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Thousands of top grads compete for elite prison officer scheme

++Graduate prison officer scheme doubles in size in year two ++
++ “A job where I can make a real difference” ++

Unlocked Graduates today announced the latest application figures for its pioneering prison officer leadership programme – revealing a dramatic growth among top graduates who want to play a frontline role in reforming the prison system.

This is only the second year of applications but the programme is on track to double in size – with over 100 new officers hoping to be placed in prisons in London and the South East this September. For the first time, this will include prisons in the youth and high security estates.

Over 4,500 graduates registered their interest in the programme in 2018 – more than doubling the interest Unlocked Graduates experienced in its inaugural year.

Over 1,600 people started the application, which this year included the option of a video submission alongside a traditional online form. This led to over 900 full applications for just 100 places.

Applicants studied a diverse range of subjects, from anthropology to theology. Students in the 2018 cohort include for the first time an economist and a biologist. One of the most popular subject amongst applicants was Law – representing a large number of candidates who would previously have considered becoming solicitors and barristers. Three quarters of the successful applicants are from our top 35 target universities, over half from the Russell Group, with four new officers coming from Oxford or Cambridge.

While the applicants are all graduates, they come from all walks of life. Reflecting a recent recruitment drive by Unlocked Graduates to attract teachers, many have a background in education. Several successful applications came from primary school teachers, teaching assistants, those teaching English as a foreign language, and support staff working with children who have Special Educational Needs.

The success of the recruitment drive means that Unlocked Graduates will be able to meet its second year target of doubling the number of prison officers it recruits, placing them into a wider range of prisons as well as entering the youth estate for the first time.

Unlocked Graduates continued its record of attracting a diverse cohort – just under 20 percent are from a BAME background. The programme continued to be particularly attractive to women with a 69 / 31 percent split between women and men.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
“I’m pleased to see a growing number of talented graduates applying to the Unlocked Graduates scheme – their desire to make a difference is inspiring.

“Prison officer numbers are at their highest level since 2013 which is vital to ensuring prisons can fulfil their purpose of protecting the public, reducing reoffending and rehabilitating offenders.”

Jack, a Geography graduate from University Oxford who has joined the scheme said:
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work in a prison. It’s not a career I would ever have considered before, but once I’d learnt a bit more about the impact you can have I was hooked on the idea. This is definitely a job where I feel I can make a real difference!”

Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates:
“We know that the prison system faces real challenges. And yet despite – or indeed because of – the way prisons are portrayed, we’re attracting phenomenal candidates who have the drive, curiosity and skills to meet those challenges. Just two years in, we’ve successfully established Unlocked Graduates as a unique option for the leaders of the future.”

The scheme is being delivered in partnership with the University of Suffolk. The students who complete the programme will be awarded with an MSc in Leadership and Custodial Environments.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Suffolk, Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, said, “The MSc Leadership and Custodial Environments as part of the Unlocked Graduates scheme marks a significant contribution to raising the status of the role of prison officer and recognising the highly-skilled and complex nature of the job. The masters’ degree is the first of its kind in the country.”