Easy Read version available

Accessing College or University education can be that little bit more complicated with a criminal record but it certainly shouldn’t be a barrier that you can’t get past. 


If you are applying for a place at a UK university, you will typically apply through UCAS

UCAS provides quite detailed guidance on their website regarding when and if you might be asked to disclose the details of a criminal record. 

In summary, you will only be asked about whether you have a criminal record if you are applying for a course that involves work with children or vulnerable adults.  If you are applying for one of these courses, you will be asked to declare both spent and unspent convictions.

Your application will then be assessed by each individual university, all of whom have their own Admissions and Safeguarding policies.  You may want to reach out to the University proactively with fuller details of your conviction. A disclosure letter might be helpful if you do decide to contact them. 

Upcoming changes relating to University Admission

All 19 Scottish Universities reached an agreement in late 2023 that saw them align their practice in respect of disclosure. 

The new approach is expected to ask for relevant unspent convictions and criminal charges. 

Universities Scotland, the representative organisation for Scottish universities, have explained that the data collection will:

  • Be made mandatory by all institutions as part of a student’s initial entry to university, at the post-offer stage, as well as annually on re-enrolment.
  • Be asked of students at all levels of study, including postgraduates.
  • Include collection of data on relevant unspent criminal convictions and relevant criminal charges. This will include charges and convictions relating to violence and sexual violence offences.
  • Be verified to remove false positives and then used as part of a risk assessment process to improve student safety from other students.
  • Be focused and proportionate, and the process will be attentive to the needs of all students, including universities’ role in supporting rehabilitation.

Universities Scotland is expected to publish guidance for institutions and materials for prospective students. Once this information becomes available, this page will be updated.


Each Further Education College has its own policies and procedures around Admissions and Safeguarding. 

If a policy statement relating to the disclosure of criminal convictions is not immediately obvious on the application form, you can contact the College to ask for details of relevant policies. 

As with University admission, the course you are applying to should be the primary factor in the decision-making process.  

If you have an unspent conviction, this should not exclude you from admission but a risk assessment process may be carried out prior to an admission decision being made. 

If you are applying to study a course that requires PVG membership, any conviction considered relevant within the PVG Scheme guidance will need to be taken into account. 

Grant funding for people who are or have been in prison

The Longford Trust awards scholarships to young people who are or have been in prison to go to university to continue their rehabilitation. The awards can be up to £5,000 per annum and also include a mentor and access to the Trust’s employability project as you approach graduation.

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024


The following organisations offer support on this topic.

No items found.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Cookie Policy for more information.