Research and projects

FORINER "Providing distance education to foreign national prisoners across Europe"

Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, under Key Action 3 (support for policy reform)

The FORINER project, launched in January 2016, was initiated to provide European foreign national prisoners in European prisons with access to qualitative, accessible, certified learning opportinities provided by educational institutions from their home country. The target group of the FORINER project consists of European citizens with an educational need detained in a country other than their country of origin. To satisfy their learning needs a structure was designed and tested which allows education providers to reach out to their national prisoners in other European countries, at the same standard as the home offer. At the same time the FORINER project emphasises the importance of ICT and (secured) internet access in European prisons. With this project the FORINER consortium hopes to boost the use of digital technology for prisoners for educational purposes.

The FORINER consortium: VOCVO (B), VUB (B), EABT (Netherlands), MegaNexus (UK)

In cooperation with: European Prison Education Association (EPEA), European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services (EuroPris), Confederation of European Probation (CEP), Weston College (UK)


PAC "Prisoners’ Active Citizenship"

PAC or ‘Prisoners’ Active Citizenship’ is a 2-year project which has been funded by the European Commission under the KA2-program (Erasmus+). 

It runs from December 2017 until the end of 2019. The goal of this project is to test various active citizenship participation models in different European prisons and to develop a participation toolkit based on these experiences.

Imprisonment is inevitably linked with the deprivation of liberty. Except for the rights linked to their liberty, prisoners preserve all their rights as human beings (Coyle, 2009). All other aspects of prison life should be as similar as possible to life outside prison (Van Zyl Smit & Snacken, 2009), what means that prisoners also have rights concerning ‘active citizenship’. This implies that prisons should also be seen as potential ‘active citizens’. Although the concept active citizenship is not used explicitly, this theme moves higher up European political agendas.


LEARNING INSIDE OUT (LIO) project (Belgium)

"How to find your way as a prisoner to life-long learning as a part of your integration process."

LIO is an ESF-funded collaboration between Vocvo, Leerwinkel West-Vlaanderen and the federal justice department. It provides the prisoners in 3 prisons with a guidance and orientation service on adult education.

With this service LIO aims to make adult education accessible for prisoners, to break through the Matthew effect, to guide prisoners in making choices on adult education, to support prisoners during their learning path and to improve changes of a succesful learning path.

In the long term, the ideal scenario is; to provide this service in all the prisons in Flanders and Brussels (19), to build a partnerschip with probation services and to work on digital inclusion of prisoners.


Real Life Project

Real life is an innovative project in which serious gaming and virtual reality are used to improve skills needed in the 21st century and skills needed for employability for those at the edge of society. Training skills in a safe and virtual reality will help prisoners to function in real life and enhance their sense of initiative.

For more info, click here.

Free to Code


The Free to Code project is a co-funded Erasmus+ project that has the ambitious goal of using digital skills and computer programming as a mean of human development that can help adult European prisoners to re-enter society with a resale expertise.


As our society is facing a new digital era where new languages are raising up and whoever knows them can get more opportunities in finding jobs and help humanity to develop toward and beyond a high-tech development, coding seems to be a great chance to learn and to be competitive, especially for those that could be starting from a weak and disadvantaged point (like prisoners in such a case).

  • To develop an innovative training programme on coding for learners detained with the aim to favour the development of their digital skills and in turn their transversal skills, particularly problem solving. 
  • Transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications; application of the European recommendations to validate the non-formal and informal learning with the improvement of their digital and programming skills in an informal and formal learning environment. 
  • Applying the methodology of the European recommendations to validate the non-formal and informal learning to adult education. To maximize the benefits of the training process for the prisoners. 
  • To exchange good practices among partners, and to provide more efficient, credible and valid services to prisoners and ex-prisoners. 
  • To contribute to social change.



According to the "desistance theory", every individual forms a "social bond" with society. This social bond consists of the extent to which a person feels involved in social goals, makes an effort to achieve these goals, believes in the value of these goals and is able to use legal means to achieve these goals. The weaker this social bond is, the greater the chance that people will tend to lead a criminal lifestyle. " Many people who come out of prison have great difficulty integrating well after their sentence. On average more than 60% come into contact with the law again within 2 years. The most important factor for the failure of integration appears to be the lack of meaningful daily activities. This is preferably paid work, but it can also be another day activity, like education.

BLEEP focusses on the lifelong learning process. Education for prisoners is still an issue in many countries, how to deal with it, even defining what education actually means. For many teachers in prison the reality is that it is mainly focusing on formal education in the formal framework. Besides that, prisoners do get the opportunity to follow creative workshops, but this is mainly provided with the aim to skill time, than to practice life skills. It is rarely seen in most European prisons that informal learning is provided to prisoners within a formal framework. Ideally, the separation between education and reintegration would not be necessary. Because as a person develops him/herself and learns more, (s)he will become better prepared for society. 

With BLEEP, we would like to integrate the educational and reintegration learning process for adult prisoners via blended learning environment. The BLEEP activities based on blended learning approach will have positive impacts on the development of digital skills of focus group prisoners who are isolated from technological state-of-the art improvements and its practical tools. We will also do the same for staff in prison, like teachers, mentors, social workers, psychologists, reintegration coaches, who often need the same kind of learning framework. BLEEP strengthens the existing digital learning environments in all partner countries and at the same time, matches with the level of digital working in the various countries.

Main goals of BLEEP with five intellectual outputs

Intellectual Output 1: Research study

Create a report to answer the question: ‘How can we create an innovative Europe-focused blended learning environment in which the learning process of an individual can be monitored from the inside to the outside of prison?

Intellectual Output 2: Learners journey: inside-out

This output will create a learner’s journey on the education and reintegration system inside and outside prison with the aim that every (ex-)prisoner can develop and be owner of his own learning plan. 

Intellectual Output 3: BLEEP Platform

A blended learning environment (an online platform/website) that can be adapted and applied in many different situations and that has been designed as a tool in which non-formal learning¨ the personal learning of the participant is stimulated via machine learning.

Intellectual Output 4: Facilitators journey: inside-out

This output will create a facilitators journey on the education and reintegration system inside and outside prison with the aim that every staff members working with prisoners can guide (ex-)prisoners but also themselves in a learning plan.

Intellectual Output 5: Policy recommendation

Create a policy paper with concrete recommendations also specific for each country.


A Project that aims a Quality, Inclusive and Digital Education for everyone, no exception

Portugal is also investing in the education and training of its imprisoned population. For that, in April 2016 Universidade Aberta (UAb) and the Direção Geral de Reinserção e Serviços Prisionais (DGRSP) formalized a Protocol, highlighting the need and commitment to create and develop a Virtual Campus designed for the imprisoned population, which guarantees a secure access for the development of education and training activities rooted in Distance Education Courses and eLearning (Clause 2nd - Cooperation). Following this commitment and dedication, an innovative pilot project, the Campus Digital EDUCONLINE@PRIS, is on motion, aiming to promoting education and training inside the Portuguese prisons

Operating since early November 2018 in the prisons of Custóias-Porto, Paços de Ferreira and Santa Cruz do Bispo-Porto (for Female inamtes only), the Campus has an internet aggregator portal, an information system, which interconnects with the Universidade Aberta’s eLearning platform with a System of Management of Lifelong Learning courses and a Repository of Content and Resources that allows users to access academic and digital citizenship contents. 

Concerning the technological solution for the eLearning system, and with the assistance of jp.ik and Fundação Altice, which provided laptops and the broadband network, a secure internet connection has been implemented which guarantees the full control and monitoring of access, and students have a profile that does not allow them to communicate online with the academic community (teachers and students), but only allows the access to the Campus and to the three platforms. 

With the creation of this Digital Campus of Education, Training, Employability and Digital Citizenship was intended, in addition, to access to degree-granting courses lifelong learning, to promote digital inclusion through the use of digital technologies and empower receivers for entrepreneurship and mechanisms for creating self-employment as instruments of social inclusion. The Virtual Campus is expected to be fully operational from October 2019 in about 20 prisons on the continent and in Azores, also a result of the support provided by the Secretaria Regional da Ciência e Tecnologia dos Açores. 

We hope this project will be able to answer some of the challenges that the digital society and new technologies put e-learning bring to the table for Distance Education Courses and eLearning, especially in contexts of a high-level of social vulnerability, such as the imprisoned population. We hope this project will actively contribute to ensuring the Universal Right of access to education, therefore, complying with the respect for the all individuals’ Human Rights, whether they are in prison or not. Building this Campus is a complex and transversal challenge and its growth has been enhanced and “inspired” by projects, such as digital Inspire. 

Therefore, we do believe this project will contribute to express the mission of digital Inspire and Universidade Aberta, which goes so far beyond political and geographical boundaries or the walls of a prison, creating the conditions for everyone to (really) can get a proper education. 

José António Moreira is the Director of the Regional Delegation of Oporto and the Executive Coordinator of the Unity of Development of Local Centers of Learning, in Universidade Aberta. He holds a PhD and master’s in Educational Sciences from the University of Coimbra and a Post-Doctorate in Educational Technologies and Communication also from the University of Coimbra. António has a Master in Multimedia from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and a Degree in Art History from the Faculty of Arts of University of Coimbra. He is Professor of the Department of Education and Distance Learning (DEED) of Universidade Aberta (UAb). He is the Scientific Coordinator of the Mobile Unit of Research in Local Studies (ELO) and a researcher at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the 20th Century (CEIS20) of the University of Coimbra and the Laboratory of Distance Education and eLearning (LE@d) from UAb. He coordinates the Pedagogy Studies Center at Higher Education (NEPES) based at CEIS20 and he has published scientific articles in specialized journals and books in the fields of Teacher Training and Digital Technologies. Finally, António has participated in national and international events as a guest speaker research, especially in the field of Online Education


Research and projects

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