No, Police officers do not need degrees – and neither do nurses



It’s the latest absurd measure. At Theresa May’s initiative, it was announced that all police officers would need to have a degree, or to study for one during their first years of training. The move will add a new set of academic requirements to police training, and will doubtless put plenty of young people who would have made fantastic Police men or women off.

We have in Priti Patel a fantastic new Home Secretary and I hope she will reassess this extraordinary new requirement. Policing requires common sense, compassion, judgement and personal toughness. It absolutely does not require “BA” or “BSc” after your name.

The “universification” of work, and particularly of our public sector, has been a greatly unsatisfactory development, which should have been left in the New Labour years.

It all began with Nursing. In the “olden days” (okay, sorry to be cliche; let’s call them “PB” – pre-Blair), a Nurse was trained in a teaching hospital. Of course, there were some lectures, and some written work. But the majority of the training was done on the wards, with the patients – all under the watchful eye of Matron. Nurses, particularly young Nurses, had to do the grimmest tasks, often now reserved for care assistants – dealing with vomit and blood and soothing the very sick. It was a genuine vocation, and it appealed to the kind and dedicated, arguably more so than the academically gifted. It was noble work, reasonably paid, but open to all for obvious reasons.

The introduction of degrees changed all that. Ever more, nursing has become a “career” in the conventional, corporate sense – and it’s rewarded accordingly, with pay reaching £50,000 a year at the top of the profession. Meanwhile, hospitals have become more stale, less personal – and people who would make great Nurses are frozen out by the requirements of going away to university and getting a degree. They should still be paid well of course, but this should be because of the job they do, not their university achievements.

It would be a huge shame to see Policing go the same way. Just at the point when the Prime Minister is promising 20,000 new Police Officers – and rightly so – it would seem totally counter-intuitive to erect new barriers to recruitment. Just at the point where the public are demanding the return of neighbourhood Policing – the “bobby on the beat” – it would seem daft to make the job more elitist. Managerialism is seldom the way; creating new bureaucracy and more red tape seldom improves anything. We should be looking to make entrance into any public profession easier, pivoting entirely around suitability for the job, not academic aptitude.

We also need to reassess our approach to university education in general. It is simply unnecessary for everyone to have a degree – and we are funnelling more and more young people onto courses which are of extremely limited value. This is leading to grade inflation, debt and some extremely dissatisfied graduates. Why exacerbate the problem?

‘The Cult of the Degree’ needs to come to end. Let’s start by scrapping this vexatious new requirement for the Police – and reassessing the requirements for nurses. And let’s bring back Matron whilst we’re at it.

Rebecca Ryan is the Director of Stand Up 4 Brexit and Free Market Conservatives. Follow her on twitter: @beccyryan