Academic Symposia

Every year, PET's Academic Symposia mobilise the experience, expertise and energy within the sector, sharing cutting-edge research and the latest practice in the world of prison education. Our 2018 Symposium was a sell-out event, and marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of our PUPiL and PLAN networks.  It was a chance to share successes, and grapple with challenges in this changing landscape. We recorded the keynote speech and panel discussions, which you can watch below.



Keynote: 'Universities and Prisons in Partnership: New Connections, New Possibilities, New Risks' 

Dr. Sarah Armstrong - Director of the Scottish Centre for Social Justice Research, University of Glasgow

"In these reading groups I was rediscovering education as something that was personally and intellectually joyful - something that was just a pure pleasure." 

Dr Sarah Armstrong, of the Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research, covered the joys and conflicts of prison-university partnerships in a provoking keynote. Are universities at risk of being complicit in prison agendas? Are prisons being used to build up a university's reputation? To what extent are we focused on producing good stories, rather than changing societies and large numbers of people's lives? View Dr Armstrong's presentation slides here.

Launching the PLAN working groups 

PET is supporting five research groups to undertake research on the benefits of prison education. The groups, chaired by academics from universities across the UK, are focused on employment, wellbeing, culture, social capital and human capital - themes that were first identified in the PLA's Theory of Change for Prison Education (published 2016). If you are interested in joining a working group, please contact Robert Cremona.

  • Human Capital: Dr. Helen Nichols and Dr. Suzanne Young – Leeds Beckett University
  • Social Capital: Morwenna Bennallick - Westminster University/PET (standing in for David Honeywell – University of York)
  • Employment: Dr. Kirstine Szifris – Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Wellbeing: Jenny Fogarty – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Culture: Morwenna Bennallick - Westminster University/PET 


View slides from the PLAN panel here.

Turning 180 degrees: Learning from international partnerships - Nina Champion, Prisoners' Education Trust 

PET's Head of Policy, Nina Champion, reports on her research of international prison-university partnerships. Published in April 2018, the research took Nina to Belgium, Denmark, Poland and the US, where she encountered a rich array of prison-university partnerships, and saw how these are initiatives are turning prison learners into leaders. Nina conducted her research as a Fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Click here to view Nina's slides.

Read the full report

  • Ruth McFarlane, Open University, on provision after release and bridging the digital divide. 

 Video to follow


  • Phil Novis, HMP Leicester Governor, on opening the doors to the community, and why it's working. 

"My prison is a community within a community, full of people returning back to the community. Today's offenders are tomorrow's neighbours - that's what I'm leading with."

When he become governor of HMP Leicester in 2016, Phil Novis opened the doors of this underperforming local prison to the public outside. There followed a choir singing football songs, Shakespeare performances, and all sorts of collaborations with businesses and De Montfort University - creating a "bit of magic" inside the prison walls. Click here to view slides from Phil's presentation.

Read our interview with Phil Novis


The Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) is gathering the latest information on the changes to education commissioning to help bring the sector up to speed.

Read more about the changes to prison education commissioning