Guidelines for students on DBS disclosure

What is a disclosure?

A disclosure is a document containing impartial and confidential information held by the Police and government departments. It can be used by employers and voluntary organisations to make safer recruitment decisions. Disclosures are provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), an executive agency of the Home Office.

There are four levels of disclosure:

The level of disclosure will be dependant on the nature of the role. You can only apply for the Basic check for yourself, but the level of disclosure will be dependant on the nature of the role.

It is not up to students to decide what level of disclosure will be required; the University will decide the appropriate level of disclosure for the particular programme of study.

Further guidelines for applicants can be found on the DBS website, or click "Find out which DBS check is right for your employee" to see if you are required to have a DBS check for a role you are applying for. 

Overseas Students

Students from overseas or those who have lived overseas for a substantial period of time should discuss their Disclosure application with the relevant countersignatory. This is due to the fact that the DBS does not generally have access to overseas criminal records.

However, the University has a duty to check students who will be working with children against one or both of the lists held by the Department of Health (those individuals considered unsuitable to work with children) and the Department for Education (those considered unsuitable to work in the teaching profession). Therefore, if you are a foreign national with either a limited or no prior period of residence in the UK the University of Bristol has a duty to check the lists and so a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure will be required.

If, as a foreign national, you have also lived in the UK for a substantial period of time, a disclosure may be required, in addition to any overseas information the University deems necessary.


In order to promote the work of volunteers, Standard and Enhanced Disclosures are generally issued free of charge (if they meet the specific criteria). Free volunteer checks can only be standard or enhanced. There is no free volunteer basic check. All basic checks are £25.

The DBS's definition of a volunteer is: a person who performs any activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travelling and other out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit someone (individuals or groups) other than or in addition to close relatives.

It is the role of the countersignatory to validate whether the position is considered voluntary. 

Any student wishing to obtain a disclosure check which has not already been required through either their degree programme or involvement in Student Community Action or Widening Participation activities should contact the Secretary's Office on (0117) 394 1830 or email:

The cost of a disclosure

The cost of each level of Disclosure is £25 for Basic, £26 for Standard and £44 for Enhanced. This amount is usually payable by the applicant (ie student) however, due to the large number of applications from students at the University of Bristol, the University has set up a direct payment system with the DBS in order to speed up applications. When your form is ready for countersigning, you will need to contact your countersignatory to ascertain whether or not you need to bring a cheque with you. Cheques for the correct amount made out to the "University of Bristol" not the DBS. If you are unsure what level of background check is required please contact your countersignatory.

Apply for a disclosure

a) Applying for a Basic disclosure check

DBS will provide this service if you're living or working in England or Wales. There are two ways to apply for a basic check:

  1. You can apply directly through DBS using their online application route. As part of your application you will need to prove your identity through GOV.UK Verify
  2. Alvernatively, you can apply through a Responsible Organisation - an organisation registered with DBS to submit basic check applications.

b) Applying for Standard and Enhanced Disclosure 

You cannot apply for a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure check on yourself and you will need to obtain an application from your Countersignatory. A list of the University of Bristol's countersignatories is available and further guidance on completing the application form is available from the DBS website. 

c) Getting your application form countersigned

Once you have completed and signed your form, you will need to take the form along with the relevant original documents and cheque for £26 or £44 (if required) to your countersignatory so that they can confirm your identity, countersign your form and send it off to the DBS.

The information requested is to ensure that true identity and current address is given.

d) Receipt of disclosure

You will receive your disclosure in the post and disclosures are usually issued within four weeks.

If you wish to query the accuracy of the disclosure then you should contact your countersignatory and inform them of this. You should then contact the disclosure dispute line on 0300 0200 190 and ask about dispute procedures.

The DBS is committed to compliance with GDPR and this means that any information submitted to them will be protected. For more information on the DBS Privacy Statement please go to the DBS website or telephone the DBS information line on 0300 0200 190.

The University of Bristol complies fully with the DBS Code of Practice regarding the correct handling, use, storage, retention and disposal of Disclosures and Disclosure information.

e) Transgender applications 

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) offers a confidential checking service for transgender applicants in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2004. More information can be found here.