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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 Academic Networks officer Rosie.

University of Northampton | HMP Onley |

University of Northampton HMP Onley

Model: Lecture series

Lecturers in Criminology from Northampton are giving a three-part lecture course in Social Justice to students from HMP Onley alongside a cohort of Northampton’s Year 2 Criminology students. Established to break down barriers and enable the Onley students to “engage outside the normal parameters”, there is a view to expand the partnership to include other subject areas.

University of Kent | HMP Swaleside |

University of Kent HMP Hull

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.

University of Hull |

University of Hull HMP Hull

Model: Learning Together

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.

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.

University of East London | HMP & HMYOI Isis | HMP Aylesbury |

University of East London HMP Aylesbury, HMP & HMYOI Isis

Model: Various, including Teach Together

University of Central Lancashire | HMP Kirkham |

University of Central Lancashire HMP Kirkham

Model: Learning Together

This is an annual project that is available to 3rd year criminology/law students, and prisoners at HMP Kirkham. The module centres around debating current social issues. Debate topics last year included: banning tobacco in the UK, abolishing the British monarchy, the legalisation of euthanasia, and the dangers of the internet. The aim of these sessions is to break down boundaries and to create a positive learning environment where students and prisoners can develop debating techniques, discuss relevant topics and learn to create coherent arguments.

University of Cambridge | HMP Grendon | HMP Spring Hill | HMP Whitemoor |

University of Cambridge HMP Grendon, HMP Spring Hill, HMP Whitemoor

Model: Learning Together

A collaborative learning partnership between Cambridge University and HMP Grendon was the first under the Learning Together model, pioneered by Drs Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong. It has run annually from 2015. The course comprises a series of 10 sessions delivered by guest lecturers. A key selection criterion for all participants is a desire to learn, and the main aim of the programme is to provide an empowering learning space through which routes out of prison can be achieved. Partnerships now take place between many departments at Cambridge and a range of prisons, offering a broad variety of subjects.

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.

The Open University | HMP Oakwood | HMP Stafford | HMP Wandsworth | HMP Wormwood Scrubs |

The Open University HMP Wandsworth, HMP Wormwood Scrubs, HMP Oakwood, HMP Stafford

Model: Various, including Learning Together and a seminar series

The Open University has been supporting Students in Secure Environments since the 1970s. It ran a variety of prison-based public legal education pilot projects with St Giles Trust, HMP Wandsworth and HMP Wormwoood Scrubs over 2017/18  academic year. Small groups of OU law students worked with St. Giles peer advisors to identify areas of legal need within their client community and develop suitable public legal education projects to help address that need.


OU students also contribute to the research, design and delivery of a law seminar series in HMP Wormwood Scrubs, incorporating current academic debates on topical legal issues.

Currently in HMP Stafford and HMP Oakwood the OU runs a research seminar. Each month, an academic delivers a short lecture to prisoners, who are then invited to ask questions and discuss the issues raised. Topics have ranged from the rise of Donald Trump to, to the atmosphere of the moon.

© Prisoners' Education Trust 2019

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