Does every police officer need a degree? Is that the only way to boost the professionalism of our police?
The National College of Policing introduced a new scheme of entry to become a constable, with a view to eventually creating all-degree forces. Recruits who already have a degree could do a two-year course and get another diploma, or those without degrees could join a three-year apprenticeship scheme, where they would graduate with a BA. Only by special exemption could we run our previous course with no degree outcome.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has managed the new regime well, but many other forces have not and have struggled to meet recruitment targets, driven by the Government funded national uplift programme for 20,000 more officers by April 2023. Here in Gloucestershire, we are on track to meet our target, and more, as the Government has incentivised the more successful forces to over recruit, to ensure its national target is met.
Yet all forces could do even better if they had more flexibility to attract those who are not academically gifted or simply not interested in gaining a degree, when all they want to do is to serve their community and engage with people. Many of my Commissioner colleagues around the country complain that the new degree-focussed entry system makes it more difficult to attract ex-military service types, older applicants with lots of life experience and those from some ethnic minorities. That is why I have joined them in signing a letter to the Home Secretary to encourage her to review the entry scheme and allow forces to keep the option of a non-degree entry route.
Since we started lobbying for change, it is interesting to see the support we have received from the wider public, particularly from some of my friends in the NHS. Nurses are blighted by the same mantra of having an all degree profession, discouraging many willing and capable hands from joining. My mother was a brilliant ward sister and served her community for many years, focussing on support for the elderly, which required huge patience and compassion. She was capable of gaining a degree, as she proved in later life, but she did not need such a qualification to look after patients.
Although it is good for a profession to encourage education, I do not believe every officer needs a degree.