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Learn more about us

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We work closely with a network of agencies to support people from a wide range of backgrounds. This includes people who have had mental health issues or addiction problems, people leaving prison, and anyone who has thought that Further or Higher Education is closed or irrelevant to them.

All the staff that help with Open Book

Open Book has helped hundreds of people to find places at university, studying a range of subjects from foundation to postgraduate level. As well as drop-in and study sessions, we run an outreach programme that includes visits to prisons, hospitals and residential units. 

Open Book’s impact has been nationally recognised: we received the Guardian University Award for student diversity in 2016.


Open Book was officially founded in 2004 by its current director, Joe Baden, at Goldsmiths, University of London. Prior to that it had been an action research project focusing on those from an offending background, and looking at the barriers they faced in education. The main principle of Open Book is to break down those same barriers, in particular the ones that discourage people from entering Higher Education. Open Book works closely with a network of agencies to support people from a wide-range of ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds (not their description) including, people with addiction and/or mental health issues, carers and those brought up in care, people with criminal records and/or at risk of offending, as well as those who have truly never considered Further and Higher Education as any kind of route to enhancing their future career choices and personal development.

Where Open Book differs from many similar projects is in its delivery and methodology. Open Book has rarely advertised for students in any capacity, relying heavily on a word of mouth approach, which sees new students arriving on campus every week of the year. Most of the staff team have been Open Book students themselves, which means that they have a real understanding and genuine empathy: although Open Book recruits students from a wide range of backgrounds (from ages 18 upwards), it is unashamedly embedded in working class culture and tradition. Indeed one of the driving principles of Open Book is that students, those who engage with Higher Education, should not change in terms of accent, dress and behaviour. 

Open Book values the importance of learning from experience. The project encourages students to value and reflect on their own life experiences to offer new dimensions to the academic and policy perspectives offered by their courses. Open Book staff work with students to find the right and appropriate solutions for them.

In recent years Open Book has expanded its staff team and works across London and Medway and offering a wide range of drop-in classes, dyslexia and literacy support as a result of funding from the Lankelly Chase Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Philosophy and Mission

Open Book aims to break down the barriers that discourage people from entering higher education. Open Book works with people from a wide range of backgrounds who may never have considered higher or further education as viable option including recovering addicts, reformed offenders, carers, people brought up in care, adult survivors of child abuse and people with mental health issues. The staff and volunteers are also from the backgrounds detailed above and use their experiences to inform the methodology of the project. One of the clearest examples of this is that Open Book runs classes on a drop-in basis, with students taking responsibility for their own attendance and their own recovery.

Open Book offers a broad range of academic and creative subjects including English literature, anthropology, art history, creative writing, drama, music, mindfulness and yoga.  When students are ready, they join the extended projects class where they learn to study at degree level.   This class acts as a bridging class to studying at university. Students who successfully complete their extended project can then make application to university; they are supported throughout this process and their entire academic journey. Open Book offers dyslexia, literacy, basic skills and study skills support. All of the classes are free.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do I have to pay?
Good news, all our classes are free!

What qualifications do I need to attend Open Book?
You don’t need any qualifications to attend classes. 

Do I have to attend classes every week?
No, you are welcome to come along to classes whenever you like. You set the pace for yourself.  

Can I still attend class if I arrive late?
Yes, you’re welcome to attend class if you’re late. The only exception applies to the Mindfulness and Yoga classes because they include mediation as part of the practice.

Do I have to bring any materials with me?
No, just yourself.

How do I apply for Open Book?
It’s simple, come along to one of our locations either in London or Medway to complete a short application form (or download and print the form from this website and bring it along with you).

Contact us


Goldsmiths, University of London

New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

020 7919 7759

openbook (


The LankellyChase Foundation

Address: Greenworks, Dog and Duck Yard, London, WC1R 4BH
Phone: 020 3747 9930

Ashdown Medway Accommodation Trust

Address: 411 High Street, Kent, ME4 4NU
Phone: 0800 698 1000

Turning Point

Address: 421 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA
Phone: 020 7481 7600

University of Greenwich

Address: Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, London, SE10 9LS
Phone: 020 8331 8000

Other Campuses


London College of Communications, University of the Arts,
Elephant and Castle,
SE1 6SB 

Queen Mary, University of London,
Mile End Road,
E1 4NS 


411 High Street,
ME4 4NU 

Turning Point,
55 Green Street,