Notice for family members
How the University responds to enquiries about students from parents and family members
The University regularly receives enquiries about students from parents and other family members. Whilst we fully understand that families want to support students and may from time to time have concerns about their wellbeing or their academic progress, we are not able to answer all these enquiries. The aim of this note is to set out what we can and can’t discuss with family members and to explain why this is the case.
Balancing student safety and privacy and legal requirements - key points:
- When members of staff receive telephone or email enquiries it is extremely difficult for them to correctly identify the caller. We have a few students who are estranged from their families or have other difficult personal circumstances and might be at risk if we revealed their whereabouts or other information. We do occasionally receive calls from bogus callers/malicious calls and need to ensure the safety of all students.
- Our students are adults and our contract is with the student (regardless of who actually pays their fees or their personal circumstances). Our systems are set up to deal with the students themselves rather than parents.
- In most circumstances if staff disclosed personal information to a family member without their consent, they would be breaking the law (Data Protection Act 1998) and would be in breach of the University’s Data Protection Policy and Student Personal Data Code. Please understand that they are simply following University policy and complying with the law.
- We can normally only discuss individual student cases if we have the prior consent of the individual student.
What we can discuss:
We can tell you about our policies, our procedures, our calendar, what different terms mean, and our services for students, including support services (including financial, academic, emotional support), to help our students. We may also be able to tell you about what options are available to students generally, for instance if students are unwell, fail a module, or wish to change course. This information may help you to provide support to the student and to understand any issues that they are dealing with.
What we can’t discuss (unless we have the individual student's consent)
We can’t discuss individual cases – this includes an individual’s academic progress, results, timetable, exams, appeals, complaints, financial information, or contact details unless they have given us their consent to do so.
Concerns about a student’s wellbeing
In a small number of cases we receive calls from families raising concerns about a student’s wellbeing. The University takes its duty of care to students very seriously, but points 1-4 above still apply in many cases.
We have dedicated student support officers in each faculty and various teams of specialist support staff in Student and Learning Services.
When we receive a call raising concerns about a student’s wellbeing, staff will try to contact the student, check on them, and ask them to contact their family. Depending on the circumstances, we may also encourage and help the student to use one or more of our support services or external services. In fact, if an issue has already become apparent, we may already be providing extra support to the student. Where the University is unable to make contact with a student and/or is concerned about a student's safety, we may contact their nominated next of kin, and appropriate external services (e.g. healthcare professional, police).
The University also has procedures and staff in place to deal with students experiencing crisis situations.
In the very few number of cases where a student is reported as a missing person the University will always endeavour to cooperate fully and promptly with police enquiries.
The Student Personal Data Code explains how we use students’ data and in what circumstances we disclose their data to third parties. This may help you to understand the position.
Thank you for your understanding.
Information Governance Officer,
Governance and Planning Services
For more information about contacting the University please see the Directory of Key Contacts on the Contact Us section of our website. More information about the Support Services for students is available on our website.