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Postgraduate Admissions


1. Declaration of criminal convictions

If you are made an offer of admission to the University, and you accept that offer, by accepting that offer you are:

  • Agreeing to notify the Postgraduate Admissions Office of your conviction so that your admission can be risk assessed. You must inform the Head of the Postgraduate Admissions Office by emailing
  • Accepting that, if you do not fully comply with the possible admission requirements that may be set in light of your unspent criminal conviction, the University of Cambridge shall have the right to cancel your application and you shall have no claim against the University of Cambridge or any higher education institution or college in relation thereto.

If you require a visa or you are extending your visa, then you must also declare any unspent criminal convictions, including driving offences, when you apply to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

2. Relevant Criminal convictions

A relevant criminal conviction is deemed to include convictions, cautions, admonitions, reprimands, final warnings, bind over orders or similar involving one or more of those listed below:

  • Any kind of violence including (but not limited to) threatening behaviour, offences concerning the intention to harm, or offences which resulted in actual bodily harm
  • offences listed in the Sex Offences Act 2003
  • The unlawful supply of controlled drugs or substances where the conviction concerns commercial drug dealing or trafficking
  • Offences involving firearms, crossbows and knives
  • Offences involving arson
  • Offences listed in the Terrorism Act 2006

The definition of ‘spent’ is complex, being affected by such factors as the type of the offence, the age at which the person was found guilty and the sentence received. This website provides useful information on when a conviction is spent.

If you are unsure whether a caution is relevant or spent, you could also get advice from a solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau, or the Probation Service. If you seek advice from a solicitor you may have to pay for that advice.

2.1 Applicants from outside the UK and European Economic Area

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (the Act) is relevant to those of all nationalities and residencies, and the concept of “spent” convictions as set out in the Act applies regardless of the jurisdiction of the court where the offender was convicted. You should note that the Act states the following:

  • Whilst a conviction acquired outside Great Britain may be spent under the relevant law of the country where the person was convicted, it is not automatically deemed spent under English law.
  • In determining whether a conviction is capable of becoming spent, a sentence imposed by a court outside of Great Britain will be treated in the same way as the corresponding sentence under English law, or its nearest equivalent.
  • Where a sentence is imposed by a court outside of Great Britain, the period before which the conviction is deemed spent will be calculated according to English law, as set out in the Act.

3. Action to be taken on receipt of a declaration of an unspent criminal conviction

The Head of Postgraduate Admissions will obtain as much information as possible about the nature of the offence(s) concerned from you. In particular, you will be asked to provide references from your Probation Officer and/or the relevant prison authorities.

The procedure is summarised in the flow chart attached to this page.

(a) Convictions resulting in a sentence of imprisonment

In the case of convictions which have resulted in a sentence of imprisonment (including a suspended sentence), the Head of Postgraduate Admissions will refer the application to a Standing Committee, with appropriate membership. The Standing Committee will review the information gathered by the Head of Postgraduate Admissions and will assess the risk of the candidate studying at the University of Cambridge. The Standing Committee will either accept the applicant or reject the applicant on grounds related to their criminal record, and if relevant agree additional conditions for the applicant to mitigate that risk.

Such cases should include an assessment of the risk to other members of the College, department/faculty and the wider University community. Where possible, this assessment should be supported by documentary evidence. Consideration should also be given, within the case, to the need to alert other parties (for example the College accommodation office, faculty or school offices, Socrates/ERASMUS or industry placement organisers/providers etc.) to the circumstances. An indication of any special arrangements or conditions of offer that would be required for appropriate supervision once you become a matriculated student should also be detailed in the case.

(b) Convictions NOT involving a sentence of imprisonment

If the Head of Postgraduate Admissions is concerned that the nature of the offence in question warrants more extensive investigation, they may choose to refer the matter to the Standing Committee for consideration under the more thorough procedures as described in (a) above.

In all cases, the Standing Committee will sign off the requisite assessment form to indicate the decision, together with a complete copy of the documentation relating to the case.

4. Action to be taken where there is reason to suspect that an applicant has unspent criminal convictions which they have not declared

Any department, college or member of the Postgraduate Admissions Office concerned about the possibility of an undeclared unspent criminal conviction should notify the Head of Postgraduate Admissions.

In the event of your having failed to disclose a very serious conviction, the University of Cambridge may decide to cancel your application. If the application is not cancelled, the Department will follow the appropriate procedures detailed in section 2 above.

5. Data Protection

All records and correspondence relating to you declaring a relevant criminal conviction will be securely stored in accordance with the University’s Data Protection Policy.

If you have declared a criminal conviction, any information relating to your conviction will be stored separately and securely. Access will be restricted to the Head of Postgraduate Admissions only. Under the terms of the relevant legislation, documentation relating to Criminal Records Bureau disclosures should be disposed of after six months. This will happen when the admissions cycle has ended at which point all electronic and paper files will be deleted.

A decision will be made, based upon your particular circumstances, and informed by the recommendation of the Criminal Convictions Standing Committee, on whom, if anyone, within the University should be provided with further details of your conviction.

Your consent will always be obtained before seeking further information about any declared convictions from third parties.

6. Scope of the Procedure

To ensure the safety and protection of both students and staff, the above procedures are followed in relation to applications from any student declaring (or discovered to have) a criminal conviction which has not been spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Please note: Some courses may also require a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service – formally known as a CRB) check. This will include, but is not necessarily limited to, courses in Education and Medicine.