A major report (Sustainable Degree Apprenticeships) calls for higher education institutions to work hand in hand with employers to embrace fully integrated, flexible degree apprenticeships and for policy changes including a revision of the mandatory qualification rule, to sustain the degree apprenticeship initiative launched by David Cameron in 2015 in the long term.
The report is part of a research project funded by education charity Edge Foundation and led by Middlesex University London with Staffordshire University, Sheffield Hallam University and the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) as partners. The research set out to investigate what changes to higher education structures and practices are needed for degree apprenticeships to be delivered sustainably and to identify obstacles to success. A survey of providers, employers and apprentices asked how far degree apprenticeships furthered the goals of increased productivity and social mobility.
The report concludes with 18 recommendations under six headings: Promotion and outreach; Resourcing and partnerships; Programme design and delivery; The workplace and organisational environment; Apprenticeship policy; and Access to degree apprenticeships.
Key recommendations include:
- Promoting degree apprenticeships as a distinctive “brand”, not an alternative to more traditional higher education
- Developing effective and active provider-employer partnerships that include involvement in programme design, integration of business and learning goals, supporting and monitoring apprentices
- Designing fully-integrated degree apprenticeship programmes from the ground up, adopting a digital first approach
- Collaborating closely with employers on a strategic approach to workforce development and maximise workforce learning potential
- Policy stability for degree apprenticeships, while revising mandatory qualification rule to allow employers to specify inclusion of a degree where there is evidence that it will increase productivity and social mobility
- To promote progression routes through apprenticeship levels, and build in “step on” and “step off” points at every stage
Professor Darryll Bravenboer, Director of Apprenticeships at Middlesex University says: “Degree apprenticeships will deliver on productivity and social mobility aims if the report’s recommendations are implemented. This will not only avoid the risk of policy failure but will also help the UK economy recover from the coronavirus crisis”.
“It’s concerning when policy decisions have been made which create obstacles to developing and delivering degree apprenticeships. For example, the rigid interpretation of the mandatory qualifications rule could mean that the degree is removed from the highly successful Digital Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship, counter to employers’ explicit wishes.”
“We’re going to have to retrain people for occupations and jobs in a post-Covid context, and higher and degree apprenticeships will have a key role to play”, Professor Bravenboer adds.
Education Select Committee chair the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP said: “I’m a passionate advocate of Degree Apprenticeships. They are key to fighting social injustice in higher education and meeting Britain’s skills deficit”.
“I would like to see the Government make it easier for universities to expand their degree apprenticeship provision. The process for approving degree apprenticeship standards must become quicker and smoother, and as this report argues, the places on degree apprenticeships and progression through them should be flexible, to ensure less advantaged and older learners aren’t left behind”.
Alice Barnard, CEO of Edge, said that “the development of degree apprenticeships is a crucial pathway to upskill the UK’s population. This report demonstrates the important role they play in developing social mobility and addressing skills gaps in industries ranging from engineering to digital and in public sector roles.
“The report aligns with our strategic goal for an education system that is broad, flexible and engaging; provides high quality and respected professional and vocational education; and connects education holistically to employers and the community.”
Adrian Anderson, Chief Executive of the UVAC said, “For an individual, Degree Apprenticeship offers a job and salary from day one where the Government/the employer pays the cost. For the country, Degree Apprenticeship provides a new way to train the nurses, police constables, engineers, and a range of other occupations the public sector and the wider economy need. It is vital that Degree Apprenticeship continues to grow and gets further established as a mainstream higher education programme”.