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End of mandatory degrees for officers frees up to 100,000 hours of police time

27 March 2023

Since taking office in May 2021, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Donna Jones has campaigned for the end of the compulsory police entry degree, believing practical common sense life skills are as important in policing as academic ability and that UK policing needs both.

Today, the force has announced a new scheme called Policing PLUS. It is the first scheme of its kind in the country. Policing PLUS not only enables police officers to join via a non-degree entry route but, uniquely, allows those currently on the degree scheme to transfer onto the new non-degree route, leaving the classroom behind to instead have an apprentice skills-based focus of learning on the job, in particular investigative skills.

Previously, ex-armed forces and those not wanting to study for a degree have been put off applying. The new scheme, launched by chief constable Scott Chilton and strongly advocated by PCC Donna Jones, meets that need and is designed to fulfil the requirements of 2023 and beyond.

The new scheme follows the Home Secretary’s announcement in November 2022 that she was ending the compulsory roll-out of police degrees. The traditional police entry training was outdated and didn’t cover new legislative updates.

In Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, more than 750 of its police officers (out of 3,300 overall) are students. Making this change is a fundamental part of the force delivering Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones’ Crime Plan which prioritises increasing police numbers, improving police visibility and delivering safer communities.

Speaking on the announcement, Police and Crime Commissioner and the APCC National Victim’s lead Donna Jones said: “Modern policing requires a mix of skills; common sense, people skills, academic acumen and a will to make a difference. Unfortunately the compulsory police degree has put off a number of highly skilled men and women who would make brilliant police officers. Giving people a choice whether to complete a police degree or not, is the right thing to do. It’s more equal and will appeal to more diverse communities. We want to attract good people from a range of backgrounds. I’ve ensured Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary has the money to over-deliver on our police Uplift numbers by a further 100 police officers. The public don’t want police officers sat in classrooms beyond their short initial training period, they want them to be out on the streets as soon as possible, fighting crime, arresting people and making communities safer. That’s why my message to the chief constable from day one has been to review the entry route into the force and I am delighted that he has made this decision and quickly.

“Policing PLUS makes the most of the Home Secretary’s decision to remove the requirement for a degree, and it will deliver more police officers & police hours for communities. I hope that it helps to shape national plans for police entry routes too.”

In an open letter to student officers announcing the changes, Mr Chilton describes how the current police entry system is “sucking the life out of the force” and how he is “determined to revive it”.

Mr Chilton commented: “My focus is being tough on crime. I expect my cops to take direct action against criminals, and to do high quality investigations. That requires us to train them in the right way. This change delivers that, and gets hundreds of the extra police officers that we have recruited on our streets quicker. For a force like Hampshire, with a high percentage of student officers, this is a game changer freeing up to 100,000 hours of police officer time. Those who remain on our degree programme will be fully supported but we are losing too many competent operational officers who are either not ‘academic’ or too pressured when faced with a degree and being a full time police officer. Others, who would be great operational cops, are being put off from joining. Our communities can’t wait, that’s why we are getting on with this innovative new approach to training.”

The initial reaction is that Policing PLUS is being widely welcomed by student officers who have relayed stories about competent operational officers leaving due to the pressure of juggling a full time degree and a full time job. Currently, all degree entry officers have one fifth of their time reserved for Protected Learning (to allow required studying and essay writing, alongside being a full time police officer). This will end for those moving from the degree programme, freeing up what is expected to be up to 100,000 hours in the year from June 2023.

Common sense policing

This is the second major announcement made by chief constable Scott Chilton since returning to his home force from being chief of Dorset Police in February. The first announcement was the return to an Area model that prioritises neighbourhood policing and visibility.

Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones also recently announced the return of the traditional ‘Bobby’ on the beat, and the re-opening to the public of police stations such as Portsmouth Central.

Key points of the new Policing PLUS scheme include:

  • Hampshire has 550+ officers on the police apprentice scheme, and a further 200+ on degree holder entry (those already with degrees).
  • At the end of year one and year two (of the current three year degree programme), student officers will have the chance to leave essay writing behind and focus entirely on policing. They will have to complete the year they are in and will keep the credits they have earned banked, and a relevant qualification. They will not earn a degree.
  • Those joining as new non-degree student officers under Policing PLUS will have a full 15 week initial training programme, aligned to those doing the degree option so that quality of learning in the early stages is not lost.
  • The scheme is affiliated to the IPLDP+ programme under extended license from the College of Policing. Students who choose to leave the degree route move onto a bespoke programme which does not involve a University. It uses IPLDP+ as the basis but on top of that focuses on further developing practical policing skills on the frontline, with a real emphasis on effectively investigating crime.
  • The new scheme will run in parallel to the degree programme. The force recognises that many students signed up in good faith and getting a degree was part of that decision. For some officers it is the right entry route and officers choosing to stay on the degree path will be fully supported.