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Maynooth rolls out access template for those with convictions
Maynooth University

18 Jan 2022 / education Print

University access template for those with convictions

A Maynooth University project has the goal of reducing barriers to third-level education for those with convictions.

‘Unlocking Potential’ seeks to provide a fair admissions toolkit for higher education institutions (HEIs) for prospective and current students with convictions.

Those with criminal convictions are disproportionately drawn from groups which are under-represented in higher education. 

The goal is to harness the transformative power of education, while supporting the reintegration of people with convictions, prisoners and former prisoners in society.

Available online at unlockpotential.ie, the website provides information for higher education staff interested in developing a fair admissions policy, as well as information for potential students regarding accessing third-level courses.

One such assistance available is the Kickstarter Scholarship Fund, established by the Probation Service and supported by the Irish Prison Service.


This scholarship is administered by Maynooth University to support those with a criminal justice history, and experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, to access higher education.

The project has stemmed from the Mountjoy-Maynooth University Partnership, and is a collaboration between:

  • Maynooth University Access Programme (MAP),
  • Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology,
  • Maynooth University Innovation Lab (Mi:Lab),
  • Irish Prison Service,
  • Probation Service,
  • Pathways Centre (City of Dublin Education and Training Board), and,
  • Irish Penal Reform Trust.

Simon Harris (Minister for Higher and Further Education) said: “This is an important initiative which will improve pathways from prison education to third-level education.

“The partnership built between Mountjoy Prison and Maynooth University is changing lives and I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work in making this happen. 

“The benefits of Unlocking Potential will not only extend to those with experience of the prison system, but also to the wider community.

“Education is a fundamental right, and regardless of your circumstances or background, the opportunity to access it and improve your life should be open to all.”


Professor Claire Hamilton (small picture), chair of the Unlocking Potential project, said: “We know from research that questions about criminal records act as a strong disincentive to applicants with convictions to continue with their education as they fear rejection at the first hurdle.

“The development of fairer policies and good practice in this area will not only help people with convictions to access the life changing opportunities that higher education can offer but will allow HEIs to benefit from the unique perspectives that they bring.”


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