Dear Manchester Metropolitan University,
Following a spate of sudden student deaths in 2018, an ‘opt-in scheme’ was pioneered by the University of Bristol as part of a set of measures aimed at preventing suicide. In 2019, a coroner wrote to the Department for Education and Minister for Suicide Prevention suggesting that these measures might be shared throughout the sector. I am now seeking to establish the extent to which ‘opt-in’ has been subsequently adopted and/or utilised.
The ‘opt-in’ or ‘consent at registration’ scheme implemented by Bristol University comprises an additional personal information sharing agreement that supplements when information might be shared. It gains consent at annual registration for the university to contact a ’safe and nominated’ parent, guardian or friend in situations that are not emergencies, but where staff have serious concerns that something bad might happen to an enrolled student, and/or where their health, wellbeing or welfare could be affected. Essentially it involves lowering the bar at which parents or nominated others could be contacted by a designated professional at the university, from ‘vital interests’ to ‘serious or significant concerns’. It could for example apply in cases of trauma or distress associated with suspension / expulsion / non-attendance / mental health issues etc.
To qualify as ‘opt-in’ a scheme must be optional and additional to the regular emergency contact protocol. The latter is compulsory and typically restricted to serious incidents and/or emergency situations, that may present an imminent threat to a student’s vital interests. Further particulars can be found at:
This important scheme has been implemented at a number of universities, and perhaps at your institution as well. If so, please provide me with the following information as absolute numbers and percentages.
For each academic period (2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21) and year-of-study (e.g. 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year) sub-division:
• How many students opted-in at registration?
• How many students subsequently rescinded their consent?
• How many times was the opt-in consent used to contact somebody?
• How many times was use of the opt-in consent considered, but with you deliberately choosing not to contact a parent or nominated individual?
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[Manchester Metropolitan University request email]
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Dear Ms Green
We can advise that the Manchester Metropolitan University did not adopt a
scheme to collect mass student opt-in to third party disclosures at online
registration/enrolment and we therefore do not hold the specific
information you have requested below.
However, this University formed a Student Mental Health and Wellbeing
Project Board, chaired by our Chief Operating Officer, to provide
strategy, direction and governance in this area. A Student Mental Health
and Wellbeing Working Group was also formed to progress operational
service improvements. Outputs from this project included:
* A new policy on ‘Sharing Sensitive Student Information with Third
* A new ‘Mental Health Disclosure Risk Assessment Matrix’, including
appropriate lawful bases for the disclosure of information.
* Formation of a Students at Risk Panel, chaired by our Director of
Student Services, which meets on a weekly basis to devise action plans
for students identified as being at risk, including consideration of
disclosure to third parties. Wherever possible disclosure is made with
the student’s express consent.
* A review of disclosure consent forms used within the our counselling,
wellbeing, disability and inclusion services.
* A new student disclosure consent form to be used in scenarios other
than disclosure of student mental health information.
Additionally, our students do provide opt-in consent for third party
disclosures upon engaging with our counselling, wellbeing, disability and
We hope this information is helpful. However, if you are dissatisfied
with this response and wish to appeal our decision, please write to
[Manchester Metropolitan University request email] giving your reasons for appealing. You must appeal
within 40 working days of the date of this email. Under s5.3 of the
Freedom of Information Act Code of Practice, we are not obliged to accept
appeals/internal reviews after this date. You also have a subsequent
right of appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), see their
website at: https://ico.org.uk for more information.
Michelle Gretton | Senior Information Governance Officer
Legal Services | Manchester Metropolitan University
Email: [Manchester Metropolitan University request email]
All Saints Building | Oxford Road | Manchester | M15 6BH | United Kingdom
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