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Policing degrees a step closer to fruition as consultation launched

Three academic routes into the job outlined by College amid acknowledgement transferring costs will save public money
Published - 01/02/2016 By - Josh Loeb - Police Oracle

Forces could reap significant savings if the cost of training police officers of the future is transferred from taxpayers to individuals aspiring to join the job, the College of Policing says.

It is envisaged that most new recruits will in future possess a specialist degree in policing, under proposals drawn up by the College and now out for consultation.

Instead of having to start their career as a beat bobby and work their way up, graduates could "hit the ground running" and move speedily into specialist detective roles, the organisation suggests.

Learners would fund their studies themselves by way of a student loan.

However, two other entry routes – a graduate conversion programme for those already in receipt of a degree in another subject, and an apprenticeship – would also be set up. Completion of either would be considered equivalent to holding a university degree.

The plans are likely to be controversial, but Chief Constable Alex Marshall, the College’s chief executive, said the complexities of modern policing meant graduate level skills were now required.

“I would expect most people to come into policing having completed a practical policing degree,” he told PoliceOracle.com. “But there may well be good people, who, for good reasons, can’t afford to pursue a degree.”

The apprenticeship option would be created with them in mind, he added.

New routes into policing would be in addition to direct entry schemes already operating, which allow people to join at a senior rank having attained a leadership position in another field.

Asked whether the existing, College-approved Certificate of Knowledge in Policing qualification would be scrapped under the plans, CC Marshall said: “At the moment nothing’s being scrapped because we are consulting on an idea.”

He also pledged a rethink if reaction to the new plans was overwhelmingly negative.

Under the proposals, experienced police officers would have the option of studying in their spare time to earn a policing degree, with credit given for skills gained during their time spent in the job.

CC Marshall said that many of the approximate 3,000 people who had joined as advance members of the College had expressed a desire for a transferable university qualification.

“I joined the police without a degree, and frankly I don’t think you needed one when I joined,” he said. “I don’t think it was as complex. I don’t think there was as much critical thinking, as much problem solving, as there is now.

“At some point in my career, when I had 20-something years’ service, I did want to do some studying, and a university recognised my police qualifications and my experience and gave me credits towards the Masters that I did.”

Though he said it was a personal choice whether serving officers wished to pursue such studies, CC Marshall acknowledged that getting a degree “might put them in a better position for promotion”.

The new policing degree would be “practical” he insisted, and would involve “a lot of time on the street, in uniform, with experienced officers, working in local communities”.

The College has stressed it will not itself provide training. Rather, it would “ensure national consistency and standardisation” by overseeing any courses.

Rachel Tuffin, a director at the College, said it was for individual forces to decide, in collaboration with universities, what level of investment to make in degree courses in terms of hiring out their facilities for free or allowing students to shadow serving officers.

Evidence shows that adopting the College's proposals would result in "significant cost savings in training and wages for local forces", a consultation document states.

Estimates vary but it is thought the cost of training up to the standard of independent patrol could currently be costing police forces as much as £25,000 per new recruit.

There is already a degree requirement in analogous professions like nursing and teaching.

If the College's proposals were implemented in Britain, the country would be far from alone in requiring entry level officers to gain an official qualification; France and Spain require a full degree as the minimum entry at constable rank and a minimum of a Master's degree for the rank of inspector, while in Sweden and Norway all training is done through higher education, with a practical element included.

Picture credit: Cmglee (Creative Commons)

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