I'm affiliated with one British and one American university. Both mandate students to email from their university email accounts. Some students don't. When I emailed them to ask why, one student replied

I need to use my personal, rather than university, email account because of personal issues.

I don't want to ferret out what this student's "personal issues" are — I am upholding privacy and confidentiality. I'm just asking this — at large and out of curiosity. What rightful reasons can prevent a student from using a university email, but not @gmail.com? Thank you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 4, 2021 at 14:55
  • My clarifying question was moved to chat, but I think it's still relevant, are these students undergrads in a class you're teaching, or supervisees/grad students? Oct 4, 2021 at 22:11
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    Can you clarify what this "mandate" covers? Are students expected to send personal messages to their family from their university account, and penalized if they use their personal account for that instead? (I'm guessing not, and I'm guessing that you're discussing not if there exists any type of message for which a student might have a reason for wanting to use a personal account, but why they would want to use it for a certain specific type of message.)
    – cjs
    Oct 5, 2021 at 4:07
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    You say "I don't want to ferret out what this student's "personal issues" are". You mean, you don't want to ask them? If you really think the matter could be sensitive you could refer them to a neutral third party in administration to discuss it with, who would agree to keeping it strictly confidential. So if they are trans or depressed or don't have arms or are in love with you they don't have to disclose it to you as someone they have to personally interact with in the future. But in general I would not let anybody use nondescript "personal issues" as carte blanche. Oct 5, 2021 at 9:20
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    I visited several Institutions with quite ridiculous terms of usage, which needed to be accepted. Even if these terms are sometimes quite obviously not enforceable in the strictest interpretation, it might make someone feel uncomfortable. So some paragraphs of these could play a big role in not wanting to use the provided account.
    – Falco
    Oct 5, 2021 at 16:13

15 Answers 15


One possible reason a student may prefer to use a third-party email service is that the university has control over the university email account - something that might prove important if there is ever a legal dispute. I have read of cases where a student faces accusations and is expelled, and then finds it extremely difficult to challenge the ruling because they have suddenly lost all access to and control over the evidence proving their innocence. Worse, an unethical university (or more likely, unethical staff working for the university) could delete or falsify the evidence.

Using an external independent email provider ensures that the university has no control over the records of what was said by who and when. For an honest university, that's beneficial too, as it also prevents students falsely claiming the evidence was tampered with.

Another reason is that students may be particularly concerned to keep their professional and private lives separate. If other students know and routinely use their university email address, they may accidentally use it for discussions about private matters the student does not want the university to have access to. There are lots of legitimate reasons for that - information about relationships, family matters, medical and financial issues are deeply personal. And some may be concerned about widespread prejudice against their politics, sexuality, religion, hobbies, etc. And again, in case of a dispute, such private material could be dug up and used as a weapon for character-assassination.

Foreign students may have grown up in totalitarian states and may as a result be particularly nervous about authorities with power over their lives also having control over their online presence or access to their emails. They may even have dissident opinions, or be doing things that would put them in real danger if their home country ever found out (e.g. Afghan girls/Christians or Chinese Uighurs studying in the West), and so be particularly careful about anyone having control over or visibility of their email account.

Another possibility is the complexity of administering multiple accounts. You have to remember more passwords, you have to change them more often, you have to remember to back up both accounts, you have to curate and transfer address lists, you have to remember which account you are holding which conversations on, and so on. If you have moved on from school to college to university to post-grad, you may be tired of having to change accounts and set everything up again every time you move institutions. Or maybe you find you can't remember lots of long/complex passwords, but the university system insists. It may be simply a desire to avoid the stress and effort. It may be the comfort of habit and familiarity with your own long-time email account.

There are plenty of public figures whose private lives the press and papparazzi would love to pry into. And there have been many cases of unethical reporters hacking phones or bribing IT people to leak data. So it has become routine to have multiple unofficial accounts known only to friends and colleagues, and only use the official, easily identifiable ones for PR statements and marketing. I don't know if any of your students are related to the famous, famous themselves, or plan to be, but they might be.

Or maybe they just don't like being given arbitrary orders about who to entrust their personal data to? In the modern world of hackers and data breaches, young people are getting more wary and privacy-savvy, and maybe trust the security at a big organisation like Google over the overworked IT staff at a small provincial university. I'm not saying they're necessarily right to do so - just that some people might think that way.

  • 10
    Even worse, many university email accounts have extremely poor security. I wouldn't want to use them, and security consciousness might count as "personal reasons".
    – user21820
    Oct 4, 2021 at 9:08
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    "Another reason is that students may be particularly concerned to keep their professional and private lives separate." This paragraph appears to be an argument in favour of using the university email for university matters and the personal email for personal matters, which is exactly the opposite of what the question is asking. Here, the student insists on using their personal email for university matters.
    – Stef
    Oct 4, 2021 at 11:30
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    Most of your answer seems mostly solved by simple "set up forwarding to the private mail and use private mail except when required otherwise". It isn't like you are sending that many mails to professors (I hope). The remaining bit of too many passwords changing too often is solved by the password manager. Oct 4, 2021 at 13:56
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    @ZizyArcher auto-forwarding probably isn't available in systems that tie you in like this. It's often disabled in the webmail interface, and doing it client-side in a real mail client requires getting a client working (not necessarily easy) then having that client running at the right time. Then you have to be careful which account you reply from
    – Chris H
    Oct 4, 2021 at 14:37
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    Some universities also use fairly mediocre email solutions that are a pain to use.
    – JS Lavertu
    Oct 5, 2021 at 13:44

Even as a practicing academic, I use my personal email as the first email listed in my publications and for all correspondence with academic journals (though I use my university email for most other things). The main reason for this is that you might change universities over the course of a career, and it is nice to have your important academic emails in a single place. By advertising an enduring personal email, you are easier to contact in the future if you change institutions. Also, it can be difficult to get access back to a university email account when you are no longer at that institution, so backups (or original copies) of important emails on a personal account is often desireable (though there are also other methods to mass-backup emails). There are probably other reasons that use of the university email might be inconvenient.

Getting to the substance of your problem, some universities have rules that students must use their university email for certain purposes, and they would require permission/waiver to ignore those rules. So if the proposal by the student is outside the rules of your university (check the details of those rules first, because it would be unusual to require students to send all emails from the university account) then you certainly have the prerogative to let them know that their request is insufficient. As with any special consideration request, the student will need to do more than just cite "personal reasons". Usually they will have to give details on the personal reasons at issue (which are of course treated in confidence) and make a request for exemption.

My understanding is that the main (legitimate) reasons that universities want students to use the university email is that they don't have to worry about things getting lost with spam filters, and they can limit vulnerability to cyber-attacks. The cynical part of me says that the other main (illegitimate) reason is the standard desire of large institutions to engage in totalitarian control, micromanagement and empire-building for everything touching their domain. In any case, it may be possible to make an individual exception for a student by having them email all relevant lecturers, so that you can each add that personal email account to bypass your spam filters.

  • 1
    I imagine that the legitimate reasons have much more to do with limiting vulnerability to ransom ware/phishing/social engineering attacks than simply limiting spam. Adding outside emails to safe lists does little to alleviate these concerns, given the ease of spoofing an e-mail address.
    – TimRias
    Oct 2, 2021 at 20:58
  • 2
    I've read the argument that one wants to access old mails and that might be difficult when the account is suspended now a few times in comments and prominently here and it really surprises me. How did the knowledge that you can easily backup and move emails from one account to another on your local machine get lost? As a basic rule important data should not be stored solely in a single place managed by a 3rd party. Now, one might consider personal email accounts as hired backup, but then the natural approach would be to forward or copy mails there not to use that as single point of failure. Oct 3, 2021 at 16:09
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    I would think the main legitimate reason for universities to want students to use their university email accounts is authentication: staff can reasonably know that an email from [email protected] is from Student Name, whereas they can't easily know or confirm who [email protected] is.
    – kaya3
    Oct 3, 2021 at 16:11
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    @kaya3 very likely this is at least a main reason. Which also means Ben's use-case is different from a student's. As Ben basically certifies the correctness of the private mail as primary contact for the papers by explicitly providing it on the paper itself. Therefore the identification argument doesn't apply to him, but does to students. Which obviously doesn't invalidate the argument as to why they might want to use the private mail, it's just an important distinction between both usage scenarios. Oct 3, 2021 at 16:16
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    @FrankHopkins My problem is not doing a backup of the mail in the old account (which I do), but having people sending important emails to old accounts and having them silently dropped by the system ( yeah, a good email system wouldn't do that - yeah, that happens anyway). I actually missed important emails by collaborators due to this (they hit "reply all" to an old email...). Oct 3, 2021 at 21:48

One reason for such rules is that someone could easily pretend to be a student by creating an email account and use it to get confidential information from an instructor or other university official. e.g.

[email protected] writes Hi professor Smith. What is my current average in Calculus?


[email protected] writes Hi professor Smith. What is my current average in Calculus?

If I receive the first email, I’ll reply and tell them to resend from their university email account.

There's no reason that I can think of that a student couldn't make use of the university email system as they are required to do.

  • 2
    This one's a good point, although you can just reply to their university email address if you know it. Oct 3, 2021 at 0:12
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    This does not answer the question (while it infers that fraud may be a reason, remember that the OP asked for legitimate reasons) Oct 3, 2021 at 7:07
  • 40
    This is answering a completely different question, which is the reason for the university rule. They asked why students would choose to violate the rule.
    – Barmar
    Oct 3, 2021 at 12:26
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    @alephzero You've asked a tricky question for me to answer with any certainty. I just didn't think of the 'some' that you refer to, and took a stab that the OP meant 'conforming to the law or to rules' when they used the word legitimate. (my bad) Oct 4, 2021 at 1:32
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    Respectfully, I don't think that "someone pretending to be a student by creating an email account and using it to get confidential information" is a legitimate reason in this context. The definitions of "legitimate" and "rightful" that allow for what is essentially identity theft are almost certainly unhelpful. Not all students consider that illegitimate, but OP almost certainly does.
    – user45266
    Oct 4, 2021 at 7:28

It’s completely legitimate for a student to prefer to use a personal email over an institutional email. Everyone has preferences, and we all know that IT policies can be a drag. But preferring something does not make it “legitimate” to violate a policy or claim a “need”. Especially since, as others have explained, these policies exist for some very good reasons, e.g., related to FERPA and protecting student privacy.

As for an actual legitimate need, the only one I can think of would be a student who has accessibility needs that are not met by their institution’s email infrastructure. E.g., if the student uses a screen reader or other assistive technology that works significantly better with a non-institutional email client, I would consider it legitimate for them to consider their accessibility needs as overriding the institutional policy, both as a matter of law (at least in the US and other countries with legislation similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act) and ethics.

Other than that, I can’t think of a legitimate personal need. But this could be due to my limited imagination, so I’m willing to keep an open mind that there may be others.

  • 2
    I upvoted, but I suspect if the ADA (or equivalent legislation in other countries) has implications for this policy, the implication would be that a university which provides an email service to its students is required to make it accessible to all students, just as every other service the university provides to students must be accessible. So allowing the use of a personal email account instead for a disabled student would only be a short-term, stopgap measure.
    – kaya3
    Oct 3, 2021 at 17:42
  • @kaya3 but there is a big gap between "usable" and "comfortable". While the universities system might barely meet requirements to be labeled "accessible" it can still be a burden to certain users.
    – Falco
    Oct 5, 2021 at 16:07

I have never encountered a "legit" reason. Most people are just used to certain email clients, don't know how to merge another account on their current client, or are just lazy.

There are good reasons to maintain certain emails internal. Some sensitive things can't be sent to external addresses. For example, if a student has a disciplinary issue, I believe I have to let them know on their institutional account. In addition, some services (e.g. Moodle/Zoom/Blackboard) may limit their access to institutional accounts only, and for good reason: you don't want random people spamming your class/Zoombombing your lectures.

I suggest you highlight these issues to the student, and make sure that you don't break any university policies by letting them use their personal account.

  • 19
    I doubt most university email accounts are "mergeable"; mine doesn't support forwarding. And it's not a matter of laziness. When the UI for the university email doesn't show you (the titles of) more than 7 threads at a time, you'll soon discover that there are some advantages to Gmail (and lots of other providers). Oct 2, 2021 at 22:46
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    The disciplinary issues are non-issues, too: You can always communicate to the student's university email, but why should the student always use his university email to communicate? It's them whose privacy is at stake (and a low stake it usually is). Zoom is equally irrelevant to this. The only real reason why students should write from internal accounts is to ensure that the mail doesn't get spam-filtered and the links in it don't get mangled by safelinks-like "services". Oct 2, 2021 at 22:47
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    Only communicating disciplinary topics over university email is an utterly backwards practice, just like HR wanting to communicate only over employer email system. It makes it so the content of the mail is held/controlled by one party in the dispute, may be altered or deleted by that party, and may become inaccessible to the other party. This kind of email should always be sent to the address the student or employee requested you use to contact them for non-academic/non-work matters, not the "in-band" address. Oct 3, 2021 at 14:06
  • 2
    Life circumstances made me attend five different institutions in three different countries. In all cases there was a forwarding/config option with Gmail/Outlook. I realize that this is anecdotal but still, it’s surprising that your experience is so different.
    – Spark
    Oct 3, 2021 at 14:06
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    @darij grinberg would be sensible suggestion if universities didn't seem to still spam their own emails as well. The best example i had was my universities sending out information on how to avoid phishing attacks, being flagged as a phishing attack itself. God I hate safelinks "lets make it so the only way to know where an url points to is by clicking it".
    – Rob
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:39

I'm assuming the question is specifically about students using personal email accounts to correspond with university staff.

When students enrol at a university, they agree to abide by a code of conduct, student agreement, or whatever other official policy document sets out such expectations of students. If the code of conduct at your university says that students should use their university email account for all email correspondence with university staff, then the only legitimate reasons for not doing so are those set out in that code of conduct. I suspect that at almost all universities with such a policy, no exceptions are provided for, in which case the answer is: there are none, at least not for uses of email the policy applies to (i.e. correspondence with university staff). But if in doubt, you should check your university's actual policy.

To address some of the reasons proposed by other answerers:

  • Preferring to give out an email address which will continue to exist after graduation. This doesn't apply to correspondence between students and university staff. A student is free to give out whatever email address they wish for correspondence outside of staff at their own university, and is also free to share any email address they wish with staff at their university whom they would like to continue corresponding with after they graduate.
  • Having backups under one's own control. Students are free to make their own backups and store them whereever they like (so long as they aren't externally backing up anything which is not their own personal information).
  • The university might rescind access to email accounts in a legal dispute. In most jurisdictions, the university is legally compelled to provide to the other party, unaltered, all relevant evidence during discovery before any trial. If the student doesn't trust their university to follow the law, then see above about making their own backups.
  • Keeping their professional and private lives separate. This is an argument in favour of using the university-provided email account for university matters.
  • Nervousness about authorities being able to access the contents of their emails through the university. Using a personal email account doesn't help with this anyway, since any email correspondence between the student and university staff is already being stored on the university email system because that's what the staff use. If an authority had a legal power to access (or compel the university to provide) the contents of emails sent or received by a particular student, the authority would still be able to get them.
  • 6
    Some institional policies don't permit forwarding of email or bulk downloading of email. That's a very controling policy more common in industry than academia. Oct 3, 2021 at 17:33
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    @alephzero I don't follow your inference at all. How would a policy of forbidding students from backing up their emails address cheating?
    – kaya3
    Oct 3, 2021 at 20:04
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    @BrianBorchers, ...I've never seen an academic email server that didn't support IMAP, and once one does, it's difficult and error-prone to distinguish between "bulk downloading" and just regular use by an email client with a particularly aggressive caching policy. Oct 4, 2021 at 11:53
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    Keeping their professional and private lives separate.: The line can be drawn in a different place for students. Some may treat all uni-related mails as professional, some may think of course-related as professional, but housing, welfare, and student support as private. Then what about societies, that may involve rather sensitive topics?
    – Chris H
    Oct 4, 2021 at 14:45
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    @CharlesDuffy: I have seen university email that didn't support IMAP.
    – Joshua
    Oct 4, 2021 at 20:33

Control of the content and their device-

I have had my emails destroyed by universities on multiple occasions - certainly I had backups the later times, but that's not particularly helpful when I cannot revive services attached to them. Nor are they sufficiently valuable to be worth my time to bring some valid suit (the second time I had a real, printed email asserting that I would be able to keep my email after graduation).

Many service provides are also through arguably horrible companies which students don't wish to have any accounts or even interactions with, especially if they are familiar with or at all zealous about privacy.

Different service providers also have competing and incompatible services, especially around the sharing of platform-specific files (ie. Google Docs "Why Not Use POSIX Capabilities?" vs Microsoft's Self-perpetuating Hellscape)

Still, that control comes at a price (will they manage their email better than the university? if they run their own, will or how frequently will it be hacked or rejected? how can they prove legitimacy if they're not part of the domain, etc.) and they are likely being obtuse. However troublesome, it's a requirement of modern academic institutions to maintain an email account with them, if just for accessing digital services.

Creating any content is dangerous, but you should still use their academic domain email for official business to provide some liability buffer, and also consider sending them a reminder to their personal account for important communications.

  • There are various tools to back up mails from an university mail account.
    – peterh
    Oct 5, 2021 at 8:28
  • @peterh absolutely, and they should be used on the regular! .. still, a backup isn't everything, and you'll still find at least the case where 1) removal is a surprise/during time away 2) there are unrelated, 3rd-party services attached to the email (Stack Exchange, IEEE account,..) .. this is a catch-22 because often to get some academic perk (points with some service, free membership, etc.), you prove membership in academics with the domain account, but need to take extra steps (for each unique service) to switch it to something else immediately or before it's too late (?)!
    – ti7
    Oct 5, 2021 at 14:07

My personal reasons as a student:

  1. I like to keep all emails in one place and if I switched to student mail I would have to update my email in all the countless places that I have used it. Currently I have my student mail redirect to my main account so that mails that get sent to my student mail still end up in my inbox.
  2. If (when) I leave this university I would have to change my email again and like I mentioned in 1. this is a huge hassle.
  3. Perhaps most importantly: somehow all online tools that are provided by my university are slightly annoying to use. My aversion for these tools makes me really not want to use their email. For example forced 2-factor authentication. However important cyber security is it really hinders my workflow when I have to open my phone everytime I want to login. My current email program is much nicer. Excuse me for this little rant.
  • 1
    In (1), you state that your student email redirects to your main account. Excellent. You can, presumably, also set the outbox to use your university account when you send a message (Thunderbird, for example, makes this quite easy; I have also set this up using the Gmail web client, and Apple's Mail.app). One client, multiple inboxes and outboxes. Honestly, this is how it should work. :\ Oct 5, 2021 at 13:58
  • @XanderHenderson I didn't know that was possible! I might consider this in the future Oct 5, 2021 at 14:26

It's not my place to tell students what email address they must use. It is my place, however, to tell them they are responsible for receiving messages I send out using tools within our LMS, and they can change their address that the LMS uses, or read emails from the account that the LMS uses.

  • 2
    Just in case there are others confused by the acronym, here's the Wikipedia page to LMS: Learning Management System. Oct 4, 2021 at 16:56
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    It would not be surprising if the learning management system was configured to send email only to emails at the university domain.
    – gerrit
    Oct 5, 2021 at 12:20
  • @gerrit I suppose that's a possible option, but my own experience is that it's a user configurable field. Oct 5, 2021 at 12:36

One reason to require students to read their university email is simple database convenience: if a staff member is emailing a particular student about something, or emailing the members of a particular class (etc), and if the email is delivered to a student's canonical inbox, then we can effectively presume that that email was received by the student. And we can declare ‘we presume you read [email protected]’. If a student doesn't hear that a class was rearranged or cancelled, because they've decided not to read that email, then that's their problem.

Maintaining a database of students' preferred addresses doesn't work: how does that get updated?, who's allowed to query it?, what if some systems do query it and some don't?, how do you persuade (the admins of) the weird antique IT systems in Finance and in the Library to do that?

It would of course be highly desirable to let students configure that address to have it forwarded to some other preferred address. We don't have to have them use the (probably hideous) institutional email interface.

One reason to require students to send email from their institutional account is, as others have suggested, to add a little bit of security (I am more confident that a query from [email protected] is really from Fred Bloggs than I would be about [email protected]), and to keep things formal. If I were emailing fluffybunny I would be to some extent within their private life, and if I were mad enough to be doing this, as staff, from a private address of my own (not a good idea!), then there's all sorts of way such an off-grid communication could be perceived as creating, or potentially enabling, a wide variety of improprieties.

I also am curious what the ‘personal issues’ are, that are quoted in the original question. Like others, I'm a little sceptical that this might in fact translate to ‘I'm too idle to work out how to configure two addresses in my mail client, which I am going to have to do at some point in my professional life’.

Edited to add the following (since there may be an element of talking past each other, in the answers and comments here):

Looking at the other answers here, I get the impression that those (including me) saying ‘I don't understand, what's the problem?’ appear generally to be presuming that anyone reading or sending email is doing so via a mail client, where adding multiple addresses/identities, to receive and send email, is a core function; but those saying ‘it's really annoying having two addresses, or having to wrangle two UIs’ seem to be presuming that one reads email via a webmail interface. In the latter case, I can see why having two addresses would potentially be inconvenient.

I don't forward my work or personal email addresses (plural in both cases) anywhere – I simply read them all in the one mail client. Each of these has a webmail interface that I could use in emergency, but doing so routinely would drive me insane. But someone who sees webmail as usable, through familiarity, would presumably set quite a high premium on only supporting a single address/identity, and would have a quite different take on this question and the various answers.

  • 2
    "(I am more confident that a query from [email protected] is really from Fred Bloggs...." You should have no confidence in that at all: just as anybody can write any name and return address they like on an envelope they put in the post, anbody can put any From: address they like in an e-mail that they send. The From: line merely tells you where your replies will go. (There have been systems designed to mitigate this problem, but they require a fair amount of expertise from the end-user who, for a start, must know whether or not they're using such a system.)
    – cjs
    Oct 5, 2021 at 4:12
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    @cjs Sure, but the "reply-to" address is what matters here (though one does have to be cautious to check that the "from" and "reply-to" fields match). If I get a message from [email protected], and I send a reply to [email protected], then student is receiving that email, even if they didn't send it in the first place. The worst that happens is that student gets a weird email from me. Oct 5, 2021 at 14:00
  • @cjs I said more confident, not that I'd start sending medical information this way! What you say about the From header is true, but if I received a [email protected] email, and if it mattered, I could check through the Received headers to reassure myself that the sender had (probably) had to authenticate themself at some point, which would increase my confidence somewhat (though still not to 100% of course). The point is that, in most cases, for most purposes, and for most senders and receivers of such an email, the @example.edu email does increase confidence. Oct 5, 2021 at 14:33
  • @XanderHenderson The "reply-to" matters only if replying is the action that the student or attacker is requesting. If the action is, "I have dropped your course, so please don't send me any further notes or exam schedules," or "You can give my spot in lab _____ to the other student who wanted it because I no longer need it," an attack may succeed just fine regardless of where the reply, if any, goes.
    – cjs
    Oct 12, 2021 at 1:02
  • @XanderHenderson You are perpetuating a common security failure that attackers use to greatly increase their chances of success: that information "X" isn't as important as medical records and therefore attacks using that information will do relatively little harm. And in student/professor interactions, email messages may well include medical information anyway! (E.g., describing long-term illnesses that affect ones ability to take tests.)
    – cjs
    Oct 12, 2021 at 1:07
  • Some universities have a governing body that operates like a Westminster-model parliament: the executive leadership team of the university proposes a policy, and the governing body votes on whether to adopt that policy. The executive branch usually, but not always, wins the vote; when the executive branch doesn't win, its policy doesn't go ahead. Sometimes, both students and staff opposed to a proposal by the executive are involved in making the case for a negative vote; if those students and staff wanted to discuss tactics or confer during the drafting of their arguments (at early stages, i.e. before they submit their arguments into the formal university system for campaign literature), then I think they'd probably want to keep those discussions off of university servers for fear of giving the other side of the debate advance warning of details of their arguments.
  • Some research students may feel a need to keep some of their correspondence out of the reach of vexatious and frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests (I suppose some might also feel a need to keep some of their correspondence out of the reach of genuine Freedom of Information Act requests, but that wouldn't count as "legitimate"),

If somebody was harassing or stalking a student using their university email address (which quite likely the university will give out to anybody who wants it), this is an excellent reason for using a private email address. Somebody can only get your gmail address if you give it to them.

It's also quite conceivable that you wouldn't want to tell your professor you had a stalker.


Of course having control over your email is a legitimate thing to consider. But there can be much simpler causes which seem more likely.

A perfectly valid and legitimate reason is also convenience. It is much more convenient to contact people from your existing email, the one you already track and check, than have a specific account , only for 'university purposes'. Most probably, the majority of students has already established communication channels in email, social media, sites etc, mobile apps, etc several years before enrolling in a university. Most probably, the majority of their communication goes through these channels. It is an extra burden for students, to check and use the 'university account' to send an email as they have nothing to gain and have to spend time and effort to set it up or check it. When using an online email service, instead of email client, checking another email for an answer is also an additional burden.

On the other hand there is no additional benefit for a student to use the university account for communication. Especially if they are just attending courses and not doing research or any other activity that requires a more "academic" identity.


One potential personal reason, that a student might not want to explain: if a student is trans and not out yet, or out, but has not had an official name change recognized by the university, and does not feel comfortable with their birth name. They haven't gotten to the point yet of changing their name officially, but one thing they can control: their email address. They probably can't change their university email address, but they can change their gmail.

  • In my experience, the institutions I have attended and worked for have been very good about (1) assigning email addresses which are neutrally gendered (e.g. I was ahend006 in graduate school, and ahenders (with some numbers) as an undergraduate), and (2) these institutions have also been very good about changing emails around for folk who change their names (eg trans students, recently married students, etc). Oct 5, 2021 at 14:23
  • Moreover, email addresses are a small part of what a trans student would be required to change. For example, a learning management system (LMS - Blackboard, Moodle, etc) will typically give a student's full name (rather than a gender-neutral handle). Should trans students be permitted to stop using an institution's LMS because of an incorrect name? Oct 5, 2021 at 14:27
  • @XanderHenderson I make no judgement as to whether the student should be permitted to not use the email address; simply providing a potential reason. The fact that it's only one of many things is irrelevant. Some institutions may provide neutrally gendered email addresses, but some include names.
    – Joe
    Oct 5, 2021 at 15:05
  • At the university I attended, university email addresses included names and it was impossible to change emails even with a legal name change (which I did while in college). All of the other learning management systems could be updated easily.
    – TMuffin
    Oct 5, 2021 at 22:13

You are the teacher. He wants to pass your courses and not vice versa.

Sorry, I can only use the university account of the students on personal reasons.

His personal reason is that he is incapable or unwanting to use a new email address. He wants to use his gmail account forever.

The personal reason in your case is that the 30 second in your life worths more than the 30 minute of the IT-illiterate student to learn to use another email address. But you do not need to detail it.

That is all. You don't need to think too much about it. You don't need to spend time and intellectual effort for that.

You can safely use his uni mail address. If he does not read it, it is up to him. You have no time and you are not obliged to consider and follow such personal wishes.


If the student has a problem to follow such a trivial administrative nuance, what will happen if he will need to work day & night, month long, on his thesis?

What will he say to his first boss, on his first workplace?

"Sorry I can not use my company mail, only my private mail account, on personal reasons"

I am sorry to say, but this is clearly the case that he needs a lession. If you do not give it him, the life will do.

  • 5
    University email and work email are sufficiently unlike that the comparison is unfair.
    – Joshua
    Oct 4, 2021 at 20:36
  • @Joshua No. Exactly this is what the student needs to accept. Sad that Xander Henderson's comments disappeared.
    – peterh
    Oct 6, 2021 at 12:27
  • Getting the degree is a lot of effort, pain, sweat, both for the student and for the University. It must be so, this pain gives the value of the degree. The first, the pain of the student, is well known for all of us. The effort and sweat of the University is not so well visible, because it happens as the part of a big and (hopefully) professional hierarchy, but it is still there. The University serves the student by pushing him over his own limits, and the student pays for that with his young years and with a lot of money. It is a mutual cooperation on a deeper level.
    – peterh
    Oct 6, 2021 at 12:33
  • 2
    You are so authoritarian that you have forgotten that the student is the customer.
    – Joshua
    Oct 6, 2021 at 13:47
  • 1
    You undermine yourself. In a contractual partnership, one side does not dictate terms.
    – Joshua
    Nov 10, 2021 at 17:09

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