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All new police officers will need to hold a degree

The College of Policing believes new educational standards will help modernise the police force and make it more efficient in the digital age

In one of the biggest-ever changes to police recruitment policy, the College of Policing has announced a new scheme that will require all new candidates to be educated to degree level.

There are currently no standard educational requirements for new police recruits across the 43 police forces operating nationwide. Whilst some forces accept applicants with GCSE qualifications, others prefer candidates to be educated to at least foundation degree level. It is even possible to join some police forces with no academic qualifications at all.

According to the College of Policing, it is expected that all new police officers will have a degree by 2020, with the opportunity for currently-serving officers to upgrade their qualifications if they so choose.

A shortlist of 12 universities has been drawn up, all of which are in discussions with the college regarding the development of an appropriate degree course. Undergraduates will be expected to fund their own studies, as is the case with most other degree subjects, and the expectation is that this will make a significant contribution to budgetary savings – all training is currently funded by the force itself. Candidates will apply to their chosen force once they have successfully completed the degree course.

Two other routes into the profession are to be made available for new police officers. New recruits with a degree in another discipline will be able to undertake a six-month conversion course, which will be funded by their chosen force; in addition, there will be an option to undertake a three-year apprenticeship that will also be funded by the police. Under this scheme, students will commence police work immediately and spend 20 per cent of their time on university study, allowing them to earn a salary whilst attaining their qualifications.

In addition to degree-level entry for new candidates, the College of Policing intends to introduce national qualifications in leadership and management as police officers achieve promotions. All officers aiming for chief constable status will be expected to achieve a master’s degree paid for by police funds.

Whilst the college understands that not all currently-serving police officers will be happy with the new scheme, Chief Constable Alex Marshall points out that the face of policing has changed beyond recognition in recent years. There is much less emphasis on foot patrol and traditional detective work as society changes. and a greater need for – and reliance on – technology. Online patrols, information-gathering and video surveillance, along with protecting vulnerable people and identifying high-risk individuals, have become increasingly important.

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