ucas criminal convictions
Reformed offenders could have their entire lives transformed by the decision. Source: Hanny Naibaho/Unsplash.

You might remember a little while ago, we wrote about applying to university through Ucas, the UK’s university admissions service. But now, one part of that application process has changed…

You no longer need to declare whether or not you have had a past criminal conviction on your application, Ucas announced on Tuesday.

The move was made in a bid to break down the barriers to higher education former offenders face, The Guardian reported. Now, any ex-offender will be able to have the same chance to gain a degree in the UK as anyone else.

Ucas said it has been working with a number of charities, including the Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET), the Longford Trust, and Unlock for the past two years in an attempt to widen access to higher education for ex-prisoners.

Many universities in the UK are also on board with the movement to allow everyone access to a university education should they desire it.

Up until this point, anyone with an outstanding criminal conviction or who has spent time incarcerated had to announce this in a checkbox section which makes up a part of the Ucas application.

Many ex-offenders feel there is little use applying to university if they had to declare this and many of those who have applied in the past feel their applications were denied purely on this premise.


PET even reported ex-offenders have previously found they received offers from universities only to have them withdrawn at little notice once the institution learned of their past run-ins with the law.

In the next application cycle in September 2019, there will be no criminal convictions box and therefore students will not be flagged as former offenders and will not risk being discriminated against for it.

“Ucas is committed to ensuring that anyone who wants to study at university or college has the opportunity to apply and isn’t put off by questions on the application,” Ucas Senior Policy and Qualifications Manager Ben Jordan told The Guardian.

“We hope this reaffirms that higher education is open to everyone.”

PET’s head of policy Nina Champion claimed the charities have been working closely with Ucas to make this change possible by challenging the “arbitrary and discriminatory practices that have gone on in university admissions processes, which have prevented many talented and qualified people from studying at university level.”

“People with convictions who are applying to university are showing a huge commitment to turning their lives around. As a society, we should be doing all we can to support them.”

The Guardian spoke to former prisoner Georgie who said his university offer was revoked over concerns about his past.

“I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was going to be the start of something new. But then, on the day of enrolment, the university withdrew my application,” he said.

The London university sent an email saying they had reversed their decision due to Georgie’s criminal record despite the fact it was an offence committed nearly a decade earlier.

He had been fully discharged for years by this point and had “no restrictions against me as an individual. I was destroyed, heartbroken.”

The university has now reversed its decision.

Christopher Stacey, a co-director of Unlock, said Ucas’ decision “is a significant change that has the potential to help many people with convictions see a university education as a positive way forward in their lives.”

Ex-offenders have “a lot of ambition, a lot of drive, a lot of passion,” Georgie said.

“We probably make the best students just for the sheer fact that we want it so desperately.”

Tuesday’s announcement was moved forward to tie in with the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last week.

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