All new police officers in England and Wales to have degrees

Police recruits

All new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to degree level from next year, the College of Policing has announced.

It said the training would help police address changes in crime-fighting.

Prospective officers can either complete a three-year “degree apprenticeship”, a postgraduate conversion course or a degree.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said the changes would “help modernise the service”.

Recruitment requirements currently vary from force to force, with some insisting that applicants have A-levels or a certificate in policing and others demanding experience in a policing role.

The College of Policing, which is responsible for setting standards of ethics and training for the police service, said about a third (38%) of those currently going into policing have a degree or post-graduate qualification.

‘Very lopsided’

But the college’s Chief Constable Alex Marshall said the current workforce was not getting the same investment in training and development as people in other professions, such as medicine or the military.

“It is very lopsided and we don’t do a lot of professional development training,” he said.

“The nature of police work is getting quite complex and it is quite contentious, and the public expectation is that you’ll be patrolling in my street and, by the way, you’ll be patrolling online.”

“We don’t think the investment has been made in policing in terms of professional development and this is one of the ways that we start to address that.”

The money for the apprenticeships, due to be introduced next year, is expected to come from a new 0.5% apprenticeship levy on all employers with a wage bill of more than £3m.

Under the apprenticeship, new recruits will undertake a three-year course, spending 80% of their time on the frontline, and the rest completing their degree while receiving a salary.

A six-month postgraduate conversion course would also be funded by the police.

In contrast, the policing degree would be self-funded and the student would need to apply for a police job once qualified.

The syllabus is likely to cover the law, safeguarding the vulnerable, understanding how an officer behaves on the street and how an officer builds trust by interacting well with communities, Chief Constable Marshall said.

The College of Policing is in talks with 12 universities about running the courses.

Master’s degree

The announcement follows a two-month public consultation which received more than 3,000 responses.

Almost 80% of the responses were from police officers, with the majority keen to gain accreditation for their existing skills, Mr Marshall said.

Other changes to be introduced include:

  • A national set of qualifications for officers following promotion, including a requirement that those applying to be assistant chief constable or above have a master’s degree
  • A higher-paid “advanced practitioner” position to try to retain people working in specialist areas, such as cyber crime, and deter them from seeking promotion in a different area

Andy Fittes, general secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales, welcomed the move to accredit qualifications to serving officers, and supported the idea of a framework that might standardise courses.

He added that the federation was glad to see a move away from requiring minimum education requirements for those joining the service.

“There is a balance to be struck around encouraging people to have a certain level of education before joining the force, and marginalising and excluding good quality candidates from all communities by limiting the pool of potential candidates if they are unable to afford it,” he said.

Chief Constable Giles York, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for workforce, said police need the right skills and knowledge to keep people safe in the 21st century.

He said: “It is also fair and right that police officers, as professionals, receive the recognition and accreditation they deserve, meaning the public will continue to get the high quality service they need.”

All new police officers in England and Wales to have degrees

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