas in particular that must be amended. Currently anyone with more than one conviction automatically has all their convictions revealed on standard or enhanced checks, no matter how minor or how much time has passed.
The Supreme Court found this rule did not achieve its intended purpose of indicating propensity as it applies irrespective of the nature, similarity, number or time intervals of offences.
The Court also found that disclosure of warnings and reprimands, given to under 18s for minor offences, was in conflict with their aim of rehabilitation, rather than punishment.
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We are a higher education institute specialising in business, law and accountancy. Established in 2002 as the London School of Business and Management, we now have 2,000 students on our foundation and full-time degree courses. We changed our name to Bloomsbury Institute in 2018 to better reflect our connection with London’s academic and cultural heartland and to signal our plans to award our own degrees in the coming years.
As an Associate College of the University of Northampton (UoN), our degrees are internationally-recognised and awarded by UoN after being designed and taught by Bloomsbury Institute lecturers.
If a student is struggling to adapt to life as an independent learner, we have the commitment, expertise and networks to offer the support they need through our sector-leading Centre for Student Engagement, Wellbeing and Success. That means tailored support covering everything from academic skills through to employability, disability and help with visa applications.
As a pioneering and progressive organisation that celebrates difference, our commitment to diversity and inclusion applies equally to colleagues and students. An individual’s potential, not their past, is what secures a place here. That’s why we’re recognised for our strong commitment to widening participation which, for us, means fair access for everyone and helping students overcome any barriers that may be holding them back.
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