10 years ago Goldsmiths’ student union began the Open Book Project, which sought to increase the participation of hard to reach groups in higher education. However the project went beyond the standard widening participation agenda in schools and youth groups outreaching to some of the most marginalised groups in their community. Open Book offered an avenue into higher education for ex-offenders and ex-addicts. Goldsmiths worked with the government and charities to develop a unique outreach programme which has so far helped over 300 ex-offenders stay away from the streets and a life of crime. The project is an example of how a student union with a pioneering and committed attitude forged social change in their community. Can this success be replicated? LSE, University of Greenwich and Southbank University think so and have already begun piloting their own versions of the project. We believe there is real opportunity to get this project to generate success nationally and will support any student union that has interest in piloting the project.
How does Open Book work?
The Open Book approach is one of personal support and giving students a chance to tailor their higher education experience from initial access culminating in an undergraduate degree. Open Book students are introduced back into education slowly with return to study short courses, drop in sessions and a pastoral and academic support available 24 hours a day. Open Book recruit students to a variety of courses at Goldsmiths and other participating universities. In addition to longer term courses there are 30 minute rolling sessions for those who have spent a substantial time away from or have never had formal education. Crucially the reason the Open Book works is because students are taught by former participants, meaning there is consistent empathy and communal spirit running through the project. People get involved in different ways some are recruited through Goldsmiths’ Open Days others are referred through prison services, addiction clinics or pupil referral units. Open Book is one of the only projects genuinely widening participation offering opportunity to those most in need in society rather than just to school leavers considering university.
Open Book on your campus
Student’s Unions interested in the project should contact Goldmsiths’ Open Book staff to set meetings with senior management, administration staff and student support.
Lobby your institution to fund an Open Book staff member on your campus.
Contact us for training on activism and for resources to help you get your campaign off the ground.
For more information contact Vice President Society and Citizenship Dannie Grufferty and visit the Open Book website.