Innovations That Inspire

Open University Business School Policing Excellence

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: The Open University Business School, The Open University
Location: United Kingdom

In a new partnership model between academics and policing practitioners, OUBS aimed to create the most effective academic offerings on a U.K.-wide scale in policing, leading to impactful innovations in teaching, research, and knowledge exchange.

Call to Action

The Open University Business School (OUBS) has worked closely with the public sector throughout its 40-year history. In 2014, we leveraged our academic expertise and existing strong relationships with policing bodies to build a highly effective academic/policing partnership in the U.K. We worked collaboratively across the U.K. to create better policing from the most innovative, bespoke education and research solutions, whether through continuous improvement or transformational change.

The Centre for Policing Research and Learning was founded in 2014 as a partnership between police forces across the U.K. and a wide range of OU academics, led by the business school. The aim of the center is to create, explore and use high-quality knowledge to support evidence-based practice. The center combines the best of both academic and police perspectives on a range of challenges, research questions, and educational opportunities. In 2023, the partnership includes 24 police forces, which together covers two-thirds of the country’s policing workforce.

Having teams that comprise both academics and practitioners helps ensure the value and relevance of research as well as its mobilization into practice. Additionally, the research feeds into educational pathways and is shared and embedded through knowledge exchange activities.

Through partnership, both academics and policing practitioners were able to achieve far greater impact than by working in isolation, and the early successes experienced by the pioneering police forces expedited the development of the ambitious 10-year strategy.

Innovation Details

The policing curriculum at OUBS offers a wide range of educational courses and qualifications. Open Educational Resources are free, informal short courses available online, any time, which can provide police officers and staff with informal learning and/or with continuing professional development. More formal learning opportunities include degree programs are designed in consultation with partner police forces, specifically for both police officers and staff, and opportunities for officers and staff employed by the policing partner organizations to undertake part-time PhDs.

OUBS offers policing apprenticeships: the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship program and the Police Community Support Officer Apprenticeship as well as the Degree Holders Entry Program and Special Constables Learning Program. These programs mix on-the-job training with off-the-job learning and will provide the skills and knowledge needed for a policing career that will also lead to a nationally recognized certificate or degree qualification. The programs offer great breadth, depth, and complexity of learning and also provide officers with an income while they learn. Delivery is tailored using a responsive approach to student support through blended learning and online and virtual innovation with one-to-one tutor input.

Research is based on a genuinely collaborative working relationship, bringing together the key knowledge, skills, and experience of academics with those of police practitioners in a co-research approach. This collaboration is valuable in identifying and analyzing problems in order to improve policing. Policing team members are concerned not only with creating new knowledge but also testing and exploring whether, when, how, and why it works in practice. Accordingly, we offer a range of innovative activities designed to maximize learning between members of the police, between police organizations, and between the police and academics.

Innovation Impact

Over the last nine years, the center has shown ambition, innovation, growth, and impact, working collaboratively and equally with 24 U.K. police forces and agencies and with more than 80 OU academics from a wide range of disciplines. This partnership creates and uses knowledge to improve policing for the benefit of society by producing research and learning that have been used by police forces across the U.K. and internationally.

Effective governance includes senior figures in academia, policing, and other public and voluntary services, a unique collective that provides strategic challenges and ensures independence of academic work. This multistakeholder view reflects the rapidly changing role of policing that focuses on keeping people safe, including society’s most vulnerable as well as law enforcement. Accordingly, the program delivers:

  • Groundbreaking research on the learning and well-being of rape investigators, shaping police policy, and national investigative officer training.
  • Domestic abuse research that has led to the transfer of OUBS researchers to the National Domestic Homicide program throughout the coronavirus pandemic to shape policy and evidence collection.
  • Research on public innovation that is being used to underpin the national College of Policing innovation strategy.
  • Research on police leadership to create public value for society.
  • Research on how face recognition can alter police practices.
  • Body-worn data that led to policy proposals in West Midlands Police.
  • Citizen forensics to examine how data and technology will shape police/community relations.
  • Action research on police recruitment and education that is altering national policy.
  • The creation of community problem-solving teaching materials for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, used with new recruits and available to the general public.
  • Demand management analysis that contributes to efficiency savings and more preventive policing.
  • New research methodologies that have been theorized and published.

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