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Centre for Community, Gender and Social Justice

Ruth & AmyIn January 2015, Drs Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong were successful in obtaining support from The University of Cambridge’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund to pilot a new educational initiative called Learning Together. Since then, Learning Together has attracted funding from the British Academy, ESRC and HEFCE and has become a national initiative with growing international connections. Learning Together was highlighted as an example of best practice by Dame Sally Coates in her 2016 review of prison education. Amy and Ruth have since received a Butler Trust Award and awards from the Prisoner Learning Alliance and the University of Cambridge for public engagement with research for their work on Learning Together.

Butler TrustLearning Together brings together people in criminal justice and higher education institutions to study alongside each other in inclusive and transformative learning communities. Learning Together partnerships provide higher education opportunities for people to study together, and learn with and from each other through dialogue and the sharing of experience. Learning Together courses are academically rigorous and their design and delivery builds upon and, through evaluation, advances educational, sociological and criminological research and best practice. 

‘Learning Together made me realise my world was small. I know a few people, on a few streets. I thought universities and places like that were spaces I couldn’t go to, but now I realise I can go there. I can exist outside of my small world.’

(Eugene, Learning Together student 2015) 

CookingOur learning communities aim to be individually aspirational and socially transformative. They provide progression and pipeline opportunities for learners to nurture individual growth and to challenge social disadvantage as a barrier to learning. Our students are offered the opportunity to become trained educational mentors to develop future activities and support future cohorts of students in their learning. Through educational partnership working, and the intellectual friendships that are forged between students, mentors, facilitators and lecturers, we hope to support higher education and criminal justice institutions to better achieve their goals. As part of our partnership activities, we forge complementary, productive collaborations including, for example, between local businesses and prisons who cater end of course celebrations and provide employment opportunities for people post-release, and between community choirs and bands who work with musicians in prison to celebrate the achievements of all students who successfully complete a course. 

ClassroomWe aim to be at the forefront of developing and implementing collaborative, innovative and theoretically led evaluation of practices and impacts in order to understand how best to positively transform individual, communal and broader social views, practices and structures. In doing so, we work collaboratively with other prison and higher education partnerships and networks, nationally and internationally. 

Our vision is for education to be the practice of freedom. 

Our mission is to provide evidence-led and robustly evaluated intellectually ambitious and individually and socially transformative learning opportunities through partnership working between higher education and criminal justice organisations. 

At the University of Cambridge there are currently three Learning Together courses, one in criminology that was formed in 2014 in HMP Grendon, and further two courses that have run since 2017 in literary criticism (currently running in HMP Grendon) and philosophy and theology (currently running in HMP Whitemoor).