The project ran for the first time as a pilot last year. This year, 15 inmates studied once a week in the prison library with 15 students from the University of Westminster.
Together with students taking part in the project, Faculty Administrator Lydia Charles and Lecturers Andy Aresti, Sacha Darke and Professor Peter Catterall represented the University of Westminster. The ceremony was led by José Aguiar, a prison education consultant who coordinates the project with Andy Aresti and Sacha Darke.
In his talk, the governor of Pentonville said the prison was a challenging place and to achieve what we had was amazing. He noted that the course was a way of giving hope to prisoners, demonstrating what they can achieve. He elaborated on how rare the opportunity was and hoped to keep the project moving forward. A sense of achievement was shared by both inside and outside students, and their friends and family who attended.
"Some Westminster students had to come as early as 9am to prepare for the graduation! I was one of them. The morning session consisted of us marking the inside students’ coursework and making sure they had completed their log books. Some of us helped with setting up the library for the graduation, while others worked on a PowerPoint presentation that they delivered during the ceremony. We were nervous and also sad that the project had finally come to an end.
"All of the students, inside and outside, who attended the course had demonstrated commitment and hard work, and the passion to make a positive difference. The media may not report the good deeds of what happens in prison, but at the University of Westminster we take pride in what we have achieved over the past few weeks and months with the inside students.
"Not only did we share our academic knowledge with the Pentonville students, but we learnt from them – about their difficulties, the barriers they will face to future employment and how needs are not fulfilled within the four walls of a prison. This was an awesome, truly life-changing experience."