The way forward for degree apprenticeships

By Darryll Bravenboer, Direct of Apprenticeships at Middlesex University

I’m delighted to announce the launch of the Sustainable Degree Apprenticeship report, drawn from research generously funded by Edge Foundation, led by Middlesex University with Sheffield Hallam and Staffordshire Universities and the University Vocational Awards Council as project partners.

The report investigates the changes to higher education structures and practices that are needed to ensure a long-term future for degree apprenticeships. It includes summaries of interviews and a survey capturing the views of employers, apprentices and providers focused on the potential to deliver major policy benefits.

Degree apprenticeships have a hugely important role to play in boosting social mobility to widen access to professional careers, meeting the requirements of employers and supplying the economy with the skills it needs to improve productivity.

Education Select Committee Chair, Robert Halfon understands this. He describes degree apprenticeships as “key to fighting social injustice in higher education and meeting Britain’s skills deficit”. He calls for a quicker, smoother process to approve degree apprenticeship standards, and for flexibility in degree apprenticeship places and in progression through apprenticeship levels.

So it’s concerning when policy decisions are 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 the explicit wishes of employers. The forthcoming removal of the degree from the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship with no meaningful consultation, will also mean that NHS Trusts and other public sector employers who highly value the degree will have their needs ignored. These interventions risk undermining the investment that employers and providers have made in degree apprenticeships at a time of major economic need.

The Covid crisis adds an important dimension to the debate. In the coming months lots of people will lose their jobs, and hundreds of thousands will have to retrain to take up occupations needed in the post-Covid economic context. Higher and degree apprenticeships provide a key solution that could help mitigate the impact of the crisis. The Prime Minister has shown an interest in an apprenticeship guarantee for young people, while Think Tank the Centre for Progressive Policy has called for a right to retrain targeted at those most at risk of structural unemployment.

Our report sets out 18 recommendations under six headings to address some of the challenges facing degree apprenticeships. If these are implemented, degree apprenticeships will take root and prosper providing long-term benefits for employers and apprentices alike. We hope politicians and policymakers will consider them fully.

To read the report click here.

Want to stay up to date? Why not join our mailing list.