Students in Secure Environments (SiSE)

Have you ever thought about how difficult it would be to complete your studies without use of the internet or library? The Open University currently have around 1,800 students studying from secure environments such as prisons and secure hospitals. For these students, not being able to access the internet or library is the reality, making it practically impossible to study for Level 3 or Postgraduate qualifications. This is where our Library Study Volunteers are able to assist them.


Library Study Volunteers (LSVs)

The Library Study Volunteers service began as a pilot in January 2019 and the value of it was quickly recognised. LSVs are current students themselves who volunteer some time to fulfil research requests on behalf of Students in Secure Environments. The students send us their requests through their education officers and then the volunteers conduct the research using Library databases. From receiving the requests, the Students Association and volunteers take on average 5 days to complete a request.

The resources are then printed by the OU's printing team, who post them to the students so that they can complete the research elements of their courses.


Recruitment and training

We are fortunate that this is a popular volunteering opportunity among students who want to make a difference. Recruitment rounds happen each year with those who wish to apply telling us a little bit about themselves, any applicable skills (such as languages) and their courses. Successful applicants then receive comprehensive training from the Students Association's Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) & Student Welfare team, the OU's SiSE team, and the Library team.

For the latest volunteering opportunities, please visit our Volunteering page.


Achievements and feedback

Over 450 individual requests successfully completed by volunteers,Nearly 2500 resources posted out to students in secure environments.

3 speech bubbles with quotes. Quote 1 from a student: I really appreciate your help, so thank you.  Quote 2 from a student: This has enabled me to apply my studies to issues in the wider world.  Quote 3 from a volunteer: It is such a rewarding role, and as a bonus, I considerably improved my own research skills.


Want to find out more?

To find out more about the Open University SiSE service, visit their webpage at:

If you would like to find out some more about what it's like to be a Library Study Volunteer assisting SiSE, then two volunteers have written articles that you can read here:
Article by Library Studies volunteer Janet Mackay
Article by Library Studies volunteer Isabelle Hoyet