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Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski

From prisoner to OU student and staff member

Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski’s story shows exactly how life-changing education can be. His journey has taken him from a prisoner, to an OU student and now to an OU member of staff supporting the Students in Secure Environments team.

Stephen first began studying for his BSc in Social Science with The Open University while he was in prison, serving a 16-year sentence for the importation of class A drugs.

He calls his decision to begin a degree as a ‘seminal moment’ in his life.

“I remember receiving my course materials and being completely absorbed by them,” he said. “The books, assignments and study calendar which set-out my programme of study all contributed to a feeling that finally, I was doing something positive with my life.”

"Beyond my wildest dreams"

Stephen achieved his OU degree and two Masters degrees from Oxford Brookes mostly while serving his sentence. He credits his impressive turnaround to the OU and “the enlightened academics prepared to tutor a prisoner” for giving him the hope and the tools to turn his life around and rehabilitate successfully into society.

“My experience of the education system on the outside had been negative. In my wildest dreams, I never expected that I was capable of going to university.”

Opening access for all

Stephen is now studying for his PhD in criminology while working part-time time as Regional Manager for The Open University’s Students in a Secure Learning Environment. His role involves managing the university’s relationship with prisons and secure hospital units in the South, South-West and parts of the East of England.

Stephen said:

“I believe my learning journey – which was only made possible by the OU’s ethos and philosophy of open access - will enable me to continue to make a positive contribution to society. I wish to see other prisoners benefit from engaging fully with higher education.”

“I thank the OU for doing what they alone do best, widening access and participation to higher education, which in my case means facilitating the successful reintegration of prisoners back into society.”

Celebrating 50 years of changing lives

Stephen features as part of a new photography collection taken by renowned British photographer Chris Floyd, to mark the OU’s 50th Anniversary.

Travelling around the UK to capture the remarkable stories of the OU today, Floyd’s 10 portraits have been released alongside a never seen before collection of images from the OU’s archive. See the rest of the inspirational students and alumni featured in our Open University: '50 Years' collection.