Manifesto for Higher Education (HE)

Published 15/12/2010
Type Article
Author(s) Jane Dominey, Anthony Goodman
Corresponding Authors Anthony Goodman, Professor of Criminology, Middlesex University Jane Dominey, Research Associate, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

Probation agencies and higher education: the need for constructive partnership
This is a manifesto outlining a relationship between higher education and the new agencies of probation, community rehabilitation and public protection. It argues for constructive partnership.

The manifesto was developed at a conference in Kendal when ten probation academics came together to share experiences and debate the future of probation as a professional activity. Each participant had experience and knowledge of professional practice and was conscious of their privileged position in higher education in contrast to practitioners who, without the luxury of sitting outside the changes, were working hard to engage with offenders and protect the public during a period of profound change and uncertainty. Noone in the Kendal group was looking back with ‘rose tinted glasses’ at a golden age of probation which never existed. The manifesto is intended to be forward looking, drawing on the best evidence and a commitment to a holistic approach to work with offenders which is enhanced through partnerships with higher education.

The quality of the interaction between probation agencies and higher education matters for a number of reasons. Academic research provides the evidence supporting effective practice while the successful implementation of policy requires the expertise and experience of practitioners. In order to make the case for community penalties, the voice of probation scholarship needs to be heard alongside that of prisons and policing. Practitioners and managers gain from the confidence that comes from external assessment of and support for their activities. Professional standards and reflective practice are maintained if probation qualifications and post qualifying opportunities are at higher education level.

The Manifesto: A blueprint for action
This manifesto sets out ways in which higher education institutions and their staff can ensure that the link with probation agencies and probation staff can be maintained and developed.

1. Research
• Research work will continue to develop the evidence base for probation and community justice. A variety of types of study are required, both quantitative and qualitative, and including surveys, ethnographies, case studies, data analysis, impact and process evaluations, peer research and working in concert with both the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies.
• Universities and probation agencies will publish research findings, sharing good practice including good anti-discriminatory practice.
• Research will include action research with practitioners and opportunities for seconded practitioners to undertake research (for example, the Sir Graham Smith awards now located with the Probation Institute enable probation staff to undertake a focused piece of research within their workplace and provide a small amount of financial support for the expenses incurred. The Griffins Society Research Fellowship Programme is an opportunity for practitioners working with girls and women in the criminal justice system to undertake research).
• Subject to the requirements of confidentiality and with sensitivity to the demands made on probation agencies, research staff will be allowed access to data, practitioners and service users.
• Research staff will be encouraged to apply for funding enabling joint work with international partners on trans-national issues such as human trafficking, drug misuse and supply, serious group offending.
• All research must be accepted by university ethics committees and the ethical assessment processes stipulated by probation agencies.

2. Teaching
• Undergraduate and post-graduate criminology and criminal justice programmes will include learning outcomes about probation and community justice.
• Local practitioners will be invited to contribute as visiting lecturers.
• Probation agencies will be encouraged to provide volunteering and internship opportunities to students. A focus on diversity will ensure that these opportunities (which open the door to jobs in the sector) are provided in an inclusive way. (which open the door to jobs in the sector) are provided in an inclusive way.
• Probation and other community justice agencies will be invited to careers fairs held in universities to engage with students and encourage interest in the profession.

3. Professional education for probation practice
• All probation employers will be lobbied to provide their staff with access to training that leads to externally accredited qualifications with a higher education component.
• Probation officers, whatever their employing agency, should continue to hold a degree level qualification.
• The qualification framework will include all grades of staff and provide postqualifying post-graduate awards.
• The role of the practitioner-researcher will be encouraged.
• Practitioners will be invited to attend relevant seminars held in the universities, leading to discussion and exchange of knowledge between academics and practitioners.
• There should be independent oversight of the qualifications framework to ensure quality assurance and the protection of professional standards.

4. Building a network for academic staff with research/teaching interests in probation and community justice
• Academic staff will be encouraged to join existing networks (e.g. the European Society of Criminology working group on community sanctions and measures, CREDOS (Collaboration of Researchers for the Effective Development of Offender Supervision)).
• These international networks to be complemented with a new British Society of Criminology ‘Probation Network’ possibly jointly run with the Probation Institute’s professional network system.
• The Academic Advisory Panel of the Probation Institute should become a conduit to ensure higher education concerns about research and education are communicated to the profession.

5. Knowledge exchange between policy, practice and academia
• Academic staff will promote and support events that allow exchange of views, information and ideas (e.g. the London Practitioner Forums).
• Academic staff and practitioners will contribute to the development of the Probation Institute and its specialist committees. The Probation Institute has an important role to play in disseminating ideas, sustaining expertise and Supporting dynamic partnership.
• Higher education supports the development of a Centre of Excellence as envisaged by the Probation Institute.
• Relationships between higher education and probation services have traditionally been characterised by openness and mutual engagement. The new commercial world challenges that prime directive and every effort should be focused on maintaining and enhancing open and free debate.

The background to the Manifesto
The links between higher education and probation are long established. The late Guy Clutton-Brock, who was the first Chief Probation Officer in London in the early 1930s, talked to Anthony Goodman about his task of integrating police court missionaries with newly qualified staff from social administration courses, some based in universities. Prior to this, rehabilitation was the giving of “5 bob and a bible”. During and after the Second World War, the Home Office ran its own brief training course utilizing well-known academics as course lecturers. As the Probation and After-Care Service expanded further in the mid-1960s, taking on prison welfare duties from the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Societies (DPAS) and then prison resettlement in the community, the staff from these culturally differing organisations were absorbed and probation training had to be adjusted accordingly.

The Seebohm Report and the creation of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW) in the late 1960s meant that qualification training for probation officers was embedded in higher education, first in generic social work training and later in probation specific training courses. In the 1990s, probation officer training survived the attack on professionalism by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, who abolished the Standing Order that made probation training compulsory. It is worth recalling how this was achieved: there was an alliance by a number of key agencies including, the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, NAPO, the Central Council for Probation Committees and the Standing Conference of Probation Tutors who were determined that only staff qualified at degree level would take prime responsibility for work with offenders. The incoming Labour government  determined that there would be a new qualification, but perhaps through fear of being seen as ‘soft’ ruled that this new qualification could not be delivered through university social work departments.

The tendering process for the new qualification reduced the number of universities involved in the delivery of probation training and this was further diminished when the training contracts were retendered five years later. The Standing Conference of Probation Tutors ceased to function after the new training commenced. However, despite this decline in teaching activity, academic research into areas such as the process of desistance and the effectiveness of interventions continued to thrive.

The Transforming Rehabilitation reform disrupts the existing relationship between
universities and probation agencies. It has created agencies, the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), too new to have a tradition of working with higher education, although we have already seen one research partnership develop between a CRC owner and an HE institution. But this ruptured relationship based on commercial sensitivities makes coordinated changes to the arrangements for staff qualification and training and research more difficult.

This manifesto is a working document designed to build links between higher education and the new probation agencies; it is a starting point for further development by interested parties. It will serve to encourage and support practitioners at all stages of their careers and remind academics of the many ways of interacting with the sector. At the heart of the manifesto is the strong message that for work with offenders to be evidence based and effective, probation agencies require a two-way relationship with higher education.

We ask the Probation Institute to produce a position paper to guide future engagement and see this as a practical and effective way of turning this manifesto into a blueprint for action!