See our information on how we aim to work with identified third parties to support student wellbeing.
UK law (the General Data Protection Regulation) and University policy prohibit the disclosure of an individual’s information to a third party. This means that staff members are unable to give any information about a student currently studying at the University to a third party. This includes parents, other family members and friends, for example. All Universities in the UK follow similar guidelines and are bound by the same legislation.
This means that if you make contact with any member of the University and ask about your child or partner, staff will not be able to divulge any details concerning their academic progress, their wellbeing or their attendance. For this reason, we encourage parents and students to keep in regular contact with each other.
We realise that this can sometimes be frustrating, but hope you appreciate the reasons for this.
The relationship is one between the University and student and as such, it is important to build relationships based on trust. In general, students are expected to act on their own behalf when dealing with offices and departments within the University, and when requesting services. Parents or partners will not normally be allowed to make requests, or otherwise act on behalf of a student.
In certain exceptional circumstances and with the student’s written consent, we may communicate with a third party, if the University deems it is in the interests of the student concerned. For instance, we understand that occasionally it may be helpful to the student to be able to contact a trusted individual for example where a pre-existing medical condition reoccurs to seek advice on past treatment might be helpful in an emergency situation.
If we do this, the student will have to sign a statement of permission, which will allow us to discuss one particular, clearly outlined, issue with a third party over a very limited period of time. The permission form will be applicable only to that one instance and therefore cannot be reused at a later date. This discussion will take place with the student present. We will not discuss a student with a third party behind their back, because this will not help the student’s development, and undermines the relationship between student and University.
There may be circumstances when you may have concerns about a student - perhaps you have not heard from them for a while or maybe you are concerned over a serious (but not vital) medical condition they have or possibly you have received a worrying message about them in some way. In such cases if you leave contact details or correspondence with us, assuming the individual is a student at the University, we will pass them on and encourage the student to make contact. If you know their address, are seriously concerned and think that they might be at immediate risk of harm to themselves or to others you could also telephone the Police or local Safeguarding services as appropriate. If the individual is not a student at the University the details will be destroyed.
The University implements an ‘opt in’ scheme, where we ask students to provide at least one emergency contact and indicate where a contact is a preferred ‘Wellbeing Contact’.
It is anticipated that the University will use an emergency contact in the majority of cases. However, a Wellbeing Contact will be informed where serious concerns are presented for a student’s health, mental health or capacity. See the next accordion for more information about how we would use a 'wellbeing contact'.
We do not normally contact anyone else if the student is responsive and receiving assistance from University staff (e.g. Advisers or Counsellors), or external agencies (e.g. medical professionals, private counselling). If a student is the subject of Disciplinary procedures, even if the Police are involved, parents or emergency contacts (including those indicated as a wellbeing contact) will not necessarily be contacted. The student is an adult and responsible for their own actions and the repercussions from those actions.
The General Data Protection Regulation does permit the University to disclose information in certain exceptional circumstances; these are usually life or death situations. In such cases, the routine need to obtain consent before disclosing personal data may be waived, and therefore, if a student is in immediate, grave risk we may contact the Wellbeing Contact with some caveats:
- We ask students to provide emergency or wellbeing contact details when they enrol and are therefore assigned by the students themselves. They may, or may not, choose to name parents or partners in the role of emergency contacts;
- If the student who is experiencing difficulties is responsive and they, or the University, determine that input from the Wellbeing Contact could be helpful, we shall ask the student’s permission to make contact or encourage them to make contact with their Wellbeing Contact. If the student agrees, the Wellbeing Contact will be contacted, usually with the student present. If the student is mildly or moderately unwell, but not at grave or life threatening risk, the University will not usually contact anyone else without the student’s permission.
- If the student is in grave danger, unresponsive or is believed to lack capacity and a parent, guardian or trusted individual has been identified as the Wellbeing Contact, we are able to use that contact even if the student is unable to give permission.
The decision to contact a Wellbeing Contact will be taken by two University managers and will be based on the agreement that communication with the nominated contact is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the student. These circumstances are very rare, but when they occur the most common causes of this necessary communication are where a student has been reported missing and is believed to be at risk; where a student is unresponsive and has been taken by emergency transportation to hospital; where a student is mentally incapacitated and at extreme risk; or in the event of a student’s death.