The British education system is one of the world’s best, and an estimated 500,000 students enrolled in Universities in the UK are from overseas. This represents around 20% of the total number of students, and 55% of postgraduates. Students coming to the UK to study have to jump through a number of hoops before ever setting foot in a lecture theatre. Once they have negotiated a place on their chosen course, organised accommodation and got the right visa, the next job is looking into DBS checks. And this is when things get a lot more complicated for many foreign students.


Who Needs a DBS Check?

It’s not all bad news however as most students will not need a DBS, or criminal records check. 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. Many of these degrees involve time away from university, getting on the job training on the wards or in the classroom. Students therefore need a DBS check to get enrolled into the course in the first place. University admissions offices will know exactly what courses need a DBS check, and will be able to provide guidance on who should apply, when and how. Remember, they are enrolling thousands of students every year so will know exactly how the system works.


Getting a DBS Check Overseas

Students arriving from outside the UK and enrolling on these courses have an additional step in the process. This is because a DBS check is UK specific and the police will only look at records on their own computer system. There is currently no way in which the DBS can access police information about crimes committed overseas. Overseas students are therefore asked to provide an equivalent certificate from their home country.

Every country has its own system for criminal records checking, and different terminology for the certificates. Many countries refer to the process as certificates of good character, rather than explicitly mentioning criminal charges. There is extensive guidance on the DBS website broken down by country to help students work out what they need to do.

In most cases, this will mean making an application through the police in your home country and obtaining a certificate either stating your current criminal record or giving an opinion on character and trustworthiness. Processing times can vary, and as the local equivalent of the DBS check is needed before a place is confirmed and a visa is issued, it’s important to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Remember also that if the certificate is issued in a language other than English, you’ll have to pay to have it professionally translated.


Getting Help

There is lots of help out there for overseas students who have been told that they need a DBS check. The first port of call should be the universities, who are the experts in getting students onto courses in the UK.