Third level education in Irish prisons: who participates and why?

Costelloe, Anne (2003). Third level education in Irish prisons: who participates and why? EdD thesis The Open University.



This exploratory study examines the reality of third level education for Irish prisoners. It is based on the perspectives of the prison students and the focus is on the students, their experiences, motivations and perceptions rather than on the actual provision. While comparisons and contrasts are drawn with the mainstream situation, the intent at all times is to increase an understanding of the impact of the prison context. As the title suggests, the research embraces two broad foci. It calculates and establishes a pattern of participation for prisoners engaged in third level study in Irish prisons, and it provides an ethnography of the experiences and motivations of third level prison students. The research ideologies framing the study are postmodern in influence, qualitative in approach and fall within the critical research paradigm. Both qualitative and quantitative methods have been employed to collect and analyse the data, the choice of method being determined by the specific research question. In general quantitative methods were used to construct a picture of the typical third level prison student. Qualitative methods were used to identify and examine the motivations of a sub sample of those prison students. It was concluded that the prison pattern of participation emulates the mainstream situation in its under-representation of traditional non-participants. It was seen that the motivations of those traditional non-participants that do participate are influenced primarily by the prison context while in general the motivations of the traditional participants mirror those of mainstream mature students. The research draws on and applies a rich body of theoretical literature concerned with the dynamics of adult learning and the substantive issues of social exclusion, participation and motivation.

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