Two Learning Together partnerships have created bursaries for further study for Learning Together alumni in the community. Lancaster University Law School has been awarded a ‘Widening Participation Advisory Group’ bursary for one prison-based student to take up a university place to study law or criminology upon release.
Working with the Longford Trust and the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge, five bursaries have been created per year for alumni who wish to study at Cambridge on release on temporary licence (ROTL), or post-release.
My name is Dr Charlotte Barlow and I’m the coordinator of a Learning Together partnership at Lancaster University. With the support of Chris Bayes (Outreach and Student Success Manager) and Martin Walker (Outreach Officer), we have been awarded Widening Participation Advisory Group (WPAG) funding to provide a Learning Together bursary to prison-based students at HMP Lancaster Farms. I run ‘Learning Together: Criminology on the ‘inside’, which is a popular, innovative module involving third year criminology students working collaboratively with prison-based students at HMP Lancaster Farms. As one of the accredited programmes in the Learning Together Network, prison-based students currently receive 15 Lancaster University credits if they successfully complete the assessment for the course. The Learning Together bursary will go one step further and offer one prison-based student per year an access route to study Law or Criminology at Lancaster following their release. Bursary recipients will also receive £6000 (for each year of study) and widening participation support throughout their degree. Lancaster is one of the first universities with a prison-university partnership to offer such an opportunity.
People who have been in prison often have limited or poor experiences of education. The Dame Sally Coates review of prison education from 2016, stated that 47% of prisoners report having no qualifications and one fifth of prisoners would prefer to be studying at a higher level than they were currently. This suggests that many prisoners have education goals and aspirations, but they have faced various barriers throughout their lives, which means that access to education is often difficult. The bursary will provide an access route into higher education at a world-class institution, therefore maximising the student’s potential and future career prospects. This is widening participation in its truest form.
Professor Alisdair Gillespie, Head of the Law School at Lancaster, says:
“We know that education is vital in preventing re-offending. I’m delighted that the university is offering this bursary, and that we can offer one of our Learning Together alumnus the opportunity to continue their studies with us. Learning Together has quickly become one of our most important modules. It provides confidence to prisoner students, and it gives an insight into prison life to our students. This bursary is a natural extension of our relationship with HMP Lancaster Farms, and allows the chosen student the opportunity to seek new challenges”.
Endar Kaur, Learning and Skills Manager at HMP Lancaster Farms, says:
“We think the bursary is fabulous news and could really make a difference to someone wanting to pursue higher education and improve their opportunities on release. Higher education will enable the receiver of the bursary to develop high-level skills, such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving, teamwork and complex communication skills. The bursary provides a natural pathway to continue the work of the Learning Together course beyond the prison walls. We are incredibly proud of the Learning Together project and the bursary is the next step to realising the benefits of the strong partnership we have developed between the prison and university”.
We hope that this bursary will enable the partnership between Lancaster University and HMP Lancaster Farms to go from strength to strength and we look forward to welcoming Learning Together alumni to study with at Lancaster in the near future.
A Learning Together Bursary has been created to support continued study at the University of Cambridge from open conditions or post-release. The bursary was launched in 2018 in partnership with the Longford Trust and the Institute for Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge. The scheme is open each year, for courses starting in October and funds five Learning Together graduates per year to study an Undergraduate Certificate of their choice at the Institute of Continuing Education. An Undergraduate Certificate is a part-time course at FHEQ (Framework for Higher Education Qualification) level 4, worth 60 CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) credits. The University of Cambridge offers Undergraduate Certificates in a wide range of subjects. All subjects typically require 12-14 days of study in person, in addition to distance learning. Whilst studying, students are also offered mentoring support through the Longford Trust. The bursary covers the full costs of tuition fees for the University of Cambridge Undergraduate Certificate qualification. We welcome applications from anyone who has taken part in a Learning Together course, and will either be living in the community or eligible for release on temporary licence to undertake the full course of study.
Learning Together alumni have already taken up bursaries. In 2018, Rosca, a talented writer and lyricist, completed a short course in creative writing at Cambridge and had this to say about his experience:
“My experience was fantastic, amazing. I was in a room full of great people. They never judged me, even though I shared my story with them and told them all how I just recently came out of prison after doing a ten-year sentence. I felt welcomed, empowered and inspired. I’m taken aback by how being part of the Learning Together community keeps presenting me with new opportunities. I never finished school and left with no qualifications. For me to be at Cambridge University and doing a course there was massive — not just for me but for my whole family.“