Prisons and universities: co-creating curricula for prison-university partnerships

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This paper illustrates the approach of co-creating education where co-creation was an important aspect of the curriculum design. It makes a case for prison-university partnerships through two pedagogical case studies – one within a prison setting with a focus on soft skills acquisition and another in a Higher Education setting focusing on international criminal justice. Originating from the observations and reflections of an educator which led to a participatory action research opportunity, it asserts that actively teaching and learning together increases effective learning through better understanding and motivation, as well as giving access to the right to education regardless of ‘space and place’. Using Iversen and Stavnskær Pedersen’s (2017, p.24) five stages to the design progression of co-creative teaching, the article discusses the process, progress, and evaluation of the practical approaches to teaching and learning and how they could form a beneficial and successful partnership when considered in tandem. It is recognised that by bringing higher education into the closed prison context, the universal right to education is realised, since people behind bars are given the same opportunities as students in the community. Furthermore, it further enhances aspects of civic responsibility and understanding through a lived-experience approach with the students in the community. Finally, the article illustrates how such partnerships show a significant adherence to the Council of Europe’s (1990) Recommendations for Prison Education, giving prison educators a tangible ‘what works’ way forward in teaching and learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Prison Education Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2023


  • Prison education
  • higher education
  • university
  • partnership
  • teaching
  • learning

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