Up-Skilling police officers online: delivering a different type of higher education for serving police

Dr Sancia West5
5University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Online learning has revolutionised the way in which higher education can be delivered and maximised the opportunities for involvement by student cohorts previously unlikely or unable to engage in higher education. Current serving police officers serve as a prime example of such a cohort as their employment restricts their capacity to attend tradition on-campus classes. Yet, as the role of policing in society changes the need for higher education in the training and up-skilling of police has changed with it. More and more, recruits are being required to undertake higher education as part of their initial training and tertiary qualifications are becoming a prerequisite for some promotional opportunities. Higher education institutions have responded to this need among police and the range and depth of policing, justice and criminology courses has risen significantly as a consequence. The online delivery of a course specifically focused at the current serving officer, in order to allow them to match the skills and qualifications of their newly recruited counterparts, is one example of how higher education has responded to the needs of police organisations. Delivering a very different type of degree to a less than traditional student cohort presents an interesting case study for the role of higher education in policing and the opportunities to promote the synergies between the two. This paper looks at the perspective of a non-police trained academic in delivering online higher education to a policing student cohort and the role this plays in professionalisation.


Sancia West is an Associate Lecturer in Police Studies at the University of Tasmania and is the Course Coordinator of the Tasmania Police Professionalisation Program (TP3). The TP3 allows current serving police officers to apply prior work experience and academic study in order to complete a specialised Bachelor of Social Sciences (Police Studies). Dr West is also a Registered Nurse, with a background in health policy, providing her with an ‘outsiders’ perspective on the issue of police education.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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