Cambridge University has unveiled plans to introduce bursaries to enable serving or former prisoners in the UK to complete an under-graduate degree course from the world-famous institution. The four 5,000 bursaries being offered for the university’s Institute of Continuing Education, which provides part-time and short courses for adult learners, will lead to a Higher Education Certificate.
Prisoners who are still serving time when they apply for such a course will need to be in an open prison and have a day-release license to be able to spend 14 days on campus, the ‘Times Higher Education’ magazine reports.
“There is very strong evidence (of a link) between higher education – and education more broadly – (and) reduced re-offending and increased public safety,” said Dr Amy Ludlow, a senior research associate in Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, who explained that any prisoner could potentially apply for the Cambridge University courses, regardless of what crime they have committed.
They would be required to have completed a higher education course while in prison with an ongoing programme for prisons called Learning Together.
“We don’t differentiate by type of offence, they vary from most serious down to less serious. We are interested in future rather than past,” she said.
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.
It marks the first time that courses for prisoners will be taught on a university campus. If the pilot scheme proves successful, it could lead to more institutions offering courses to convicts.
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.”
The Learning Together partnership supports courses in prisons and this latest initiative is aimed at eventually enabling prisoners to gain a whole university degree.