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News | Access & Retention

Ten UK universities lead the way by signing the ‘Fair Chance for Students with Convictions’ pledge

Download The Fair Admissions Toolkit Trailblazing UK universities are leading the way in helping people with convictions access higher education by signing the ‘Fair Chance for Students with Convictions’ pledge.

The pledge is the result of a 12-month project conducted by Unlock, a charity for people with convictions, and supported by the UPP Foundation, a charity founded by University Partnerships Programme, the leading provider of on campus student accommodation infrastructure and support services in the UK.

So far, ten UK universities have signed up to this important pledge which sees institutions make a commitment to offering a fair chance to students with a criminal record. The pledge also signals an institution’s support to giving individuals a second chance at life by opening doors to higher education, giving them the best chance of new employment prospects and opportunities.

The project, designed to support fair admissions and improve access and participation for universities has three key objectives. These include putting policies in place at each university; a toolkit for other universities to use to develop their admissions policies and a pledge for universities to sign up to. The pledge will be launched at a roundtable event with Admissions leaders taking place in central London later today.

Universities and higher education providers to have signed the pledge include University of Nottingham, University of Liverpool, Birkbeck, University of London, University of Essex, University of Kent, University of Lincoln, University of the West of England, Bristol, London Metropolitan University, University of Southampton, Cardiff University and the Bloomsbury Institute. To ensure applicants are aware of the commitment, signatories will be asked to include a link to the pledge in their admissions policy going forward.

Richard Brabner, Director of The UPP Foundation said:

“We are proud to be working alongside Unlock to help universities remove the barriers to higher education that are currently facing people with convictions. We recognise that this is a relatively new area for universities and are delighted to see a number of universities signing the pledge and boldly taking steps towards a fairer admission policy.

“Access and participation is more important than ever. Removing barriers for students with convictions and improving access to universities benefits both students, the tax payer and higher education institutions.”

Christopher Stacey, Co-director at Unlock said:

“Education creates opportunities, opens doors, and changes people’s lives. We are delighted to be working alongside the UPP Foundation and higher education institutions to help people with convictions access the life changing opportunities that higher education can offer.

“People with convictions often face stigma and obstacles because of their criminal records, even long after they have served their sentence. There are over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record. These people have the potential to make positive and meaningful contributions to our society but are often denied this opportunity because of their past. We are delighted to see universities leading the way in removing the systemic barriers that face people with convictions and look forward to more universities signing the pledge and committing to fairer admission policies in the coming months.

The Fair Chance for Students with Convictions pledge

We believe everyone with the potential and ambition to go to university should have the opportunity to do so, regardless of background. People with criminal convictions face obstacles and barriers to accessing university, yet higher education has the power to transform their lives by helping them move forward and make a positive contribution to society. Therefore, as the leaders of our institutions we pledge to give applicants with a criminal record a fair chance by…

  • Asking applicants about criminal records only if – and when – it is necessary
  • Asking targeted and proportionate questions during the admissions process
  • Making our policy transparent and accessible to all applicants
  • If necessary, offering applicants a chance to discuss their case in person before a decision is made
  • Considering flexible adjustments and alternatives for applicants
  • Ensuring staff are trained to make fair and impartial judgements about applicants
  • Supporting students with criminal records to help them achieve academic success
  • Communicating positively about the benefits of a fair admissions process




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