Most young people applying for admission at one of Australia’s universities are quite surprised to hear they will need to undergo a background check. This does sound a bit weird, especially as we’re talking about 18 or 19 years old who have never been in trouble with the law before. Why are they suddenly being treated like criminals, they wonder.
The truth is that crime rates among Australian youth are still at a worrying level, 1,9 offenders per 100,000 young people aged 10-17 in 2019-2020. Almost 47,000 youngsters were charged with various offences during the same period.
Universities need to screen for such elements not because they are to be barred from higher education, but simply because some offences would make them ineligible for work placements so they won’t be able to complete their studies anyway.
When are background checks needed for future students?
Obviously, not all universities require criminal history checks. Such checks are primarily required for people preparing to enter the healthcare domain or those wishing to work with children in any capacity, teachers, coaches, etc.
What young people need to know is that it’s not the universities themselves that have come up with such a requirement. Criminal record checks are mandated by law for all those who, by nature of their profession, will be in close contact with children or vulnerable people.
What are work placements?
Let’s take, for instance, the case of students at a medical school. Most of their studies are indeed theoretical and they have lots of books to read and memorize. However, you cannot become a doctor without some hands-on experience. This is where work placements come in. All students need to complete a number of work placements, usually in a hospital setting.
As such, they will interact directly with vulnerable people, including senior citizens, people with disabilities and children. The Australian law requires that all people interacting with protected individuals pass rigorous checks.
For instance, if you will be working with children you will have to obtain a Working With Children permit, which requires a sort of enhanced criminal records check.
Students who won’t be able to get their WWC permit won’t be able to complete their studies, they won’t be able to become doctors, teachers or even sport coaches. This is the reason universities ask for criminal record checks.
How can I see my own criminal record?
If you have been in trouble with the law, it’s always a good idea to have a look at your criminal record before even seeking admission to a certain university. This will save you a lot of time and the humiliation of seeing your application rejected.
You can order a background check on yourself using the services of an online character check agency. It’s a quick process and very discreet. No one needs to know you’re worried about your criminal history. You’ll get the result via email in a couple of days. Minor offences older than 5 years might have become spent which would eliminate all your worries. On the other hand, if you do have some offence on your criminal record you should talk to the dean of your chosen university to see if they can offer some alternative that would allow you to pursue your studies, or you can choose another profession that does not require background checks.