The Ministry of Justice’s review of prison education linked prisoners with other groups that are underrepresented in higher education:
- 24 per cent of adult prisoners report having been in care at some point in their lives, compared with an estimated 2 per cent of the general population.
- Approximately 25 per cent of the prison population are from a minority ethnic group, compared with 14 per cent of the general population.
- 42 per cent of adult prisoners report having been permanently excluded from school.
- Nearly one third of prisoners self-identified as having a learning difficulty and/or disability.
The Lammy Review highlights ‘blind spots’ for some groups - for example the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller population form just 0.1 per cent of the general population but are estimated to account for 5 per cent of male prisoners.
Barriers that people with criminal convictions face in accessing higher education include:
- a lack of confidence to access and succeed in higher education
- stigma and discrimination from others
- possible lack of financial or family support
- restrictions relating to their offence (for example restrictions relating to use of social media, which can be problematic where students are encouraged to use it for group work)
- timing - most convictions become non-disclosable after a certain time. However, a young person’s criminal record is likely to still require disclosure at the time when many of their peers go to university
- enhanced criminal record checks for some courses, which may limit the options available.
Challenges relating to the admissions process include:
- the status of the applicant is disclosed if a prison address is given on an application form
- admissions staff may not have received adequate training or support regarding applications from this group
- there can be a lack of transparency regarding how application decisions are reached, and whether these are on academic or risk assessment grounds
- there may not be an admissions appeals process.