Leeds Beckett University and Full Sutton prison form education partnership
The official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement follows the successful delivery of a degree-level Criminology module taught within the prison this year. Twelve prisoners at the High Security prison, near Pocklington in East Yorkshire, enrolled as students at Leeds Beckett University, taking part in the Learning Together criminology module at the prison with 11 final-year Leeds Beckett University students.
The Learning Together course was developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge which delivers a similar programme; however, the notable difference is that prisoners on the Leeds Beckett course were registered students, with all 23 prisoner and student participants receiving 20 level six (final year undergraduate) university credits following their successful completion of the module.
The new partnership will now see the two institutions develop further education opportunities for prisoners, research opportunities and prison staff continuing professional development (CPD) courses.
Dr Helen Nichols, Co-leader of the Prison Research Network at Leeds Beckett and Senior Lecturer in Criminology, explained: “This partnership is really important to both the University and the prison because it has created an opportunity for us to act on our social responsibilities and engage with the wider community. It’s also giving us an opportunity to engage with students in hard to reach places in order for them to benefit from the experience of Higher Education with academics and students in our University.”
Jennifer Willis, Acting Governor at HMP Full Sutton (pictured top, with Professor John Craig, Dean of the School of Social Sciences), added: “I am thrilled to have signed the joint MOU agreement which underpins the fantastic working relationships already shared between Leeds Beckett and HMP Full Sutton. The opportunities for shared learning, knowledge and understanding that will, long term, with research, direction and dedication from both organisations, positively impact on the lives of many students, staff, men in custody and ultimately their families, is an opportunity that I embrace. I feel there are exciting times to come!”
Beginning in January 2018, a new Psychology module will be piloted at HMP Full Sutton. Dr Emma Dunmore, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett, will run a short course covering: the psychology of sleep, stress, and sport and exercise. The course will be open to final year BSc (Hons) Psychology students based at Leeds Beckett, and both prisoners and staff at Full Sutton. Students are being invited to apply now. If the pilot programme is successful, this may be developed into a full 20-credit level six university module.
Additionally, this year’s criminology module will run again with new cohorts for two more academic years.
Senior Lecturer, Dr Suzanne Young, is in the process of evaluating the first Learning Together module’s delivery and the team intends to explore further research around the outcomes of the first module early next year.
Speaking about the success of the first Learning Together module, Dr Bill Davies, Co-leader of the Prison Research Network at Leeds Beckett and Senior Lecturer in Criminology, said: “The Learning Together project gives prisoners the opportunity to learn at a higher level. They want to learn and they want the chance to keep occupied. Our aim was to offer them a chance to start on a different trajectory for their futures.”
Speaking about his experience, one of the prison learners commented: “I can’t stress enough how successful it’s been. Before, I felt hopeless. I did my O-Levels but didn’t continue with my education and have seen my kids go to university; my step son is currently doing a degree. Now I feel that I have joined them. It’s given me a strong belief in myself and a drive to do more. My life isn’t finished because I’m in prison and this course has made me feel like I matter: I haven’t felt like that in a long time. Now I would like to act as a mentor when the course runs again next year. I want to encourage people as I think this is a big step forward in prison reform.”
Dr Nichols added: “There are currently around 85,000 people in prison, with 75,000 of those being released at some point in the future. With plans to release more prisoners in the future, education is going to be a very important element of prison that universities can support, opening up opportunities for those prisoners when they are released.”