Why a university education has been a win-win for me

Author: | 19 Apr 2023

David is a psychology student at an East of England university. He left school with no qualifications and has had to work hard to get on the course, and stay on it, but now having passed the half-way point he feels, he writes, that he finally has a voice.

It wasn’t easy going into higher education when I left prison. I had got no GCSEs at school and had been in and out of prison most of my life, working on building sites in-between sentences. Then one day I decided I no longer wanted to plaster walls for a living. I wanted to go to university.

I started by attending night school to make good that lack of GCSEs.  That was hard work. The classroom and academia were all new to me. Yet somehow I have made it happen. Going forward, the support I have been given by family, friends, and the Longford Trust has been incredible. I look back and realise that there are so many talented people locked in prison cells who aren’t even aware they can start out on this journey of improving themselves.

Looking afresh at the world

What I want to say to them in this blog is that this path I have taken has already demonstrated to me many of the benefits of a degree. It has, for a start, completely changed my outlook on society. Education has been a win-win for me, helping me to better understand the world around me, and equipping me to make better decisions.

I chose to study psychology because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. What I have found out is that what we know about the human psyche is quite dated and poorly understood. Yet the human mind is so fascinating, it is surprising that as a species we know so little about it.

More motivation than intellect

My motivation, to be clear, far out weighs my intellect, but one of the benefits of prison life is that it made me a resilient and resourceful human being. That and the fact that I actually want to learn and better myself as I have had enough of repeating old patterns. So, I focus on the day in hand and get the task done.

When I finally get this degree, and can throw my hat in the air like all the other students, I will feel so proud of myself. And I hope in a small way I will be a living example, not only to others who have walked the same path as me into prison, but more importantly to my children who have witnessed my lifelong struggles with addiction and crime.

Now I can hold my own

Coming from a marginalised background it was like I never had a voice. All I ever had were middle-class barristers, solicitors, probation officers and drug and social workers talking at me. But now I feel I can hold my own. My vocabulary has broadened so I can articulate what it is I need to say. Yet, as I regularly tell myself, “I have not come this far just to come this far”.

If you feel inspired by David’s story to find out about going to university, contact Clare Lewis, the Longford Trust’s scholarship manager, or write to her at Freepost, Longford Trust. You don’t need to put a stamp on it.