Desistance, Higher Education, Widening Access


There has been a growing recognition of the value of education in facilitating desistance from offending. Yet, despite a determined push to “widen access” universities continue to be an unwelcoming place for those with a criminal record. To better understand the role of higher education in raising aspiration towards desistance, this paper draws on findings from a study in Swansea, Wales. Adopting a Pictorial Narrative approach the findings suggest that, whilst the participants identified potential benefits of attaining a higher education, those aspirations were outweighed by a distrust of the “institution” and a fear that the stigmatisation experienced through the “criminal identity” would be hard to avoid and may morph into the “criminal/student identity”, thus leaving students vulnerable to judgement and exclusion. This paper makes recommendations about how higher education might be remodeled to support those who wish to desist and in doing so, truly “widen participation” to all.

Author Bio

Mark is director at Higher Plain Research and Education and former Associate Professor of Education with over 22 years’ experience working with people in the community with the last 11 years’ within Higher Education specialising in pedagogy, reflective practice and education research with marginalised groups using inclusive qualitative research. Mark is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and professionally qualified youth and community practitioner. You can contact Mark at higherplainresearcheducation@gmail.com

Debbie is an Associate Professor in Criminology and Director of Undergraduate Studies, The Hillary Rodham Clinton, School of Law, Swansea University. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Debbie's has focused her academic career on the development of inclusive research and teaching methodologies that seek to empower those experiencing disadvantage and stigma. You can read more about Debbie here https://www.swansea.ac.uk/staff/law/jones-d-a/

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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