Missing student protocol

Long shadows across a grey floor.

Some students may choose to disengage with their studies. In these cases, follow the assumed withdrawal policy and procedure. However, if a student’s absence is unexpected and/or you think they may be missing, then follow this protocol. Scroll down the page and follow steps 1 through 4.

All missing student concerns must be taken seriously. At the same time, you need to be careful that you do not breach student confidentiality. See information about discussing students with family and friends.

Contact with family and friends

Parents and carers

If a parent or guardian contacts you with concern for their child you should investigate the absence to ensure the student is safe. Reassure the parent/guardian as best you can without breaching confidentiality. See information about discussing students with family and friends.

If the parent wants to take further action or needs emotional and practical support, signpost them to the charity Missing People.

If the academic department has been unable to contact a student, they can leave a message with a student’s home address. This may prompt questions from the student’s family. It is important that responses do not breach student confidentiality. 

Friends who are students

If a fellow student thinks someone is missing, check what steps they have already taken and give advice if there is more they can do.

If you are aware that the ‘missing’ student is safe, thank the concerned student and tell them you are confident the student is safe but that you are not in a position to give more information.

However, if there is concern for the missing student’s safety, contact the Security team and give them all the details. Should the concerned student insist on calling the police, let them but inform Security of the situation.

If the student making the report is in distress, Security will help you contact Student Support or a College Tutor. You can also signpost them to Missing People.

Step 1: Investigating the absence

Any unplanned absence that is concerning should be immediately investigated by contacting the student's academic department and their College or private accommodation. As far as possible, avoid causing undue alarm. Investigations may include:

  • emailing, telephoning and writing to the student
  • contacting their friends, housemates and fellow students
  • reviewing their social media activity.

Please note: out of normal working hours, contact the College Duty Officer (CDO) via the Security Centre.

You should not contact parents, emergency contacts or other third parties external to the University at this stage.

Documents

Who to contact

  • Jill Ellis
    Deputy Director - Student Support
    Student Hub, Market Square
    01904 324140
    student-hub@york.ac.uk

    Office Hours: 9am - 5pm (Monday to Friday)
    Vacation hours: 10am - 4pm (Monday to Friday)

Step 2: Contacting the Deputy Director of Student Support

If the student has still not been found, the academic department or College should contact Jill Ellis (the Deputy Director of Student Support) and complete a Missing Student Risk Assessment Form (MS Word , 20kb).

The Deputy Director of Student Support will coordinate the University's response and will work with relevant colleagues (including the Head of Security) to find the student and assess the level of risk. This may include:

  • checking the student's College accommodation for clues to their whereabouts / wellbeing
  • asking Security Services, Information Services, College and Department for any electronic evidence of the student's whereabouts
  • establishing last known contacts and whether the student has shown any unusual patterns of behaviour.

If the Deputy Director of Student Support considers there to be grounds for concern about the student's wellbeing, they may contact family or friends.

Step 3: Reporting the student as missing

If the location and wellbeing of the student still cannot be confirmed, the Deputy Director of Student Support will report the student as missing to the police and/or their Embassy. The Deputy Director will be the main University point of contact for the police unless another contact is deemed more appropriate (such as the Head of Department or Assistant Head of College).

The Deputy Director of Student Support will inform the Director of Student Life and Wellbeing, Head of Open Door and Disability, Head of Security, Head of Department, Academic Registrar, Registrar & Secretary, Head of Media Relations and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning & Students to ensure any incoming enquiries can be dealt with appropriately.

Step 4: Supporting the found student

Once the student is found and confirmed safe and well, their Head of Department, Head of College and Supervisor should be informed.

They should meet with the student and go over the University attendance requirements. They should remind the student how to inform the department of any planned absences lasting longer than two weeks.

The department should also offer support to address any underlying difficulties and refer the student to additional University support services if appropriate.

Missing People

Missing People is a national charity with a 24 hour helpline offering support, advice and guidance for anyone who has someone missing. They may be contacted at any stage and can help in making a police report.