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This strengthening relationship is pushing the boundaries of both institutions, with the benefits being felt by students, prisoners and staff across both the prison and the university.

Phil Novis, governor, HMP Leicester

This page shows where prison-university partnerships are happening in the UK. If you know of a partnership that’s missing from here, please get in touch with our Networks Officer Helena.

Edge Hill University | HMP Thorn Cross |

Edge Hill University HMP Thorn Cross

Model: Learning Together

The partnership between Edge Hill University and HMP Thorn Cross was set up and rolled out in 2017. The partnership is funded by Edge Hill University and has been validated for an initial period of five years. Edge Hill have worked closely with partners at HMP Thorn Cross and Novus (the in-house education provider) who have supported this project, supplying education support and teaching facilities.

University of Edinburgh | HMP Cornton Vale | HMP Low Moss | HMP Schotts |

University of Edinburgh HMP Schotts, HMP Low Moss, HMP Cornton Vale

Model: CoPI (Community of Philosophical Enquiry)

Low Moss and Cornton Vale prisons offered seven-week Introduction to Philosophy courses to prisoners, adapting a successful MOOC (Massively Online Open Course) offered by University of Edinburgh academics. The courses were designed by Philosophy researchers at Edinburgh, and is delivered through small-group tutorials by postgraduate students. Tutorials took the format of guided discussions using the Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CoPI) format, a pedagogical method which does not presuppose any particular knowledge or literacy level from students and which work to strip away prisoners’ previous assumptions about themselves and the world.

Edinburgh Napier | HMP Edinburgh | HMYOI Polmont |

Edinburgh Napier HMP Edinburgh, HMYOI Polmont

Model: Various, including work placements and reading groups

“The students from Edinburgh Napier University came and one helped me in the class which was very good because it gave you one-to-one education. I have learned a lot by coming to the class here. I never used to write letters or poetry or read a lot, but now I have the confidence to do more.”

Undergraduates in Edinburgh Napier’s School of Arts and Creative Industries can complete a placement at HMP Edinburgh’s learning centre, working alongside prison education staff. Undergraduate students in Photography, Film and Television can participate in a media project, working with young people at HMYOI Polmont to collaboratively produce film and photographs. Learners at Polmont get peer support in developing a range of photographic and film-making techniques. This project won a Herald Higher Education award, for Widening Access.

University of Greenwich | HMP Downview |

University of Greenwich HMP Downview

Model: Inside Out

While challenging others can be deceivingly easy at times, challenging yourself is one of the toughest of tasks. But it is also hugely rewarding.”

Established in 2018 in partnership with University of Greenwich and HMP Downview, ‘Inside and Outside Perspectives on Criminology and Criminal Justice’ is a Level Five criminology undergraduate module that offers students the opportunity to engage with criminological issues. Module leaders have received extensive training at the Inside-Out Training Institute in Philadelphia.. With the intention of breaking down barriers and stereotypes on all sides, this course allows learning to move beyond physical and artificial separations, providing a space for an embodied and critical pedagogy.

Goldsmiths College | University of London | HMP/HMYOI Isis |

Goldsmiths College, University of London HMP/HMYOI Isis

Model: Various, including Learning Together

“The learners realised that philosophy is a human endeavour that is accessible to all participants, particularly as it opened their minds and hearts to their predicament and place in the world.”

A social science research methods course ran in HMPYOI Isis between January and March 2017 with Open Book at Goldsmiths, University of London – involving 18 learners in total, 16 of whom were under 25 years old. The Open Book Project aims to break down the barriers to higher education for people from a wide range of non-traditional backgrounds including, offending, addiction and mental health. The guest lecturers were ex-prisoners who had significant personal experience with the prison context and were currently studying and/or researching prisons.

University of Hull |

University of Hull HMP Hull

Model: Learning Together

University of Kent | HMP Swaleside |

University of Kent HMP Swaleside

Model: Inside Out

We’re in a culture where you keep emotions inside – the course gave me a chance to express myself.”

In 2017, an  Inside Out partnership began  between learners in HMP Swaleside and Criminology students from the University of Kent. The students studied ‘Issues in Criminal Justice’ over ten weeks, learning together in seminar groups in the prison. Participants were awarded credits from the University. In the second year, former inside students supported their peers in teaching assistant roles.

London South Bank University | HMP Pentonville |

London South Bank University HMP Pentonville

Model: Learning Together

“The course was a time and space for students to learn in a new environment however it represents more than that. The personal and academic connections the students are making are transcending the physical boundaries imposed on them.”

An optional addition to an undergraduate degree in education, the partnership took eight LSBU students into HMP Pentonville, where they joined 12 Pentonville students to take a module on Education for Social Justice. This diverse group explored how education is used as a tool for social change and the factors that might influence that such as history, curriculum, theories of learning, technology and assessment.

University of Manchester | HMP Risley |

University of Manchester HMP Risley

Model: Learning Together

“Completing the course has given me a sense of achievement and the realisation that I can work outside of my comfort zone, and for that I will forever be grateful.”

In September 2017 the University of Manchester, led by Prof. Shadd Maruna and Dr Rose Broad, began working with HMP Risley to run a pilot of ‘Learning Criminology Inside’, largely based on the ethos of Learning Together. Level 3 students from the University studied the module ‘From Imprisonment to Rehabilitation’ alongside students from the prison for 10 weeks.

Middlesex University | HMP Wandsworth |

Middlesex University HMP Wandsworth

Model: Learning Together

One of the main things that drew me to it was the fact that it was going to be this very immersive experience that had two elements of society that don’t necessarily overlap very frequently.

The Middlesex module ‘Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice’ is taught over 10 weeks and covers topics on the sociology of crime and deviance, youth justice, criminal court sentencing, and comparative prison perspectives. Each session comprises a lecture, set readings and small group discussions co-ordinated by group facilitators to advance ideas, debate, and formulate new, reflective, and experiential knowledge.

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