Confidentiality and sharing information with parents, relatives and third parties
As a parent, carer or close relative of a University of Northampton student, there may be times when you would like to be given information about their studies. Commonly, parents might wish to find out about how their young person is getting on academically, or you might be worried about them if you haven’t heard from them for a while.
As your young person has signed a contract with the University and as adults (aged 18 and over) they have a right to privacy and we have a legal duty to protect their personal information in order to comply with data protection laws.
For this reason the University is not able to disclose personal data of students other than in the most exceptional of circumstances. This applies even if you are parent or carer who is contributing financially towards supporting their studies.
We appreciate that this can be frustrating, particularly if you are worried about them, but we have a responsibility to ensure that as an adult your young person’s legal rights are respected. We are happy to discuss any general queries with you, and if there are any specific details that you need to discuss then we can do so only with your young person’s written permission.
What can the University tell you?
The University cannot routinely disclose personal data if there is no authorisation to do so. However, if a student has consented in writing for information to be shared with a named third-party then we will be able to share that information.
To obtain consent from student we will contact them and ask that they send an email stating that they are happy for us to speak with a named person about a specific matter. Verbal consent is not sufficient. It is important to note that this consent to share is time-limited and team-specific.
What if I have a serious concern about a student’s wellbeing?
If you have an immediate and serious concern about the wellbeing of one of our students then we would always recommend that you contact the emergency services on 999 in the first instance, who may deploy trained professionals to locate your loved one. You can also find information about services and support available 24/7 for mental health emergencies and crisis in Northamptonshire on the Gov website.
We would also recommend that you try to reach out to them directly via all channels (such as a phone call, via text, WhatsApp or social media). You might also wish to try and visit them in person. As their parent or next-of-kin, you are likely to be in the best position to know if something isn’t right and help to support them.
You can also encourage the student to make contact with us if they are in need of support. All of the University’s support information, including how to contact teams, can be found on our Your Wellbeing page.
Steps that the University of Northampton will take if concerns are raised by parents or third party:
We will not necessarily be able to tell you about the action that we have taken, however we would normally seek to follow these steps:
- If the student is in Halls of Residence we will conduct a ‘welfare-check’ in person, to check in on that individual;
- We will make contact with the student directly to let them know that you have been in touch and encourage them to reach out to you;
- We will provide you and the student with information about the support services that are available at the University;
- The student’s details will be shared with the Student Welfare and Safeguarding Adviser so that any potential safeguarding concerns can be considered.
Data protection laws do permit the University to disclose information in circumstances where we believe there is a significant threat to life and where sharing information with a parent or third party is necessary in order to protect the student’s vital interests. These cases are rare, but in such cases consent to share from the student is not required and we would use the emergency/next of kin details that the student has provided to the University. If this information was refused by the student then the University would contact emergency services.