Discussing students with family or friends

Two geese with goslings

Staff are unable to give out any information about a student to a third party without that student’s prior and express permission, except in exceptional circumstances.

This includes parents, spouses, siblings, friends, and fellow students.

We have a duty under Data Protection legislation and University policy to protect students' privacy. All universities in the UK follow similar guidelines and are bound by the same legal restrictions.

In certain exceptional circumstances we may, in agreement with the student, communicate with a third party, if the University deems it fair and in the interests of those concerned.

Further information

Who to contact

  • Student Hub, Market Square
  • Tel: 01904 324140
    student-hub@york.ac.uk
  • Office hours: 9am - 5pm (Mon to Fri)
  • Vacation hours: 10am - 4pm (Mon to Fri)

Current students

In an emergency University staff will contact the emergency contact (without the student’s permission) if it is deemed appropriate. This will normally only be if, for example, medical personnel advise that it is required.

If someone is worried about a student they can contact a member of staff who will take their concerns seriously and follow up through our student support channels where appropriate.

The University is unable to confirm whether a student actually attends the University but can tell the person making contact what procedure(s) would be followed or the actions usually taken in such cases. 

Applicants

Information about a student’s application and progress through the admissions process may only be discussed with the applicant themselves.

If an applicant wishes University staff to discuss their application with a parent, guardian or other third party, they must provide written permission for this to occur.

How to explain University policy

Staff who regularly take phone calls from family or friends will develop their own preferred ways of explaining the University policy. Colleagues new to this situation may find the following suggested wording useful:

“Thank you for calling. My name is [name] and my job at the University is [job title]. Under Data Protection legislation I am not allowed to confirm the identity of any students or give out any information about students. However, if you would like to explain the reasons for your call and any concerns you have about your [relative or friend] I can explain what steps we typically take in such situations.”

Having listened to what the caller has to say it may be helpful to emphasise that we will take their concerns seriously. There are typically courses of action we take following such calls:

  • we may pass a message through to a student
  • we may make discreet enquiries about their wellbeing through their supervisor or their College welfare team, or
  • the information they provide can be passed through to the University Student Support Services to follow up.

It is important to make a note of the caller’s name and their contact details in case we need to follow up their call, but do not to promise to call them back.

If the caller is unsatisfied with your explanation of the University policy, you can offer to arrange for them to talk to your line manager.