Police Federation

Detectives’ webinar addresses key concerns of professional development

Experts offer insights and guidance on Staffordshire University’s MSc Investigation Practice programme to help detectives further career prospects.

27 March 2024


The Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) webinar, sponsored by Serve and Protect Credit Union, held on 26 March in collaboration with Staffordshire University focused on the MSc Investigation Practice degree programme offered by the university in association with the Institute of Policing (IoP).

Leading the webinar were Melanie Warnes, Police Federation of England and Wales’ National Detectives Lead and PFNDF Secretary; Paul Matthews, Deputy Secretary of PFNDF and PFEW Professional Development Lead; James Holyoak, Senior Lecturer in Policing and Leadership at Staffordshire University’s Institute of Policing; and Rob Lovesey, Business Development Manager at Serve and Protect Credit Union.

The webinar was PFNDF’s first sold-out event with about 1,000 registrations. While, hundreds attended the online webinar, those who were unable to attend it will be able to playback the event on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS9fHCv4z9Q

Introducing the webinar, Ms Warnes discussed the work that the Federation has put into creating as attractive a route as possible for our members to take the course and bringing onboard Serve and Protect Credit Union to offer further financial support.

Ms Warnes reiterated the three objectives of the Federation that have driven PFNDF and the close working relationship with PFEW, Staffordshire University, the Institute of Policing (IoP) and Serve and Protect Credit Union, as collectively the three organisations pull together resources to create an affordable model of formal qualification to reflect the academic level at which detectives already work at, but without any official accreditation or recognition. The objectives being:

Reward and Recognition

Ms Warnes keenly impressed that the Federation recognises that detectives are not rewarded for the extra work they have done to become a detective, i.e., studying and passing an exam as well as completing a portfolio and maintaining the PIP2 standard. The MSc Investigation Practice looks to redress this and ensure that officers can ensure the skills they use in the workplace can go towards an official accreditation.

Ms Warnes issued a call to gather best practice - “the Federation wants to know what reward and recognition looks like in forces and what detectives want, so this can be taken forward at a national level. There is currently”, Ms Warnes noted, “some excellent support from the NPCC lead Chief Constable Jason Hogg (TVP) who really understands the value of the work we at the Federation put into our support of detectives nationally.” 

Impact of DG6

PFNDF Chair, Ben Hudson (who could not attend the webinar), has led on the #SimplifyDG6 campaign nationally. The ongoing campaign to change the Data Protection Act to allow easy data sharing between the police service and the CPS appears to be gathering momentum, with much liaison between Ben, PFEW Parliamentary leads Deputy National Chair Tiff Lynch, NB Member Belinda Goodwin and several MPs. Hopefully more news will be shared at PFNDF’s April meeting.

Enhancing detectives’ roles in the Federation – a call for new reps

Ms Warnes exemplified the skills and training that detectives possess. She said that these make great transferable skills and emphasised the need for a formal recognition of these skills in the form of a master’s degree is something that can be done on the job.

Personal Experience

Paul Matthews, PFNDF Deputy Secretary and PFEW Professional Development Lead, spoke about his experience of a chequered academic history and why he wanted to reassure those like him that this course is accessible and achievable, despite their academic history and lingering insecurities. 

Mr Matthews is also the non-executive director at the College of Policing and a Practitioner Fellow of the Police Foundation, an independent think tank.

Mr Matthews encouraged all officers to be open and optimistic about the opportunity to add a professional post-graduate qualification to their CV, irrespective of their background and previous academic achievement.

He impressed upon delegates that his background as an overworked and disgruntled Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Service, and with nothing but a third-class degree from Leeds Beckett University (formerly Leeds Metropolitan University) in Leisure Studies, meant he saw himself as a poor academic performer. In his words, his academic background was “non-existent”.

In 2015, Mr Matthews explained, the operational work of policing was assessed by the College of Policing and police officers were found to be working at educational level 6, which is the equivalent of degree level [for example Bachelor of Arts (BA) hons., Bachelor of Science (BSc) hons.]. If he was working at this level, teaching others who were new to policing and helping them advance their careers was doing so without any formal qualification.

So why was he working at this level with no formal qualification – if he left policing what would he have to show for his work?

He added that if, like him, you’re working at PIP Level 2, equivalent to a master’s degree, not having this recognised in any meaningful way outside of policing seems like a missed opportunity.

Knowing this helped convince himself that such a course was a ‘no-brainer’. Previously he believed that he would not get into any degree course because of his background, but now he understands that his experience is as valuable, if not more than his education, and the present course is partly designed with people like him in mind. It’s accessible and affordable because of the collaboration between PFEW, Staffordshire University and Serve and Protect Credit Union.

There are a number of ways to access the course via different funding models, loans, bursaries, delayed payments, including the possibility of force contribution if one was lucky.

Mr Matthews explained the course was ideal for him. Lectures are held online once a week in the evening and recorded if he was unable to login for the live session. The resources needed are also available online through the university’s library and the College of Policing’s library. There was no need to be physically present on the campus, which means one can complete the entire course from the comfort of their living room if they wanted.

While saying that the course has challenged and changed his way of thinking about policing and helped develop it in a way he previously couldn’t imagine, Mr Matthews elaborated: “Importantly for me, it's a case of why wouldn't you do this degree? Recruits are joining nowadays, they've either got degrees or they're doing degrees and they're coming out to forces and being taught how to do the job by people like me, by people like you who don't have the formal academic qualifications. They're getting all this knowledge and value from your experience and you've got nothing to show for it yourself.

“It’s a no brainer, a clear win for me.”

New Opportunities: MSc in Investigation Practice

James Holyoak, Senior Lecturer in Policing and Leadership at Staffordshire University’s Institute of Policing (IoP) presented a comprehensive description of the MSc Investigation Practice programme he runs in his role at the institute.

The master’s programme falls under the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF), the new national framework for professional training and qualification of police officers.

The IoP has been delivering PEQF since 2019 in collaboration with four West Midlands police forces – West Midlands, Staffordshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire, using a blend of academic and police pracademic practices.

The IoP is the first nationally accredited DC-Degree Holder Entry Programme (DC-DEHP). Existing expertise is used in the delivery of the MSc in Leadership of Policing programme and now in the new MSc Investigation Practice programme. Developments are ongoing in advancing the Serious and Complex Crime Apprenticeship and the PCDA Detective routeway.

The master’s programme addresses the challenges policing faces in the 21st Century, from media and political influence to a disjointed criminal justice system and police culture, and also goes to the extent of addressing the crisis of recruitment and retention of detectives faced nationally.

Policing is now more complex than the existing programmes are designed to manage, and the new degree courses being offered aim to redress this.  

Investigation Challenges Addressed

The Police Foundation think tank suggests that there are an estimated 7,000 detectives’ vacancies across all the forces; this is further impeded by limited recognition and resourcing to support the role of detectives.

The new master’s course attempts to give some ownership of career development. The course’s Programme Rationale addresses the changes and challenges that are occurring all around us at every level of society. Today investigations take place in: “Litigious, complex organizational, cultural contexts, subject to public reviews, intensive media scrutiny and in high pressure environments” (Alison and Crego, 2008 p2)​.

But current and future trends are rapidly converging leading to:​ “Inequality, social fragmentation, a changing trust landscape and rapid technological change, present new and emerging challenges in the 21st century” (College of Policing, 2020)​.

It can be mitigated by:​ “Personal and professional development of contemporary contextual investigation expertise, strategy and organisation, ethical and evidenced-based responses, delivered within a flexible and constructive learning environment.” 

Nicolas Mills, former detective trainer and the brain behind the course who is has joined IoP, described the master’s course as designed to reflect the real-world experience derived from the Professionalising Investigations Programme (PIP) progression so that for those who enrol, regardless of previous academic achievements, the course feels achievable from the outset.

“The degree maps PIP levels to the educational levels achieved on the course. We can provide a level of equivalency between the course and what PIP progression looks like but does not replace or substitute PIP.

“If you are a detective, you are a critical thinker. So, PIP level 2 sits at the same level of study as the course, so regardless of where you left you traditional education, you are already suitable and working at the expected level to meet the requirements to get onto this Masters,” he said.

The master’s course is transferable outside of policing.

Giving an overview of the course content, Mr Mills laid out the core modules offered in the first and second year:

  • Ethical Investigation and Organisational Legitimacy ​
  • Applied Research ​
  • Management of Serious and Complex Investigation ​
  • Strategic Leadership of Investigation​
  • Evidence Based Practice for Investigators​
  • Research Project and Dissertation 

(Optional modules available in the second year)

  • Management of Homicide and Major Crime ​
  • Public Protection and the Investigation of Serious and Organised Crime ​
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Criminal Investigations and Policing 
  • Organisational Inclusivity 

He said that these modules do change to reflect the moving and evolving challenges of policing and added: “For example, the AI module is ahead of the curve with regards to responding the challenges that AI poses to policing and society.”

Wrapping Up

James Holyoak addressed some of the FAQs related to discussions about returning to formal education under the PEQF:

  • I’m not academic enough, am I?​
  • Will I have to go to university every week?​
  • Is this course just for people wanting to get promoted?​
  • I’m a police staff member, how would this course help me?​
  • I’m not sure I’ll have the time to study?​ What are the costs; how can you help me afford this course?

General Responses

  • If you are accredited at PIP 2 you are already working at a relevant academic level.​ We can take into account too your relevant experience that may not have a traditional accreditation.
  • All teaching is delivered online at a pre-arranged time – you only need to have access to the Internet to learn. ​
  • This is about YOUR learning and practice – this can include promotion but also personal and professional development through an independently accredited and transferable qualification.​
  • This course is open to Police Staff and other non-police investigators.​
  • Typically, you will have around 3 hours pre-arranged teaching and about the same self-directed learning per week during teaching periods.​
  • Through the Federation, we have negotiated bespoke financial support from Serve and Protect Credit Union – we are also offering recognition of prior experiential learning (RPEL) for those accredited to PIP. 
  • You do not need to be within the PIP process.

Financial Support for Further Education

Rob Lovesey, Serve and Protect Credit Union’s Business Development Manager, provided detailed practical advice on Police Education Loan (PEL) and why turning to Serve and Protect Credit Union is significantly advantageous than seeking financial support from other lenders such as credit card providers.

Mr Lovesey has worked directly with PFEW and Staffordshire University to provide a bespoke PEL to make MSc Investigation Practice programme affordable and manageable.

Serve and Protect Credit Union operates as a not-for-profit organisation, which means there are no big profits taken out as dividends and profits go back into the products they offer.

Breaking down repayment plans and comparing between products offered by credit card providers and the credit union, Mr Lovesey demonstrated that a £6,500 loan from the credit union over 36 months was the most financially astute option, with interest at 5.9 per cent APR compared to the 34.8 per cent APR of an average credit card.

Repayments work out at £197 per month over 36 months and the total amount repaid is £7091.86.

There are no early repayment penalties.

To qualify for the loan for the course you must meet the standard affordability test, meet credit check requirements, possess evidence that you have been accepted on the course and met any further eligibility criteria as outlined on their website (see below).

You can also register for the weekly financial webinars that address topics ranging from managing the cost of living, budgeting and spending, boosting credit score and understanding what lenders look for.



  • The learning style works well. A less formal approach, much appreciated at the end of a long day.
  • Delivery through Teams has been beneficial…it supports flexible learning. 
  • I’ve used the library services numerous times for essays…it’s been a valuable service. 
  • Relevance of the content to my current role. 
  • My take aways from each module have enabled me to make changes in how I perform at work and at home. 
  • The learning outcomes I understood and could connect to.
  • The flexibility of the course to work around a full-time job and the mix of lecturers. (academics & former practitioners)


For further information visit:

Investigation Practice - Staffordshire University (staffs.ac.uk)

Serve and Protect Credit Union: Improving Financial Resilience (serveandprotectcu.co.uk)

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