rows of police officers at an examination ceremony

Project: A valid police education

Like many other countries that have already academised police education – not least other Nordic countries – Sweden had both the political will and far-reaching plans to pursue such a path. When a decision was taken to focus instead on rapidly boosting the number of trained police, the issue was sidelined. However, as a result of police contract education being located to academic institutions, the academisation process has nevertheless continued and been promoted by others than the contracting party. In this project we problematise the concept of academisation and examine both the academic density of Swedish police education in form and content and how such education relates to professional police practice.

Project information

Project title
A valid police education. Academic density and practical knowledge
Project manager
Magnus Persson
Other project members
Cecilia Jonsson
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University
Centre for Police Research and Development
30 Sept 2021–30 Sept 2024
Police Science (Department of Criminology and Police Work, Department of Social Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences)

More about the project

There has been a clear shift towards academisation in European police education in recent decades. In various ways and in varying degrees an increasing number of police education programmes have shifted focus from occupational training to a more academic framework in terms of form and content. The issue has been a highly topical one in Sweden. Two government inquiries (SOU 2008:39; SOU 2016:39) joined in concluding that police education should become academic in character. This did not occur, as we know, but since the year 2000 police education as a contract programme has been located to academic institutions. Thus it could be said to have one foot in academia and the other in the police organisation – two disparate organisations with differing aims and logics. The police organisation could be described as pragmatic, event-driven, possessing a strong professional culture, and negatively disposed to higher education. Academia for its part is considered slow-moving, theory oriented and intent on long-term goals.

Despite the abandonment of plans to academise it, Swedish police education has during its years in an academic environment acquired a greater academic density and has in some respects adopted an academic form. This is exemplified by the fact that i) police work has become a main academic field, ii) police education earns university credits, and iii) universities hosting police education offer freestanding courses in police work up to master’s level. That there is interest in such training is illustrated by the presence both of police officers who enrol in the freestanding courses without being given any clear incentive to do so by their employer, and of police officers who have either completed or are studying in research programmes.

Thus the aim of making Swedish police education more academic in character tallies with the international trend whereby various professions seek to become more professional through partnerships with higher education. What distinguishes Sweden from other countries is a) the way in which this occurs – in the absence of government or decisions, and b) who is actually driving development in this area – not the training programme contractors, i.e. the Swedish Police Authority, but the universities that provide the police education. What this type of academisation process signifies for Swedish police education and its relationship to professional police activity is hard to know.

In a comparison with Nordic police training programmes, we examine both how the academisation of Swedish police education is manifested in form and content and how it relates to professional police practice.

Cecilia Jonsson and Magnus Persson have been commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor of Linnaeus University (LNU 2022/3064), to compile a report on the requirements, opportunities and challenges involved in providing an academically based police education programme. The report is available here.