I suppose that it was inevitable - there are some professions where it's necessary to get a specific degree (medicine springs to mind), and given the ways in which Higher Education is funded these days, there is no doubt that pretty much every student, save only those from the most affluent part of society, is going to be saddled with an increasingly large debt as time goes by. Mindyou, if the coalition government bring in a graduate tax, it could be even worse for some people.
So, one school of thought might say that the coalition are trying to bring policing into line with other professions - politics and the media tend to recruit unpaid interns on the pretext of providing work experience - but I think that they're missing the point here. Policing is different. It's a vocational profession - I can't think of many other professions where a person is actively reviled by a sector of society, not just disliked, purely because of the function that they perform. I know that people don't tend to like lawyers, estate agents, journalists and politicians, but they don't actually attack them in the street or spit on them. You have to want to be a police officer. So, why put barriers in the way of people who do really want to be a police officer?
Inevitably, there is resistance to this proposal - the comments on Inspector Gadget's blog today are illustrative - and I think that they're absolutely right. In my opinion, this proposal would limit the number of people who are able to join the police, because they can't afford to fund a degree, or to work for free (volunteer) for a prolonged period of time.
My other problem with this is the issue of the "degree" in policing. I've had a look at the syllabus for some of these degree courses, and it really smacks to me of occupational training. Why does it have to be badged as a degree? Occupational training is an honourable institution, it doesn't need to justify itself as a degree. I think that the answer's actually about money. If it's occupational training, then it should only be offered to those accepted to enter the occupation. If it's a degree, then you can
Time will tell, and I may well be wrong - after all, that has happened before. But my gut instinct tells me that going into a period of what is likely to be rising unemployment, with a potential rise in crime levels, this is not the time to be experimenting with the police service.
It'll be so different when I'm in charge.