MTU Cork Campus Cork Prison Programme

MTU Cork Campus Access Service Cork Prison Lecture Series

MTU Cork Campus Access Service has developed links with Cork Prison since 2017. During this time, the Access Service has developed a programme where academic staff volunteer their time to deliver an annual Taster Programme to prisoners and their families through the Dillon’s Cross Project.

The design of this programme is very much built around the needs and interests of the participants. The prisoners themselves have autonomy in terms of deciding what the Lecture Series will consist of as they choose the lectures that most interest them. All lectures are delivered voluntarily by MTU staff from across various faculties, from Academic Affairs and Student Services. 

This year (AY 2022/2023) 19 lectures took place over a 6 week duration in semester 2 and included topics such as Pathways to Higher Education, Recognition of Prior Learning, Science, Artificial Intelligence, Money Management, Guiding and Supporting Children’s Behaviour as well as Apprenticeship options.

Over the course of 4 years, 224 participants have engaged in the Lecture Series.  This year Prof. Maggie Cusack presented Certificates of Achievement to 56 participants.

As part of the programme we also engage with the wives, partners and relatives of prisoners  through the Dillon’s Cross Project in the community and offer them an opportunity to avail of the same lectures that are on offer in Cork Prison.

Students with experience of the criminal justice system have now been identified by the HEA as an Access priority target group in the most recent National Access Plan- A strategic action plan for equity of access, participation and success in higher education 2022 to 2028.


Culinary Skills- Single subject certificate 

The evaluation process of the lecture series in 2018 highlighted that there was a strong interest in Culinary Skills from the prisoners as it offers a very realistic pathway to further education and employment for many participants post-release. In the academic year 2019-2020, a 5 credit Single Subject Certificate in Culinary Skills was offered to prisoners. The participants on the programme benefited by being exposed to new learning opportunities. They also earned a Level 2 Primary Food Hygiene Award from the Environmental Health Officers Association, a compulsory award which is required to work full-time in a commercial kitchen and considered a bonus credential by future employers.

In 2023, the Culinary Skills Module was delivered for the third time. Six prisoners took part in the programme and a Pop-Up Restaurant was created within the Prison for prisoners on the programme to demonstrate their culinary skills to employers in the Tourism and Hospitality sector.

MTU Cork Campus Culinary Arts lecturer JJ Healy, who delivers the course in Cork Prison said, “The participant's interest, attention to detail and finished products were excellent. With a current lack of qualified chefs in the hospitality sector, this collaboration benefits both industry and prisoners greatly, creating a talent pool of motivated employees while enabling ex-prisoners to retrain and enter the workforce”.


‘The Open Door’ Pop-Up Restaurant Event 

‘The Open Door’ Pop-Up Restaurant Event takesplace in Cork Prison annually to showcase the culinary skills gained by participants on the Culinary Skills course. Attendees include industry partners from the hospitality sector who have indicated their interest and willingness to offer participants employment on their release. 


This year the team of MTU, Cork ETB, Irish Prison Service and IASIO were thrilled to be recognised at a national and international level for 'The Open Door' Initiative. 

  • The Education Awards, Dublin- Winner of Best Community Academic Collaboration Award
  • The Triple E Awards, Barcelona- Winner of European EDI Community Engagement Initiative of the Year Award
  • Learning and Development Institute Excellence in Learning Awards- Finalist in Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Initiative




For additional information on the MTU Cork Campus Access Service Prison Lecture Series, please contact 

Laura Coleman- Access Officer, 

Christine Nolan- Mature Student Officer,