Continue with education

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On this page, you can find more information about carrying on with education in the community – from distance learning courses to university study.

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Yes, you can. All PET courses are fully transferable which means that you can work on them whilst in custody and also after release in the community. If your course includes tutor support, this should be available to you online or via telephone. However, it is important to let the course provider know that your address has changed. The provider’s contact details should be in the study material you received and are also available online.

You can also take exams necessary for you to complete a qualification. Some course providers are happy to accommodate exams at their own premises. You should contact the provider of your course to find out more about centres where the exam can take place.

You may have enjoyed education in prison and want to continue develop this interest now that you’re out, there are a couple of options. Your options are:

Further education college (sometimes called a sixth-form college, and sometimes attached to a school)

This is somewhere you can study for qualifications at Levels 2 (such as Functional Skills in English and Maths) and Level 3 (such as A-Levels or BTEC diplomas). Further education colleges They also offer different types of BTEC which are equivalent to one, two, or three A-levels, as well as and Access courses, which allows people of all ages to study for qualifications thatto  prepare them for university.


At university, most people study for an undergraduate degree. You will need Level 3 qualifications to do this. If you have not achieved the required Level 3 qualifications, there may be an option for you to do a foundation year before moving onto to your undergraduate course. Entry requirements are different at each university.

If you have finished your undergraduate degree you could apply to study for a Masters – a MA or MSc, which is the next level up. After that, if you wanted to carry on studying, you could apply to study for a PhD, which is a book-length research project.

Unfortunately, PET does not fund any courses in the community. You can find more information about alternative funding in the answer to ‘What funding is available for further and higher education?’ below.

If you are unable to find alternative funding, there are lots of free courses available online.

Open Culturelists over 1,300 free online course from top universities.

Open Learn features over 1000 free courses in 18 subjects from the Open University.


Most degrees at university cost £9,250 per year, and last for three years. The vast majority of people do not pay this upfront, but take out a student loan.

Student loans are paid by the government, via Student Finance England, and cover your fees. It is also possible to take out a maintenance loan, to support you with your living costs.

These do not work like a loan from a bank. You do not make any repayments until you are earning £25,000 per year or more. Payments will then be deducted from your pay in the same way tax is, taking 9% of your pay each year until the loan is repaid or for 30 years, whichever comes first. If you never earn over £25,000 per year, you are not expected to pay the loan back.

You can get a student loan for undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD study.

Funding for college is different. If you are under 24 and have not taken qualifications at Level 2 or Level 3 before, you may not have to pay any tuition fees. If you are required to pay fees, the government may help you if you are unemployed, a carer, or claiming benefits. 

You can find out what financial support you might be able to get here

Charitable Grants

While PET does not fund education after release, there are some possible routes to explore:


Many PET alumni have gone on to successful study at university after leaving prison. Following a campaign by PET and some of our partners, UCAS, the institution that manages university applications, does not ask people to disclose a criminal conviction.

Many universities do not ask for disclosure either, but some might request this information. If they do ask, legally they need to be very clear about what they are asking and why they are asking it. They must tell you who is going to see the information, and how it is going to be used. Many people successfully apply to university having disclosed a conviction , so being asked the question does not mean you will automatically be rejected.

If you are within your licence period, you may have conditions which could prevent you studying, for instance related to geographical areas, or restrictions around internet use. The university might ask about conditions of your license.

Some courses might require DBS checks, for instance Social Work, Education, or Sports Therapy. Some courses lead onto careers where you may be restricted, for instance Law, where you may be unable to register with the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.

The charity Unlock is a great source of information for people with convictions, including how to apply for university after prison.

Applying to university

If your question hasn’t been answered or you have a specific query about continuing with a PET course or accessing higher education, complete our online enquiry form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Alternatively you can write to us at:

Prisoners’ Education Trust,
The Foundry,
17 Oval Way,
London, SE11 5RR.

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