House of Commons Library

Degree apprenticeships

Published Wednesday, December 18, 2019

This House of Commons briefing paper sets out information on degree apprenticeships - it outlines how degree apprenticeships work, gives statistics on the number of learners taking these courses and includes comments on areas of concern.

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Degree apprenticeships were launched in 2015-16, they are higher education courses which combine working with part-time study; courses can be taken at degree level or masters level and courses take between three to six years to complete. Apprentices are employed throughout the course.

Degree apprenticeship programmes are developed by employers working in partnership with universities, and professional bodies.

13,587 people started a degree apprenticeship in England 2018-19. The number has grown rapidly since they were introduced. Among 2018-19 starters 43% were female, 57% were male and the majority (62%) were aged 25 or older.

The large majority of degree apprenticeships are supported by the apprenticeship levy. Most degree apprenticeships (71% in 2018‑19) are at level 6 (undergraduate level). Two-thirds of people starting degree apprenticeships in 2018-19 had already been with their employer for more than 12 months.

Almost half of degree apprenticeship starts in 2018-19 were in business, administration and law.

Degree apprenticeships have a number of advantages over a standard degree: students benefit by getting a degree without debt, earning while learning and gaining relevant work experience. Higher education institutions benefit by gaining a new income stream which also enables them to widen access to higher education and meet their participation goals. Employers benefit from co-designing courses to meet their needs and by the creation of a pool of work ready future employees.

There are however some issues with these degrees such as the claim that employers are not creating new schemes but are simply re-badging their graduate schemes and critics also say that these apprenticeships are taking funding away from lower level apprenticeships.

After an apparent initial reluctance universities are now onboard with degree apprenticeships and Universities UK is an “enthusiastic supporter” of these degrees. As a result the number of these courses is growing rapidly.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8741

Authors: Susan Hubble; Paul Bolton

Topics: Higher education, Students, Training

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