Higher education access in South Africa for students with criminal records – pg. 25.
Research shows that education is an important resource in lowering recidivism and increasing life opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals. Therefore, access to higher education is essential for re-integration into communities. This article explores the mechanisms that South African universities have in place to encourage access for students with criminal records. This is done by analysing the application forms of 16 South African universities to assess whether these institutions require potential students to provide information about their criminal records, any reasons provided for requiring such information, and any indication of how the information is stored, accessed and shared. The findings reveal that some institutions require such information but that there is a lack of clarity at most institutions on the reasons for requesting such information. Evidence from those institutions which require such information shows the importance of the process in order to be able to provide correct advice to students when choosing programmes. Further, also being aware of student challenges means that the correct assistance can be availed for the student to adapt to university life. A re-evaluation of institutional policies to improve access for students with criminal records is proposed, and a research agenda is provided to inform such changes. It is acknowledged that these findings are limited by relying on the application forms of only16 South African universities as the sole source of data.