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.
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