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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 17:26 GMT
Police chief criticises forensic courses
Amanda Burton in Silent Witness
Silent Witness is among the popular TV shows on forensic science
A senior policeman has criticised some of the forensic science courses on offer in universities because they do not prepare recruits for police forensic work.

North Wales Police Deputy Chief Constable Clive Wolfendale has said that some forensic courses on offer - which include forensic investigation with tourism and leisure and film studies - are misleading students.

In his view, some of the 400 forensics courses on offer are simply filling demand created by popular TV detective shows such as Silent Witness and Crime Scene Investigation.

But at least one university has said it would offer the same advice to students wanting to follow a career in forensic science the same advice as Mr Wolfendale - take a science degree followed by a masters.

In 1991, there were only two first-degree courses in forensic science - today more than 400 higher education courses on forensics are on offer.

Universities may be capitalising on the popularity of the subject in order to fill science departments
Clive Wolfendale, North Wales Police

Courses include forensic investigation with tourism and leisure offered by Canterbury Christ Church University College, counselling skills with forensic biology offered by Chester College and film studies and forensic science, which can be studied at London South Bank University.

'Misleading students'

"Universities may be capitalising on the popularity of the subject in order to fill science departments," said Mr Wolfendale.

Mr Wolfendale, who is chair of the Forensic Science Sector Strategy Group (FSSG), said that many graduates of the courses were unsuitable for police forensic work.

"Many of these courses attempt a balance between vocational relevance and academic rigour, which in my experience has not been achieved," he added.

"Their value to the sector is a matter for serious consideration and may be misleading students as far as employment opportunities are concerned.

"Forensic science employers are looking for recruits with a sound grasp of the basic principles found in a challenging pure science degree.

"The police service, in particular, needs recruits who are numerate, articulate and inquisitive.

"These qualities are in short supply, even amongst graduates." 'Skills'

In its course description for the combined film studies and forensic science degree, London South Bank University says: "In detective novels and in the many television programmes and films on the subject, the person who can do this is often portrayed as some kind of genius.

"The reality is that forensic scientists are people with a good foundation of scientific knowledge and well developed problem-solving and communication skills.
Our Centre for Studies in Crime and Policing offers the same advice as Mr Wolfendale for those wishing for a career in the Forensic Science service, namely a science degree followed by a Masters degree
Canterbury Christ Church University College

"Problem solving and communication skills are abilities that enhance the study of any academic discipline and are among the attributes that employers require from graduates."

Canterbury Christ Church University College said it offered a joint honours course which allowed students to combine forensic investigation with another discipline including tourism, although nobody had applied for that particular option yet.

"The University College offers all students careers advice and those who wish to apply for a subsequent post in crime scene investigation or more general law enforcement are expected to take forensic investigation with applied criminology.

"Our Centre for Studies in Crime and Policing offers the same advice as Mr Wolfendale for those wishing for a career in the Forensic Science service, namely a science degree followed by a Masters degree."




SEE ALSO:
TV crime attracts course recruits
09 Aug 01  |  Education
Cracking crime at university
11 Jul 00  |  Education
Studying to solve crime
02 Aug 99  |  UK News


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