A report today from Universities UK is predicting a significant increase in the number of people opting for degree apprenticeships in England.

Degree apprenticeships – first introduced in 2015 – enable apprentices to split their time between university study and the workplace and, as with other apprenticeships, the cost of course fees are shared between government and employers.

A range of employers – of varying sizes – are already working with universities to offer degree apprenticeships, including Mercedes-Benz, Nestlé, IBM, Airbus and Transport for London.

The report is based on a survey of 66 universities on degree apprenticeship provision in England. It also includes feedback from employers about why they find degree apprenticeships beneficial.

Key findings from the report include:

  • There will be a 658% increase in degree apprentice entrants – from 640 in 2015-16 to 4,850 in 2017-18 (totalling 7,611 across the three years)
  • 88% of universities said their apprentices are mostly based locally
  • 91% of universities surveyed are actively involved with degree apprenticeships
  • Degree apprenticeships are addressing key skills shortages, with chartered management, digital and technology solutions, and engineering representing the top three areas of provision
  • Degree apprenticeships provide opportunities for people who might not have considered university – including part-time and mature students whose numbers have dropped drastically in recent years.

The survey also asked universities to list the benefits and challenges of delivering degree apprenticeships. Benefits included the fact that students’ fees are paid for and employers’ skills needs are more closely met. There were concerns about the continuing lack of awareness among some employers and the public about degree apprenticeships.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: “Universities are constantly striving to be flexible in the kind of qualifications they offer to meet the needs of students and employers. Degree apprenticeships go a long way to addressing this.

“Many people feel they have been left behind in the drive to increase higher level skills in recent years. Degree apprenticeships are an excellent way to get to these harder-to-reach groups while, at the same time, ensuring that what we deliver on campus meets the needs of students, the local area and its employers.

“The report shows that there is a still long way to go in communicating to students and employers how degree apprenticeships work and the mutual benefits. We would urge the government to work with us to do more here as part of its industrial strategy.

“The artificial dividing line between academic and vocational education is gradually disappearing. Degree apprenticeships build on the work that universities already do to deliver skills that employers need.”

The report has been published to coincide with National Apprenticeships Week, which takes place from 6–10 March 2017.

Sector Response

Commenting on the findings, Michael Walby, director and apprenticeship lead at KPMG in the UK says:

"Today’s research from UUK corresponds with our own experience of school leaver programmes in the UK. KPMG’s Audit School Leaver programme has been popular since it was first introduced back in 2011.

“The report shows that employers, universities and the individuals that undertake degree apprenticeships have a “clear and positive perception” of such programmes and the results they produce by combining an academic degree with on the job experience.

“These apprenticeships have been seen to help organisations and universities alike widen participation by attracting students that previously may not have considered continuing their academic education.” 

“However it is crucial that businesses offer a variety of routes to meaningful work in order to attract individuals from diverse backgrounds and to improve social mobility.  Many school leavers may not choose to continue along an academic path and instead enter the workforce as soon as they leave further education. So, in order to attract these pockets of untapped talent, large organisations should also consider offering higher and degree apprenticeships alongside their traditional graduate routes.

“The announcement by the chancellor in yesterday’s budget highlighting investment in new “T-Level” technical apprenticeships is a positive step forward in achieving parity of esteem between academic and technical education.  Businesses must play their part in achieving this ambition if we are to compete in an increasingly competitive, global economy.  Without routes in to organisations which embrace the diversity of ways in which people learn, large communities of unlocked potential will remain out of reach to employers and their value lost.”

Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy for the Chartered Management Institute, says:

Petra Wilton 100x100“This is a really welcome report by Universities UK highlighting the emerging key benefits of the new degree apprenticeships.  Given these programmes have been developed by employers to reflect the skills needed by today’s businesses, it’s not surprising to see that the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship is the fastest-growing and represents 36% of all apprentice numbers by 2017-18, with a total of 2,778 expected by the end of 2018.  Those universities who have been instrumental in developing these programmes, working with employers and the CMI, are already seeing clear benefits as early adopters.  In particular, they cite closer links with employers, enhanced social mobility through widening and diversifying participation; and improvements in employability outcomes for HE provision. 
 
“Just 13% of employers are aware of degree apprenticeships. CMI fully supports the key recommendations that all concerned need to shout louder to raise awareness much further among employers and apprentices. At the same time, it is also important that the Skills Funding Agency and the new Institute for Apprenticeships provide continuity in their policies and develop systems that recognise and do not duplicate the employer-respected quality assurances already offered by UK universities and professional bodies.”
 
Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University, says:
Steve Hill 100x100"High quality degree apprenticeships will give people a ladder of opportunity, more choice and help shape the UK to become a nation of highly-skilled workers. Higher and degree apprenticeships benefit all: they deliver for learners, who can graduate and gain work-relevant skills free from debt, and deliver for employers, who get the skills they need to improve productivity and performance. By working together, we can plug the skills gap, while offering more choice and opportunities for people of all walks of life.

“Universities and employers have a long history of working together to deliver professional and technical learning. While the report shows that most universities’ apprentices are based locally, it’s also important that large organisations are able to deliver apprenticeship programmes at a national scale, providing consistent training to their workforces to meet their skills requirements, and offering the same opportunities to staff based across the country."
 
About Universities UK: The representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 135 members and offices in London, Cardiff (Universities Wales) and Edinburgh (Universities Scotland), it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.

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