Prisoners offered bursaries to study at Cambridge University for first time

Posted on: 2018-09-13 16:45:00

Four bursaries, each worth £5,000, have been awarded to current and former prisoners, who will start their courses next month at Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education.

The participants – who, if still incarcerated, would need to be in an open prison and qualify for a day release licence – will study towards an undergraduate higher education certificate.

The bursaries are part of a broader research project on the role of education in rehabilitating prisoners into society after they have completed their jail sentence

Dr Amy Ludlow, a senior research associate in Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, said: “There is very strong evidence [of a link] between higher education - and education more broadly - [and] reduced re-offending and increased public safety”.

She said that any prisoner can apply for the Cambridge University courses, regardless of what crime they have committed, as long as they have completed a higher education course while in prison with the programme Learning Together. 

“We don’t differentiate by type of offence, they vary from most serious down to less serious,” she said. “We are interested in future rather than past.”

The bursaries will be funded by Cambridge University and the Longford Trust, a charity which helps former prisoners get a place at university and offers them support and mentoring throughout their degree. 

The first prisoners to study at Cambridge will do so as part of a pilot scheme, which, if successful, could see more institutions offering courses to convicts. 

The higher education certificate is taught part-time over a year, including 14 days at the institute, and is similar to the first-year of an undergraduate degree.

Peter Stanford, director of the Longford Trust, said: “This initiative will show that not only can [prisoners] thrive at university, but there is no ceiling – you don’t have to go to a university that’s held in low esteem, you can go to the very best university.”

He said that a number of Longford scholars – former prisoners who the charity funds and supports through university – have studied at Russell Group institutions and even Oxbridge.

Mr Stanford explained that while there can initially be “pretty heavy reluctance” to allow former convicts to study at top universities, once they arrive the universities “love it”.

Earlier this year the university admissions service, Ucas, dropped its requirement for students to declare convictions when they apply.

Previously, former prisoners and those with unspent convictions had to tick a criminal record disclosure box when applying to university, which critics said put former prisoners off from applying.

But those applying for university courses starting in September 2019 will no longer be asked this question.

“I think universities are very keen on widening participation and as part of that they’ve realised that one group – people with criminal convictions - are very underrepresented in universities,” he said.

By Camilla Turner, Education Editor

Source: The Telegraph

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