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History and Growth

The idea of bringing together people in higher education and criminal justice organisations to learn with and from each other has a long history in the UK. One of the founding fathers of criminology, Max Grunhut, established a society at the University of Oxford in the 1950s called ‘Crime-A-Challenge’. Among other things, this society regularly brought boys who were serving sentences at Huntercombe Borstal to have tea with law students at Oxford colleges and took Oxford students to the borstal for residential stays. Professor Nigel Walker built upon Max Grunhut’s legacy, first by taking students from the University of Oxford to learn alongside men in HMPs Oxford and Grendon, and again later with Cambridge students from the Institute of Criminology in partnership with HMP Bedford. The Institute of Criminology in Cambridge has continued to work closely with, and learn from, people who work and live within the criminal justice system. Learning Together seeks to deepen and broaden these relationships.

CelebratingWith support from Governor Jamie Bennett, the first Learning Together course ran at HMP Grendon from January to May 2015. In response to growing national interest from academic and criminal justice practitioner colleagues, Amy and Ruth organised a series of engagement events to share what they were doing (practices), why they were doing it (theoretical basis) and how they were evaluating it (research methodology). Many colleagues who attended these events established their own educational partnerships and, from this, a national network of over 20 partnerships has grown and has contributed to the development of the Prison and University Partnerships in Learning network (PUPiL), which is run by the Prisoners’ Education Trust.

InternationalThere has been international interest in Learning Together from Mexico, Africa, Australia, Denmark, France and Germany. In 2016, Amy and Ruth travelled to Mexico and Australia and held conferences with academics and criminal justice practitioners within prisons. The first international Learning Together partnership is led by Drs Lorana Bartels and Kelly Richards and is based in Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre.

Our Aims

The primary aims of the Centre are to:

  • bring together research interests relating to community sanctions (with a European and international as well as a national focus), gender, crime and justice
  • develop the links between criminal justice and social justice
  • give students and colleagues working in these broad areas a clear identity.   

A second, but no less important, objective is to use the Centre as a base from which to apply for research funding. 

Thirdly, the Centre links academic and practitioner related interests - organising a number of workshops with members of the National Probation Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies, voluntary organisations and youth justice agencies. 

The Centre holds occasional seminars and workshops and runs a monthly reading group.