rows of police officers at an examination ceremony

Project: Academic presence on police ground?

How can we explain why the academicization of Swedish police education has not been completed, despite several public inquiries advocating this since the 1975 police reform and the 1977 higher education reform? Over the past forty years, several welfare professions have been academicized in Sweden. However, the police education stands out as an interesting deviating example.

Project information

Project manager
Magnus Persson
Other project members
Cecilia Jonsson, Mattias Örnerheim
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

At first glance, Swedish police training seems to be part of the academic education system, as the education has been offered at five different universities and university colleges for twenty years. However, despite the proximity to academic environments, the police education is not a fully integrated part of the academic system.

The training is conducted at the university colleges and universities on behalf of the Swedish Police Authority, which means that the training is governed by both the Higher Education Ordinance [Högskoleförordningen] and the Ordinance on training for police officers [Förordningen om utbildning till polisman], which entails conflicts of interest between the authorities. Our hypothesis is that since the police profession has long been a closed professional practice, which is now being challenged by the transfer of tasks and powers to other authorities and civilian staff within the authority, it is becoming increasingly important to safeguard the profession's boundaries.

In this project, we investigate why the academicization of Swedish police training has not yet been completed, despite the proximity to academic environments. That vocational education is included in the academic system and uses the academic system's teaching and examination forms has been a development in Sweden since the Higher Education Reform in 1977, when, for example, nursing education, social work education, and parts of the teacher education were academicized.

There has been no lack of initiative to introduce a bachelor's degree in police training, as is the case in Norway and Finland. State investigations have proposed a development in this direction and as recently as in October 2020, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mikael Damberg, said in connection to the 20th anniversary of police training in Umeå: "today there is probably a parliamentary majority for the issue of fully academicizing police training, so that an extended education after three years of study should be able to lead to a professional degree in police work”.

New scientific disciplines and research fields have been formed around other vocational educations, which has strengthened the science that characterizes these professions. There is a growing research activity at all higher education institutions in Sweden that offer police training. Linnaeus University and Umeå University also offer academic courses in police work outside the regular police programme. There are plenty of role models for how academicization processes can be shaped.

We insist that police education, with its strong ties to the Swedish Police Authority, is a particularly organization-dependent training and a unique and interesting case that has not previously been researched from an academic perspective. We further believe that current research on academicization overlooks the fact that academicizing processes take place at different levels and not only at the organizational level.

Therefore, in our study, we examine academic change processes at several different levels: student, staff, programme, department, sector, and policy to find collaborative processes, lines of conflict and opposites. We believe that this approach is a creative way of explaining why the academicization of Swedish police training has not yet been completed.

The project's approach is interdisciplinary. The project group consists of researchers from several different social science disciplines who all have extensive experience of research in the higher education field as well as broad competence in various research techniques and analysis methods. The design of the study includes surveys, interviews, and documents from several different sources. The range of the material makes it possible to use several different analysis methods that we believe can fertilize each other and give the project the capacity to move the research field forward. Thus, the project contributes scientifically both to the emerging research on police training and to research on academicization in general.

The project is part of the research in the Centre for Police Research and Development research group.