Higher education is an option considered by many people with previous criminal convictions. Depending on the course you want to study, you may have to disclose your criminal record.

We only ask students who apply for certain courses – for example, those that involve work with children and vulnerable adults, such as medicine, teaching, or social work – to declare whether they have any criminal convictions, including spent convictions. This question will only appear if you’re applying for one of these courses.

If you're applying for these courses, you'll be asked to declare spent and unspent convictions that would appear on an enhanced criminal record check. We don't ask for any further information about the conviction.


What happens if I make a criminal record declaration when applying?

Each university or college will have its own policies and procedures about how they manage criminal record disclosures. You can either find these in their admissions policy on their website, or you can request them directly from the admissions department.

Gareth's story

This inspiring video shows progressing into higher education is possible for people with criminal convictions.

When you will be asked about criminal convictions – adding a choice to your application

When adding a course choice to your application, you may be asked to disclose further information regarding any spent or unspent convictions or any past criminal activities.

This is only for certain courses where you could be working with children and/or vulnerable adults as part of your course, such as social work, teaching, medicine, or nursing.

What do I need to do?

If you have any spent or unspent convictions, read the declaration thoroughly and make sure you understand the help text, tick the box, and click ‘Save’. You will then be able to add your choice, and continue with your application.

Once you have submitted your application, universities and colleges will contact you to request additional information, and give you advice. If you have any questions, contact them directly. You might also want to contact Unlock, an independent charity that provides information, advice, and support to people with convictions.

If you do not have any spent or unspent convictions, do not tick the box – just click ‘Save’, and you will be able to save your course choice and continue with your application.

Why can't I see the criminal convictions question?

This question only appears for certain courses. If you can’t see the question, you are not applying for one of these courses, and do not need to answer this as part of your UCAS application.

If I can't see the question, does that mean I don’t have to declare my criminal conviction?

You won’t be asked as part of the UCAS application, but the universities and colleges you apply to might ask you to declare this at another time, such as:

  • when you make your firm and insurance choices
  • when you apply for accommodation
  • when you enrol at the university or college
  • as part of their terms and conditions, or to access specialist support

Universities and colleges may only need to know about very specific convictions or restrictions (for example, if you cannot access the internet), and some may not ask at all. This will be different depending on where you are applying.

If you are worried, or want to know what and when you will be asked about criminal convictions, the first thing to do is contact your chosen university or college. They will be able to advise you what they will ask. You might want to speak to a specialist at the university or college to discuss your conviction, and whether you will be asked to declare it, or you might want to contact Unlock. Universities and colleges will be able to support and guide you through their processes.

What happens if I’ve given the wrong answer for the criminal convictions question by mistake?

If you have applied to a course and have declared/undeclared a criminal conviction in error, you must contact the university or college to let them know.

Neither UCAS nor the universities or colleges can amend this on the application after it's been submitted, so it's important you contact your choice(s) to inform them of the mistake as soon as possible.

I’m applying from prison – is there anything I need to do differently?

You need to complete your UCAS application online. Your prison education officer may be able to support you. If you have limited access to the internet, you can download and print the application to go through the form step-by-step offline, but you will still need to register and complete your application online.

We recommend you contact your chosen university or college for guidance. You may also want to contact the Prisoners' Education Trust for advice.