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Advise me about...... Criminal Convictions

When applying or registering for a new learning opportunity you may be asked about any criminal convictions you have, although different policies and procedures are in place depending on the education provider you want to learn with and the type of the course you wish to take.

Declaring a criminal conviction

You may be asked to declare what are referred to as relevant 'unspent' criminal convictions or punishments, for example as part of an application form or during an interview. If asked it is important you understand whether or not you need to declare any convictions you have. Whether a conviction is spent or not depends on the rehabilitation period for the offence in question, although cautions, reprimands and final warnings are spent immediately (with the exception of conditional cautions). The rehabilitation period for a criminal conviction depends on the age you were at the time of your conviction and the sentence you received. Even if you have a relevant unspent criminal conviction you will not be automatically barred from taking a course but the learning provider will usually assess whether you pose a risk. Speeding tickets and parking fines do not count as criminal convictions and do not need to be declared.

Applying to Higher Education

If you are applying to a higher education provider through a centralised application system, such as UCAS (which is used for most full time and some part time courses) you will be asked to complete information about relevant, unspent criminal convictions. This information is then passed on to the universities of your choice. If applying directly to a HE provider for a course you are likely to be asked a similar question on the institution's application form. You are likely to need to provide detailed information about your conviction for a risk assessment to take place.

Criminal record or DBS check

By and large, learning providers are not legally allowed to ask you about convictions that are spent and these do not need to be declared. However, there are exceptions to this. If you are applying for a course that involves training leading to a job that is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (for example jobs in health and social care or teaching) then you will be asked to declare all relevant convictions that are not protected (or filtered out). These types of courses usually require you to undergo a criminal record or DBS check (through the Barring and Disclosure Service).

Getting further advice

If you are not sure whether you need to disclose a criminal conviction or want advice on the best way to inform an education provider about a conviction then NACRO offers some detailed advice. NACRO also run their own learning opportunities that might be of interest to you. You can call NACRO on 0300 123 1999 during office hours.You can also email them on helpline@nacro.org.uk.

Education in prison

Most prisoners are offered opportunities to develop new skills or to undertake further study and this can include distance learning courses such as those offered by the Open University.

Useful links

‘Starting your small business’ offered by the Social Partnerships Network
Starting your small business

Detailed advice on entering education with spent or unspent criminal convictions:
Education and training on NACRO website

Brief information about how UCAS handles declaration of criminal convictions:
UCAS declaration website

Useful Links

‘Starting your small business’ offered by the Social Partnerships Network

Starting your
small business


Detailed advice on entering education with spent or unspent criminal convictions

Education on
NACRO website

Information about how UCAS handles declaration of criminal convictions

UCAS declaration
website