A Comprehensive Guide To DBS Checks For UK Universities

University personnel, volunteers, and students may question DBS requirements for universities. As a result, we have created this quick guide that indicates which university roles require DBS checks and the degree of check required.

DBS Checks

Table of Contents

What are DBS Checks?

A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, formerly known as a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, is a background investigation carried out in the United Kingdom. It is a process that is used to offer information about a person’s criminal past and is frequently necessary for specific roles, particularly those that entail working with vulnerable individuals such as children or adults.

The Three DBS Check Levels

Before we get into the specifics of how DBS checks work for university personnel, we’ll look at the several types of checks offered and how they differ. DBS checks show unspent convictions and conditional cautions. 

  • Basic DBS checks are accessible to everyone over the age of 16 and can be requested by the individual.
  • Standard DBS checks are designated for more responsible employment, such as working with children or vulnerable adults. The applicant must submit an application through a registered party or employer.
  • Enhanced DBS checks are typically required for individuals who have unsupervised direct contact with vulnerable persons or children. If the role is classified as ‘a regulated activity,’ the Enhanced DBS check will also include a barred list check.
DBS Check Levels

Do University Employees Need DBS Checks?

As a general rule, university workers such as lecturers, wardens, research assistants, advisers and administrative staff do not need a Standard DBS check or an Enhanced DBS check. This is because university students are adults, and the majority will not be considered vulnerable. There are some exceptions, such as student counsellors who may work with vulnerable adults and therefore require an Enhanced DBS check. Many universities believe that they have a duty of care to their students and will require that all personnel undergo at least a Basic DBS check.

Are DBS Checks Required for University Students?

Students participating in work placements away from the university campus may require a Standard or Enhanced DBS Check. Whereas students preparing to be teachers or medical personnel, for example, may require higher level checks.

Any student engaging in a regulated activity will require an Enhanced DBS check as well as a check of the applicable prohibited list.

Courses that Require DBS Checks

Specific courses in the United Kingdom that require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check differ based on the university, the course, and the position or placements associated with the course. DBS checks are more likely to be required for courses that entail working with vulnerable populations, such as children or adults. 

DBS checks are frequently required for courses that prepare students to become teachers or educators. This is due to the fact that students on these degrees generally do teaching internships in schools where they will come into touch with youngsters. Here are some common examples:

  • Healthcare Courses: DBS checks are frequently required for courses in nursing, medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, and other healthcare-related disciplines. Students enrolled in these courses will work in hospitals or other healthcare environments, and patient safety is a top focus.
  • Social Work Courses: Because social work courses sometimes involve placements with vulnerable individuals and children, DBS checks are frequently necessary.
  • Psychology Courses: Some psychology courses may require DBS checks if placements or research with vulnerable groups are involved.
  • Counselling and Therapy Courses: Courses that prepare people to work as counsellors or therapists may necessitate DBS checks, especially if they contain practical placements.
  • Childcare and Early Childhood Education Courses: Due to the nature of working with young children, courses focusing on childcare, early childhood education, or working in daycare centres frequently require DBS checks.
  • Criminal Justice Courses: Some criminal justice courses, such as criminology or forensic psychology, may require DBS checks, particularly if internships or fieldwork are involved.

It is critical to confirm with the relevant university and course provider whether a DBS check is required for a certain course. The requirements can differ, and colleges may have their own standards about when and how DBS checks are performed.

Do University Volunteers Need A DBS Check?

The nature of the task a volunteer is performing determines whether or not they require a DBS check. A Basic DBS check is available to anybody, but higher level checks are reserved for more responsibility roles particularly those that require working with children or vulnerable persons.

A DBS check for volunteers is available for free, with the exception of a minor charge provided by the employer or administration.

Challenges and Concerns

The following are some of the difficulties and problems linked with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks in the United Kingdom:

  • Processing Delays: One of the most significant challenges is the possibility of DBS check processing delays. These delays can have an impact on people’s ability to start new careers or volunteer tasks on schedule.
  • Revelation of Spent Convictions: Some people are concerned about the revelation of spent convictions in Standard and Enhanced DBS checks since it can impair their employment possibilities, even for minor and unrelated past offences.
  • Data Privacy and Security: Handling sensitive personal data poses privacy and data security risks. It is critical to ensure the security of sensitive information in order to prevent breaches and misuse.
  • Regulatory Difficulty: Understanding the many levels of DBS checks and when they are required might be difficult. Individuals and organisations may become perplexed as a result of this.
  • Stigmatisation: Individuals with prior convictions may face stigmatisation or prejudice, even if their convictions are unrelated to the position for which they are applying, which might be an ethical concern.


University employees are not often needed to obtain a Standard or Enhanced DBS Check. They can, however, be asked to obtain a Basic DBS check. University students who participate in work placements with children or vulnerable persons will need a Standard or Enhanced DBS Check. 

Frequently Asked Questions

A DBS check is a way for employers check your criminal record, to help decide whether you are a suitable person to work for them. This includes deciding whether it is suitable for you to work with children or vulnerable adults. DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service.
The person being given a DBS check (the applicant) can view their certificate using their DBS online account. After logging in, select ‘Manage DBS checks’, request a one-time passcode and enter the required security information. Your DBS applications will then be shown, and you can view the necessary certificate.
A criminal record check isn’t required for the majority of courses, or merely to be in university accommodation or classes. DBS checks apply only to courses which lead to jobs in regulated activity. This would include medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, midwifery, teaching or social work.
It usually takes around 14 days but it can take longer if: the details given for the check are incorrect. Several police forces need to be involved in the check.

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