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Community Support

A guide for students leaving prison

  • Would you like to continue your Open University (OU) studies after leaving prison?
  • Are you worried about combining study with your new lifestyle?
  • We can help you make the transition to OU study on the outside so you can use the knowledge and skills you acquire productively.

When you leave prison, many aspects of your life will change, and you will have new priorities and pressures on your time. However, as an Open University student you can continue with your studies wherever you are living in the UK and even if you move abroad.

This website aims to help you make the transition to OU study on the outside, where you will be responsible for your own learning and will have access to a wide range of support services to help you through your modules.

We hope you will continue to enjoy your OU studies, and that you will be able to use the knowledge and skills you acquire productively in your new life.

A support pack for released students is now available which contains a range of resources to help you transition smoothly from studying in prison to studying in the community. The pack also provides you with information on Open University resources such as the library, the Study Support Fund and a Through the Gate Support leaflet that provides information about agencies who focus on supporting people with convictions to get back into employment.

Preparing for release

As soon as you have firm information about your release date, it is important to discuss your future study plans with the prison’s Education Department. When you’re released, to ensure a smooth transition to study on the outside, please remember the following:

  • Bring all your books and other study materials with you.
  • Note down your personal identifier (PI) number, which will help the OU identify you quickly.
  • Find a safe place to store your OU material where you can find things quickly.
  • Try to work out when and where you are going to study.
  • Make sure you have the Community Support Team’s contact details.

For more Information, please click on Released Student's Leaflet, for students not in England, nation-specific versions of this leaflet are also available from your nation contacts.

Information on advice and support organisations can be found here.

When you’re released

You should contact our Student Registration team on 0300 303 6789, or by email at, as soon as possible to provide them with the following information:

  • Name of your Probation Officer
  • Your Probation Officer’s telephone number and/or email address
  • The Probation Service you come under
  • Your new address, telephone number and email

Once we are in receipt of these details, we will start our post release support checks. For this we will contact your Probation Officer and ask that they complete our risk assessment form before returning it to us for assessing. Please note the outcome of this form will not only affect the level of online access permitted to you but also the modules/qualifications available to you for study.

Unfortunately, until these post release support checks have been completed you will be unable to attend any tutorials, be permitted any form of online access, or have direct contact with your tutor.

To help you plan, please be aware that if your licence restricts you from contact with under 16s or 18s, you are on the sex offenders’ register, are subject to a sexual harm prevention order or are classed as high risk to any group of people, it is unlikely that you will receive full online access. This is to safeguard the young and vulnerable students who study with us. However, this will not stop you studying at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, as you will continue to study from the SiSE prospectus.

This safeguarding work is carried out by the Community Support team and this link outlines the framework which supports this.

In the meantime, while the post release support checks are being carried out, you can contact the Community Support team by email at, or by telephone on 01908 654053. They can act as a point of contact between you and your tutor regarding such things as requesting TMA extensions and any other study related issues. In addition to this they can also order replacements for any missing module materials.

Please remember that after your release you’ll be responsible for planning your study time, checking cut-off dates, submitting TMAs and dealing with your tutor and the OU.

Submitting your TMAs

If you can submit your TMAs electronically you will need to follow the instructions below:

  • Attach your TMA file to an email. The TMA needs to be a single file of up to 10MB in size which has been saved in a file format compatible with Microsoft Word (a .doc, .docx or .rtf file)
  • Ensure the body of the email is left entirely blank, including any auto signatures
  • In the subject field put your personal identifier number, your module code and the TMA number, each separated by a slash – for example P1234567/B999/01
  • Send your email to
  • You will receive a confirmation of receipt within 24-48 hours of submission
  • Once your TMA has been marked you will receive an email with a file attached containing your marked TMA, feedback and your TMA score
  • It is also possible to submit EMAs via this system. In the subject field you will need to put your personal identifier number, your module code and the number 30 – for example P1234567/B999/30

Note: Keep the file name to a maximum of 44 characters long. This enables the tutor to add some characters to the name once the file has been marked. This method isn’t immediate and it may take a while before you get an email back to say the TMA has been received. If you don't get confirmation within 24-48 hours, it is likely that your submission has not been received, therefore, we recommend that you submit it again.

However, if you are unable to submit your TMAs electronically, we can accept them in hard copy form and will forward these to your tutor for marking.

If you wish to do this please complete a copy of our PT3 form, attach it to your TMA, ensuring you include details of your personal identifier number, module code and TMA number, and send both to the following address:,

Accessibility Team
The Open University
Frank Henshaw Building
East Campus
Milton Keynes


Nation contacts

We also have offices in Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. If you are living in any of these nations following your release, you will be allocated to one of their student support teams, dependent on where you are living. Their contact details are as follows:


Tel: 0131 226 3851


Tel: 029 2047 1170

Republic of Ireland

Tel: 0044 28 9032 3722

Northern Ireland

Tel: 028 9032 3722


Most OU modules have a three-hour examination, usually held during the last two weeks of the modules. Depending on whether there are any licence conditions attached to your release, you can either take your exam in an OU examination centre or within a side room at the same venue. The University needs to know well in advance so that arrangements can be made for you to attend your chosen venue.

Additional requirements

If you have required special study arrangements in the past due to a disability or other additional requirements, these can continue after your release. The Community Support team will require advance notification of any additional requirements and these can be requested by email or telephone.

You can also request or download a copy of the Meeting your needs booklet, which will provide you with useful information. 

Financial assistance

Leaving prison can be a time of financial hardship. Governments in England, Northern Ireland and Wales provide funding to help students in financial hardship to enter and remain in higher education by providing support towards study related costs. This can cover costs such as internet access, the cost of a PC/laptop (up to a maximum of £200), printer ink, set books, stationery, and childcare costs.

To apply you should submit an application form to our Student Fees team. The application forms and their corresponding guidance notes can be found below. It is essential that you read the guidance notes thoroughly to ensure that you submit all the required evidence.

Please note, applications can only be assessed two weeks after module start date. We will also need confirmation that you are actively participating in study.

If you require further advice on evidence or eligibility please contact the Student Fees team:

Student Fees
The Open University
PO Box 6055
Milton Keynes
MK10 1NH
Telephone: 01908 653411

Course choice

Open University qualifications are recognised by most other educational organisations such as colleges and universities. While in prison, you may have received advice and guidance regarding your choice of qualification and modules and this level of help will still be available after your release. However, you will probably need to take more responsibility for getting the information and advice you need.

If, after your risk assessment has been reviewed, we are able to offer full online access, you will be able to gain this advice and guidance from one of our Student Support teams. However, if we are only able to provide restricted access to our online services, your advice and guidance will be provided by the educational advisors within the SiSE team. Restricted access will provide you with links to your module webpages, access to tutorial support and to our eTMA system  - so you can submit your assignments by email.

Careers advice

As a student with The Open University you are eligible for careers support from the moment you register on a qualification and this service continues for up to three years after you have finished studying with us. You may contact us as many times as you need and we can provide information and advice on careers, as well as put you in touch with other institutions who may be able to help you.

You can also download a copy of the Career Planning and Job Seeking workbook. This workbook consists of six sections that take you in a progressive series of steps through the process of a personal and career review, career planning and job seeking.

Further information can be found by visiting the Careers page within this website.

Study aids

The Open University have produced a set of study skills booklets which cover the following subjects:

  • Communicating and presenting
  • Develop effective study strategies
  • Reading and taking notes
  • Revising for examinations
  • Preparing assignments
  • Studying and staying mentally healthy
  • Studying when you are deaf
  • Studying with dyslexia
  • Studying with little or no sight
  • Studying with the OU
  • Thinking critically

These are all available to download for free in a PDF format by visiting our study aids page.

Contact us

Students in Secure Environments Community Support Team
The Open University
Hammerwood Gate
Kents Hill
Milton Keynes

Phone +44 (0) 1908 654053

Email the SISE Community Support Team