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Student Data Protection Statement

  1. What is Data Protection?
  2. What information does SOAS hold about me?
  3. How will my data be used?
  4. Who receives my data?
  5. What are my rights?
  6. What are my responsibilities?
  7. What if I need a reference/confirmation of qualifications?
  8. What happens after I finish/graduate?
  9. What if my details change?
  10. Can I get access to my data?
  11. Where can I get advice/further information?
  12. Status of this statement
1. What is Data Protection?

While you are a student at SOAS and after you cease to be a student, SOAS needs to collect, store, use and disclose certain data about you. We require this information for our normal business purposes, such as services to applicants, current students and alumni (see How will my data be used?).

When we process data about you, we have to observe the requirements of the Data Protection Act. The Act establishes a framework within which information about living individuals can be legally gathered, stored, used and disseminated. At its core are eight Data Protection Principles which SOAS and other organizations must abide by. These specify that personal information must be:

  • Processed fairly and lawfully, and only if certain conditions are met.
  • Obtained for specified and lawful purposes, and not used for purposes other than those for which it was gathered.
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive.
  • Accurate and where necessary kept up to date.
  • Kept for no longer than necessary.
  • Processed in accordance with individuals' rights (see What are my rights?).
  • Kept secure.
  • Not transferred outside the European Economic Area unless certain conditions are met.

These protections apply to information in electronic form, and to many types of data in paper form. Further information about the Data Protection Act is available from the Information Commissioner's Office, an independent body that monitors compliance with the Act.

SOAS is committed to meeting its responsibilities to current and former students under the Data Protection Act and related legislation such as the Human Rights Act. SOAS's Data Protection Policy specifies the steps which SOAS is taking to meet its Data Protection obligations, and is binding on all members of the School. This statement is designed to highlight the areas of Data Protection which are of particular concern to students, and to help students understand how information about them will be used. It applies to all students regardless of age, so if you are under 18, you will be treated in the same way as students who are over 18 for Data Protection purposes.

2. What information does SOAS hold about me?

SOAS will collect data about you in the course of our dealings with you as a current or former student (see How will my data be used?): for example, when you apply, when you enrol, and as you progress through your course. We may also receive data about you from outside SOAS, such as information from UCAS relating to undergraduates' UCAS applications, and information supplied by referees. If you are a current or former student, examples of the data which SOAS may hold about you include:

  • Your name.
  • Your contact details.
  • Details of your emergency contacts.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your nationality.
  • Your ethnic origins.
  • Your academic background and qualifications.
  • Your academic record while at SOAS, including details of any degrees which you are awarded.
  • Any disabilities which you have disclosed to us.
  • Medical information, such as information held by the counseling service.
  • Fee information and sponsorship details.
  • Your use of SOAS facilities such as the Library.
  • Any disciplinary action taken against you.
  • A digital photograph of you, which is used to produce your student ID, and for security and identification purposes.

Data about you will be gathered and held in both digital and paper form. Some of this information (such as your ethnic origins, medical information and information about disabilities) is classed as "sensitive" personal data under the Data Protection Act. This means that it is subject to extra legal protection, and we have to meet an additional set of conditions in order use the data fairly and lawfully. For further information about sensitive personal data, see the School's Data Protection Policy.

3. How will my data be used? 

By commencing or enrolling as a SOAS student, you consent to SOAS collecting, storing, using and otherwise processing data about you for any purposes connected with your studies, your health and safety and for other legitimate reasons while you are a student. We will also use your data for certain purposes after you cease to be student (see What happens after I finish/graduate?).

SOAS will only use your data fairly and lawfully in accordance with our obligations under the Data Protection Act. This means that we will process your data in a way which respects the Data Protection Principles set down in the Act (see What is Data Protection?), and your rights under the Act (see What are my rights?). Any use by SOAS of your data must also be covered by our registration with the Information Commissioner. This is available on the Information Commissioner's Office website, and describes in a general way how we process personal data about students and other individuals.

The Data Protection Act requires us to keep your data secure. This means that your confidentiality will be respected, and all appropriate measures will be taken to prevent unauthorised disclosure. Only members of staff who need access to relevant parts or all of your data will be authorised to do so. Information about you in electronic form will be subject to password and other security restrictions, while paper files will be stored in secure areas with controlled access. For further information on data security, see SOAS's Data Protection Policy.

Although it is not possible to state every purpose for which your information will be used, the following are examples of how it is likely to be used while you are a student:

  • To administer your studies and record academic achievements (e.g. your course choices, examinations and assessments, and the publication of pass lists and graduation programmes).
  • To assist in pastoral and welfare needs (e.g. the counselling service and services to students with disabilities).
  • To administer financial aspects of your registration as a student (e.g. payment of fees, debt collection).
  • To manage School facilities, such as computing facilities and the Library.
  • To produce management statistics and to conduct research into the effectiveness of our programmes of study.
  • To monitor our equal opportunities policies (e.g. compliance with the Race Relations Act).
  • To administer employment processes, if you choose to work for SOAS.
  • For security and disciplinary purposes.
  • For internal and external audits, and quality assurance exercises.
  • For marketing and alumni relations purposes.

We may also disclose your data to certain outside organisations (see Who receives my data?).

We may use copies of the data (including sensitive personal data) which we hold about you for the purpose of testing our IT systems. If your data is used for system testing, it will be copied to a test environment, where it will be used with data on other students to test changes to our IT systems in a realistic way. This is done to ensure that changes will be effective and will not cause loss or damage to data. The data about you which we hold in our live systems will not be affected. Your data will not be kept in the test environment for longer than is necessary for testing purposes, and data in that environment will not be used for purposes other than testing. We will also apply appropriate security precautions to the data.

4. Who receives my data?

SOAS will only disclose information about you with your consent, or where disclosure without your consent is required or permitted by law. This section outlines the major organisations and the most common circumstances in which we disclose data about students. Where this involves the transfer of your data outside the European Economic Area, data will only be transferred if one of the conditions set down in the Data Protection Act has been met (see SOAS's Data Protection Policy for further information). Your data may also be sent to different departments within SOAS where this is necessary for our day to day administration.

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
SOAS is usually required to send some of the information which we collect about students to HESA, where it forms part of the student's HESA record. This requirement applies to most categories of students, the major exception being Language Centre students who are not pursuing a diploma or certificate.

If your data is supplied to HESA, HESA may then pass all or some of the data to various government departments and agencies to enable them to carry out their statutory functions. These bodies and HESA will mainly use your data to produce anonymised statistics. Your contact details will not be passed to HESA, and recipients of HESA data will not be able to contact you. HESA and the recipients of HESA data will also take precautions to reduce the risk that you may be identified from information which is published and released. Further information is available in HESA's Student Collection Notice on the SOAS website.

If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, about six months after you complete your programme, the SOAS Careers Service (part of The Careers Group, University of London) will send you HESA's Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) questionnaire. This is designed to gather data about your career or other activities at that time, and the relevance of the course which you undertook. If there is no reply, somebody from the Careers Service will telephone the number which you gave the School in the hope of speaking to you. As a last resort, they are authorised to accept information from a third party such as a near relative. Any data which is collected, but not your contact details, will be passed to HESA and will be linked to the record which HESA already holds about you. The data will be treated with the same confidentiality as other data in your HESA record (see above and HESA's Student Collection Notice for information on how HESA uses your data). You may also be included in a sample of leavers who are surveyed again by HESA a few years after they graduate. If so, we will pass your contact details to the organisation contracted by HESA to carry out the follow-up survey. However, you will not be included in either survey if you indicate that you do not wish to participate. To opt out of the DLHE and the follow-up survey, please contact the Careers Service.

The Careers Group will receive data about you from SOAS for the purpose of carrying out the DLHE and for other purposes connected with operating the Careers Services. The Careers Group also receives certain data about you from HESA, if you have a HESA record.

National Students Survey (NSS)
The NSS is an annual survey of undergraduate students who are in the final stages of their programmes of study. It is designed to gather students' views on the quality of the teaching, assessment and support which they have experienced. This information is used to produce statistics and provide summary feedback to individual institutions and student unions. The survey has been commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in association with other funding councils.

If you are eligible for the NSS, SOAS will pass your contact details to HEFCE or the organisation which has been contracted by HEFCE to carry out the survey, unless you tell us that you do not wish to participate. To opt out of the NSS, please contact SOAS's Information Compliance Manager (see Where can I get advice/further information?).

Linking London Lifelong Learning Network
Linking London Lifelong Learning Network is a collaborative partnership of universities, further education colleges and adult focussed education institutions in the London area which is part of a nation-wide initiative to improve progression for vocational learners into and through Higher Education. If you have entered SOAS through a progression agreement negotiated by Linking London, SOAS will transfer certain data about you to Birkbeck College (Linking London's host institution), so that the data for your HESA record can be returned to HESA by Birkbeck.

Sponsors and funding bodies
SOAS will send data relating to you to sponsors and funding bodies where we are required to do so by law or where you have consented to the transfer of data, e.g. in the contract between you and the funding organisation. For example, we have a statutory duty to disclose data to the Student Loans Company, and to local education authorities for students eligible for fee and loan payments. Where students are in receipt of a US Federal loan, SOAS may be required to release personal data pertinent to the loan to relevant parties as required by the US Department of Education. Students receiving such loans have to sign a statement (on the Master Promissory Note) consenting to the release of such information.

In other cases, SOAS will not release data about you to bodies or individuals who have funded your education (such as your parents or employer), unless you tell us that we can do so.

Study abroad
If your programme of study involves spending a period of time at an institution outside SOAS, or you have come to SOAS as a visiting, exchange or junior year abroad student, we may need to share information about you with the other institutions involved in the exchange (within or outside the European Economic Area). This will be done for the administration of the visit, exchange or study abroad, and so that the other institution can carry out its duties in regard to your studies. If you are involved in a visit, exchange or study abroad, you consent to SOAS transferring data about you as necessary for purposes connected with your studies.

Pass lists and graduation information
Details of successful degree candidates are included in programmes and other information connected with graduation ceremonies. If you do not want your information to be made available in this way, please contact the SOAS Registry.

References and confirmation of qualifications
SOAS may release data about you in response to a request for a reference or for confirmation of your qualifications (see What if I need a reference/confirmation of qualifications?).

The SOAS Students' Union
All SOAS students are automatically members of the SOAS Students' Union. The Students' Union is separately responsible under the Data Protection Act for the processing of data relating to its members. There is a Data Sharing Agreement between SOAS, University of London and SOAS Students' Union (pdf; 357kb) which allows for the School to pass certain basic information about you and your course to the Students' Union to help them with the management and administration of elections, clubs and societies and other activities and services available to its members. Under the data sharing agreement, you may opt out of this data sharing at any time. For more information please contact the Students' Union General Manager or the School's Information Compliance Manager.

University of London Research Library Services (ULRLS)
We will transfer certain basic data about you (such as your name and contact details) to ULRLS if you are entitled to use Senate House Library, so that the Library can generate a member record for you. This is done to streamline the registration of SOAS students who wish to use Senate House Library.

University of London Union (ULU)
If you are a registered internal student of the University of London, you are automatically entitled to full membership of ULU. In order to assist ULU in providing services to students, we will transfer certain basic data about you (your name, student identifier, SOAS email address and course of study) to ULU. ULU will use this data to register students to vote in ULU elections, and to inform you about relevant services and activities. This only applies if you are an internal student on a course which will lead to an award conferred by the University of London. Information on other categories of students is not transferred to ULU.

UK Border Agency
This section applies to students who require a visa to enter the UK to study at SOAS.

To assist in preventing immigration fraud, from 2009 SOAS will be required to report to the UK Border Agency details of students subject to immigration control who fail to enrol, who discontinue their studies or who fail to maintain contact with SOAS. We may also be required to provide the Border Agency with other information about students. From time to time, SOAS also receives enquires from UK immigration officials regarding the status of applicants or students, e.g. to check whether an offer of a place has been made or whether a student has enrolled.

SOAS will normally provide information about applicants and students when requested to do so by UK immigration officials. Failure to do so, in some cases, could lead to the School's removal from the list of institutions approved to receive overseas students. We will maintain the records about students (e.g. attendance) which we are required to maintain to meet the Border Agency's requirements.

Other disclosures
Examples of some of the other situations in which we may disclose information about you include:

  • Disclosure to law enforcement agencies, where necessary for crime prevention or detection.
  • Disclosure to local authorities, for purposes connected with electoral registration, council tax or the investigation of benefit fraud.
  • Disclosure to the Quality Assurance Agency, during institutional audits and other quality assessment exercises.
  • If you leave SOAS owing money to the School, we may at our discretion pass this information to a debt collection agency.
  • We may disclose information for the purpose of verifying the data about you held by SOAS, by another higher education institution or by government agencies.
5. What are my rights?

You have a number of rights under the Data Protection Act in respect of the information which SOAS holds about you, and how we can use that information. These include:

  • The right to prevent us from using your data for direct marketing purposes.
  • The right to prevent us from processing your data in a way which causes or is likely to cause you substantial damage or distress. You can do this by serving us with a notice under section 10 of the Data Protection Act. However, we may refuse to accept such a notice in certain circumstances: for example, if doing so would prevent us from processing data which is necessary for our contract with you as a student.
  • The right to require us to correct, erase or destroy inaccurate data.
  • The right to get access to the data which we hold about you (see Can I get access to my data?).

For further information on how to exercise these rights, please contact SOAS's Information Compliance Manager (see Where can I get advice/further information?).

6. What are my responsibilities?

SOAS will make every reasonable effort to keep your details up to date. However, it is your responsibility to provide us with accurate information about yourself when you apply and when you enrol, and to let us know of any subsequent changes to your details, such as changes to your name or address (see What if my details change?). Any information which you supply to SOAS about your emergency contacts will only be used in an emergency, and will only be disclosed in your immediate health or safety interests. By enrolling, you agree to inform your emergency contacts that their data are being held by SOAS for these purposes. It is very important that you notify SOAS of any changes to your emergency contacts (see What if my details change?).

All members of SOAS, including students, must abide by SOAS's Data Protection Policy when handling personal data for which SOAS is responsible. This is most likely to happen if you choose to work for SOAS while studying here. However, very occasionally, students may use personal data for which SOAS is responsible in the course of their study or research. See the Data Protection Policy for further information.

7. What if I need a reference/confirmation of qualifications?

Academic institutions and employers may seek confirmation of the qualifications which SOAS graduates claim to hold. If you have received a SOAS degree, SOAS will normally confirm your qualifications (but not the fact that you have failed an award) in response to a bona fide request from an employer or another academic institution, unless you have told us not to do so or we have reason to believe that the request is not legitimate. If you do not want us to provide confirmation of your qualifications, please contact the SOAS Registry.

Where you have provided the name of a member of staff as a referee, we will assume that this means that you have given your consent for the disclosure of personal information in the form of a reference. You should ensure that any SOAS staff whom you wish to cite as referees are aware that they may receive reference requests for you, and have agreed to provide you with a reference. Failure to do so could delay our response to a request, if we need to check that a request is legitimate.

8. What happens after I finish/graduate?

After you leave SOAS, we will continue to hold data about you in digital and paper form. Some information (such as your dates of attendance and your degree) will be retained permanently; other data will be disposed of from time to time in accordance with the School's data retention policies. By enrolling as a SOAS student, you consent to SOAS processing data relating to you after you leave SOAS for any purposes connected with your studies and your status as a former student, and for other legitimate reasons.

Examples of how we may use your data after you finish or graduate include:

  • To provide evidence of your academic achievements when requested to do so: e.g. transcripts, confirmation of qualifications and references.
  • To provide information to regulatory bodies and other agencies to whom we are legally required to supply data.
  • To produce management statistics.
  • To maintain contact with you as a SOAS alumnus/alumna.
  • For audit and quality assurance purposes.

We may contact you for a limited range of research purposes after you leave SOAS. If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, about six months after you graduate the Careers Service will send you the questionnaire for HESA's Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey (see Who receives my data?). The information that you provide may also be used by the Development and Alumni Relations Office to maintain and update your record on the alumni database - see below for the full range of alumni activities carried out by the Development and Alumni Relations Office. 

We may contact you on other occasions to carry out surveys which we are required to conduct by HESA, HEFCE or other official agencies. We may also contact you to carry out our own research into your experiences at SOAS and after leaving SOAS, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of our programmes and improve our services to students. If you do not want to be contacted for these purposes, please notify the Information Compliance Manager (see Where can I get advice/further information?).

SOAS graduates automatically become members of the SOAS Alumni Network. The Development and Alumni Relations Office maintain the alumni database. You will receive email news updates, invitations to alumni events and other alumni-related communications. You can specify which communications you receive and how you wish to receive them. All online alumni communications contain opt-out and privacy options, and you can also choose not to receive this material at any time by contacting the Alumni Relations team by email at alumni@soas.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)20 7898 4041. In addition, Alumni may also choose to register with SOAS's Online Alumni Community, a password protected site for SOAS alumni, and as a member you can amend your communication preferences and opt-out at any time in the same way. 

Some SOAS departments (e.g. CISD) maintain their own alumni networks, and will process data for alumni-related purposes in a similar manner to the Development and Alumni Relations Office. If you receive alumni-related mailings and no longer wish to do so, please contact the relevant department or the School's Information Compliance Manager (see Where can I get advice/further information?).

9. What if my details change?

If you are a current student, please contact SOAS as indicated below:

  • CeFiMS distance learning students: contact CeFiMS.
  • CISD students: contact CISD.
  • IFCELS students: contact IFCELS
  • Language Centre students: contact the Language Centre
  • All other categories of students: contact the SOAS Registry.

If you are an alumnus/alumna, you can register changes of address and other details by contacting the Alumni Relations team by email at alumni@soas.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)20 7898 4041.

10. Can I get access to my data?

Current or former undergraduate or postgraduate students can get a transcript of their academic results by contacting the SOAS Registry (an online ordering form is available). To get access to other data which SOAS holds about you, you should submit a subject access request under the Data Protection Act. This involves completing our subject access request form, and sending it to the Information Compliance Manager with a £10 fee and proof of ID. For further information on how to submit a request and the form which you need to use, see Requesting Access to Personal Data.

11. Where can I get advice/further information? 

The Information Compliance Manager is responsible for SOAS's compliance with the Data Protection Act, and can provide general advice on Data Protection issues. The Information Compliance Manager can be contacted by email to dataprotection@soas.ac.uk, telephone +44 (0)20 7898 4150, or by writing to: Information Compliance Manager, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, United Kingdom. For assistance on more specific issues, please contact the departments below:

Your student record or your academic record:

Alumni Association enquiries (including changes of address for alumni): please contact the Alumni Relations team by email at alumni@soas.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)20 7898 4041.

Computing accounts/usage of facilities: please contact the IT Helpdesk.

Library usage/membership: please contact the Library's membership desk.

12. Status of this statement

This Statement was approved by the School's Information Strategy Committee on 21 February 2006. It will be reviewed from time to time as necessary.

Last updated August 2014