It is important that students feel that they can trust staff and talk freely to them. On the other hand, it is often helpful for staff who are concerned about a student to talk to others who know the student in order to provide the student with appropriate help or advice. General practitioners, counsellors and clergy are bound by professional codes of practice and ethics to maintain confidentiality in most circumstances, but academic staff do not have a duty to maintain confidentiality in respect of matters that relate to a student's university course. It is, however, both expected and desirable that staff treat personal information about students with discretion and only pass on information to other staff when it is in the best interest of those involved. Whenever possible, students' wishes in respect of the disclosure of their difficulties to others should be respected, even when this inhibits any well-meant efforts to provide additional support or encouragement.
Staff may be contacted by concerned parents asking for information about their sons or daughters. Although you may be able to offer reassurance to a parent, unless the student is under 18 years of age the position of most HEIs is that personal information about students must not be passed on to anyone, including relatives, outside the university without the student's express permission. Such rules are rarely hard and fast, and in some circumstances it may be essential that parents or other relatives are contacted. However, such decisions may be best left to emergency service personnel or senior staff in the university.
Example: What About the Other Students?.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 117 0