Policing education qualifications framework (PEQF)

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Creating a consistent high standard of training for all police officers whichever way they choose to join the force.

First published
Written by College of Policing

About the PEQF


This is a professional training framework for police officers and staff. It’s based on a modern curriculum of dynamic operational training, underpinned by sound theoretical education. Currently focused on new joiners to the police, the PEQF is being developed to cover the range of professional training, including some voluntary roles, and staff and officers at all levels. 

Why we need it

Policing Vision 2025 – written and agreed by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners – highlighted:

  • a need for consistency, accreditation and defined roles
  • that roles need specific skills and knowledge, backed by qualifications

For a long time forces have recruited differently, without standard entry requirements, learning provision and support. The service recognised the need to standardise these areas as a priority. The PEQF also supports the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers, widening the gateway to, and broadening the appeal of, joining the service.

There is increasing demand on the police to do more than just solve crime and ‘catch the bad guys’. It’s understood that learning and support for new recruits will help them to start well and stay in a job that recognises their level of expertise and values their contribution.

What the PEQF will do

Its aims are to:

  • address the long-held deficiency in recognising the level at which police officers operate
  • provide a framework within which the College can revise the learning provision for all officers and staff, starting with the initial entry routes, to ensure these meet the needs of forces and the expectation of the service as set out in Policing Vision 2025
  • standardise the learning provision across all forces, in particular the initial learning for newly recruited officers
  • include processes and guidance to help existing officers and staff achieve their potential, for example by taking their prior experience and learning as a basis for further learning and achievement of transferable and recognised qualifications

What we have learned so far

See our report on PEQF learning to date.

The PEQF programmes

Police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA)

The basics

This programme:

  • is a three-year programme
  • is funded primarily through the apprenticeship levy
  • is delivered by a police force in collaboration with a higher education provider (with taught degree awarding powers)
  • provides an opportunity to specialise in one of the core areas of policing
  • gives the individual a degree in professional policing practice

Educationally, individuals will need:

  • two A levels or an equivalent level 3 qualification, as defined in the Education and Skills Act 2008

Key aspects of the PCDA programme

The PCDA is subject to policies and guidelines by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Skills Funding Agency (England) and Estyn (Wales). These include:

  • a requirement to achieve level 2 English and maths, before or during the programme
  • a minimum level of off-to-job/protected learning time for the duration of the programme
  • completion of an evidence-based research project

The evidence-based research project forms part of the final summative assessment, known as the end-point assessment. These projects should be rooted within force business needs – for example, in key priority areas – and afford forces the opportunity to investigate specific problems.

The project outcomes, once assessed and deemed to be of sufficiently high quality, can be shared via the College academic support network and What Works Centre. This enables other forces to benefit from and build upon the research.

Degree-holder entry programme

The basics

This programme:

  • is a two-year programme
  • is fully funded by the police force
  • gives the individual a graduate diploma in professional policing practice (120 academic credits at level 6)
  • provides an opportunity to specialise in one of the core areas of policing

Educationally, individuals will need:

  • a level-6 degree in any subject other than the degree in professional policing licenced by the College

Key aspects of the degree-holder programme

When considering this type of programme, forces should note that:

  • it follows the national policing curriculum but with some elements removed, such as research and study skills, as these are generic to degree-level programmes
  • it is delivered and assessed at academic level 6 throughout

Degree in professional policing

The basics

This degree:

  • is usually a three-year programme, though some higher education institutions offer an accelerated two-year version
  • is fully funded by the student 
  • is delivered by a higher education institution only
  • encourages students to interact with local forces to enrich their learning experience
  • provides an opportunity to specialise in one of the core areas of policing

Educationally, individuals will need:

  • to meet the standard UCAS entry requirements set out by the higher education institution offering the degree

Key aspects of the degree in professional policing

When considering this type of programme, forces should note that:

  • the degree programme is based on the national policing curriculum, but in its standard format is a knowledge-only programme with no operational practice
  • students need to apply to join the police service as a separate activity after successful completion of the degree – this involves successful completion of an assessment centre, fitness testing and security vetting
  • students being recruited into a force need to follow a short programme covering specific areas that are not part of the degree – this ensures they are safe and lawful before being deployed into an operational role

Additional operational practice can be achieved by the students becoming special constables. Students can become a special constable (SC) in one of two ways.

  • The higher education institution can seek to enter into formal arrangements with a local force to offer special constable (SC) places. Here, the force contributes to the programme by managing the SC work to coincide with learning outcomes in the degree programme. This option would need force agreement.
  • Students can seek to become a SC with any force without any formal arrangement between the force and the higher education institution. This can enable practical application of learning from the programme, but may not be as structured as a formal arrangement.

Read more about the degree in professional policing in the section on joining the police.

See a list of universities that offer a professional policing degree.

Specialising in these programmes

Each of the above programmes can include a focus on one of the core areas of policing. For example, enabling student officers to achieve accredited detective status alongside the standard programme outcomes.

For the PCDA and degree-holder entry programme, individuals will need to complete:

  • the national investigators' exam (NIE) – which requires additional focused study and revision
  • specific criteria relating of the professional investigation programme (PIP) level 2 occupational competence

For the degree in professional policing, individuals will need to achieve independent patrol status. After this, they could be deployed to an investigation team and work towards the successful achievement of the NIE and PIP level 2 occupational competence during the remainder of their two-year probation period.

Universities who want to offer this degree

If you are a university or higher education provider that wants to become licensed to offer the degree in professional policing you can find out more from our guidance for universities that want to offer a professional policing degree.

Programmes for people not joining as constables

There are also programmes for police community support officers (PCSOs) and special constables. 

PCSO learning programme

Using the curriculum developed for the police constable initial learning programmes, the College has also developed PCSO initial learning. This follows the first year of the PCDA, but has been adapted to focus on community policing. 

The programme:

  • is set at academic level 4
  • takes 12 months to complete
  • can be delivered as an apprenticeship or standalone qualification
  • culminates in a Level 4 HE Certificate or Diploma in Community Policing Practice
  • can be mapped across to the PCDA should a PCSO who has completed the programme transition into a PC role

Special constable learning programme

This is based on the first year of PCDA, but the content can be focused on the particular role in which a force intends to deploy a special constable. This could be in any of the five core areas of policing practice – response, communities, roads, intelligence and investigation. 

The programme is:

  • set at academic level 4, although it is not an accredited programme
  • phased in line with accompanied patrol, directed patrol and qualified special constable status
  • can be mapped across to the PCDA when someone completes the programme to directed patrol status transition into a PC role

See more about the SCLP

Maintaining quality and standards

Internal quality assurance

We have developed a quality assurance process for the entry routes into policing.

Each force and the higher education institute it is working with:

  • must adhere to a series of core requirements, which are set out in the programme specification for each entry route
  • will be asked to provide evidence to show how they meet each criteria
  • will have this evidence reviewed by subject matter experts within the College and an external independent assessor from another force
  • the programme development team then attend a quality assurance panel to provide more detail and respond to any queries arising from the document review

The panel may set conditions on the programme which must be addressed before it can start to be delivered, and may also make recommendations for how the programme could be improved, as well as highlighting any identified strengths. 

Subsequently the programme must also be validated through the HEIs' normal programme validation process, and any conditions set by the College panel are carried forward into that process.

External quality assurance

Programmes may also be scrutinised by other external agencies as well as the College.

The Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) – audits against funding rules

The Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) – measures performance against the standard and end-point assessment

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) – measures against quality of delivery 

Wales specific

There are different rules and guidance about apprenticeships in Wales and the Welsh Government has a central role in monitoring quality of provision.

Quality is assured by Estyn – the education and training inspectorate for Wales

For more information contact [email protected]

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