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Jan 13, 2017 09:49 AM EST

Many students think of higher education as something that would help them prepare for a great career. For Britain's youngest robber, however, university is something more than that. It changed his life.

Robert "Bobby" Cummines, who was only 16 when he was first convicted for armed robbery, told BBC 5 Live that completing a course at Open University changed his life. Formerly one of the United Kingdom's most notorious bank robbers, Cummines is now recognized for his service to those who were convicted, became imprisoned, and are now living a reformed life.

Cummines, who built for himself a violent group of killers and racketeers within two decades after his first conviction, served 12 years in high security prisons, Study International reported. While he was there, his former inmates Charlie Richardson and Reggie Kray, who were rival gangsters in the 1960s, encouraged him to get higher education.

Wanting to understand why he was different from everybody else, Cummines, first took sociology and psychology in Open University. While in Parkhust and Maidstone prisons, he was given tutor-marked assignments: he would receive assignments and then send them back when he's completed them.

Although he had some sort of "distance education," Cummines said felt like the university was there with him while in prison, feeling its support. He added that education was his "liberation" inside the prison.

After his release from prison, Cummines dedicated himself to helping reformed offenders move on with their lives. He founded Unlock, a charity for people with convictions, seeking to help ex-offenders cope with the social exclusion and discrimation they face after leaving prison halls. He already retired in 2002, after leading it as Chief Executive for 10 years.

Cummines is also actively involved in giving advice regarding legal and penal matters, including the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and prisoner education issues. He is also advising the government regarding the murder of British Asian teenager Zahid Mubarek inside Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

In 2011, Cummines was recognized for his services to ex-offenders and was awarded the OBE, the most excellent Order of the British Empire, by the Queen.

Cummines continues to be grateful for the education he received while in prison. He said it not only turned his life around, but also those whom he comes in contact with.

Follows Robert Cummines, Bobby Cummines, Unlock, university, Open University, UK, Charlie Richardson, Reggie Kray
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