Releasing information to parents, other relatives and third parties
Parents, other relatives and third parties often contact the University to request personal data about students1 at the University. For instance, it is very common for parents, particularly those who are contributing to tuition fees, to ask for information about the academic progress of their son or daughter, to inquire how they are settling at the University or to try and find out where they are since they have not been in touch. Unfortunately, the University is not able to disclose this sort of personal data (even to parents) other than in the most exceptional of circumstances because of the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Privacy rights of the student
The Data Protection Act 1998 protects an individual's rights to privacy with regards to his or her personal data. It establishes a set of principles and conditions about the use and disclosure of personal data with which the University must comply. This means that the University cannot pass on information about its students unless it is permitted to do so under the Act: so the policy of the University is not to disclose personal data about its students to anyone unless the student has given fully-informed consent for the information to be released.
What can the University tell you?
The Act is very strict so that even confirming or denying that an individual is a student here could infringe privacy and may, in extreme circumstances, put an individual in danger. Although the University understands that parents may have concerns about their son/daughter it cannot routinely disclose personal data if there is no authorisation to do so. However if a student has consented to the release of information we are happy to comply. How does the student provide consent? We usually ask that the student send an email (from their University email account) to firstname.lastname@example.org (or log a call on the student helpdesk software) stating that they are happy for us to speak with a specified person about a particular matter.
We will happily discuss general information about, for example, University procedures, examination processes, the implications of failing a module, accommodation costs etc. You can contact the Student Services Centre on 0118 378 5555.
How can the University help if you have serious concerns?
There may be circumstances when you may have major concerns about your son or daughter - perhaps you have not heard from them for months 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/correspondence with us, we will endeavour to pass them on and encourage the student (assuming the individual is a student at the University) to make contact. If the individual is not a student at the University the details will be destroyed.
The Data Protection Act 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.
1 The term 'students' here includes applicants, enrolled students and alumni