Universities and data protection

I don't usually listen to PM's Saturday version, which tends to the populist, but I was in the car yesterday for most of a really interesting exploration of the way that students having problems at university, particularly with mental health issues, can get into a terrible state without their parents knowing, as the universities can't or won't pass on information to parents about, say, a student who doesn't attend lectures, or fails to hand in essays, because of data protection issues.

I understand the argument, but it strikes me that universities are not being exactly even handed in their approach. On the one hand we had a university representative effectively saying 'Once they are 18 they are adults, this means that someone else [i.e. parents] can't see information about them.' And a little later we were told that some universities have sophisticated monitoring systems that register every time a student goes to the library, attends a lecture or fails…

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