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Police forces as learning organisations: learning through apprenticeships

Alex F. Leek (University of Cumbria, Carlisle, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 24 November 2020

Issue publication date: 27 November 2020




The challenge for policing in England and Wales is to evolve how it recruits and educates a workforce able to cope with the demands of contemporary policing. This paper will examine how forces, who aspire to become learning organisations, have embraced the transition from police training to higher and degree apprenticeships and work-integrated learning. This paper will also benefit practitioners, leaders, provider staff, police staff, policy makers, all who have an interest in police education and the transitions currently being implemented. It also seeks to contribute to the conversation about the transition of policing to a graduate profession and looks to add value, to inform practice, raise standards and enhance policing practice in general.


Case study and draws on the experience of the collaboration of four universities to develop a national offer to meet the requirements of the Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) and how this has been further co-created in partnership with three forces. The data are drawn from first-hand experience of working with university and force colleagues over 18 months, including meeting records, documentation that has been produced and scrutinised by the College of Policing and the four universities through shared, multi-university and force quality assurance and validation processes. This data have been considered against the conceptual framework developed by Senge and others to support an analysis of how the collaborative development activity undertaken has contributed to police forces moving towards becoming learning organisations.


The findings from the analysis of the forces' engagement with the process of change show that the collaborative development work undertaken is ongoing and does indeed contribute to forces becoming learning organisations. The forces do see the associated benefits, and this may in turn lead to better-trained police officers and more effective force organisations. In addition, the model of collaboration and co-creation that has been adopted can provide a model of good practice for other forces and other universities to follow and from which to learn.

Social implications

An aim of this paper is to encourage the development of police forces for become learning organisations. The implied benefits of this are various but primarily the greatest benefit is aimed at wider society. A more educated, informed and professionally competent police officer, who in turn is part of a learning organisation, will only serve to improve operational policing, community justice and community cohesion.


This paper examines a transition in policing which presents only once in a lifetime. The transition to a degree entry profession is critical to the evolution of policing in England and Wales. The work of the Police Education Consortium (PEC) and the three forces is a new initiative and covers ground not explored previously. This paper offers a conceptual frame to examine these lessons learned from the development of this initiative and partnership, with a view to share that learning across higher education, policing, criminal justice and those involved in degree level apprenticeships. It promotes the view that work-integrated learning, the workplace and higher education can coexist comfortably and engender the development of police forces as learning organisations.



The author would like to thank colleagues from the University of Cumbria and from the Police Education Consortium (PEC), who contributed valuable comment and suggestions, which made drafting this paper a much easier task and one that the author hope adds to the debate around police education and work-based learning. The author sincerely grateful.


Leek, A.F. (2020), "Police forces as learning organisations: learning through apprenticeships", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 741-750.



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