A relatively new - and growing - development for vocational higher education in England, degree apprenticeships are designed to propel students into the world of work and fill high-level skills gaps by tailoring learning to specific business needs

A degree apprenticeship combines full-time paid work and part-time university study to offer candidates the opportunity to gain a full Bachelors or Masters degree while partaking in practical, on-the-job training.

Degree apprenticeships are created by partnerships between employers and universities or colleges. They were launched by the government in 2015, and are studied over the course of one to six years.

Candidates study using whichever flexible study method suits their employer's needs - whether that's distance learning, blended learning or block mode learning (where the apprentice takes a period of full-time study away from their full-time work).

The qualification is similar to the higher apprenticeship, and degree apprentices hold full-time employment status rather than student status. However, while higher apprentices have the option to gain a Bachelors-level qualification, university study is mandatory in degree apprenticeships.

As well as holding employment status and receiving a wage throughout the course, an apprentice's tuition fees and training costs are settled between their education institution and employer.

Degree apprenticeships at a glance

  • Gain a Bachelors or Masters qualification
  • Flexible study methods available
  • Between three and six years to complete
  • No tuition fees
  • Opportunities across all sectors

Who is a degree apprenticeship for?

Degree apprenticeships are primarily targeted at 18 to 19-year-old school leavers as an alternative route to gaining a degree, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are deterred from studying a traditional full-time programme by high tuition fees and student debt. However, the qualification is suitable for anyone, including 16 to 18-year-olds and mature students.

The degree apprenticeship is expected to strengthen the 'vocational pathway', and support progression from craft and technical roles into management. This means that programmes are suitable for those who have completed lower-level apprenticeships but wish to advance their career through further study.

If your academic history means that you're not eligible for a degree apprenticeship, you can find out more about intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships at what is an apprenticeship?

You can enrol on a degree apprenticeship if you've already got a degree.

If you're from elsewhere in the UK, you'll need to read about apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

See Should I do a degree or apprenticeship? if you're still unsure of which route to take.

What can I study?

As degree apprenticeships are only available in vocational subjects that require a high level of academia, the range of subjects on offer is narrower than that of traditional apprenticeships. Opportunities are currently available in the following sectors:

  • aerospace engineering
  • aerospace software development
  • automotive engineering
  • business management
  • construction
  • defence
  • digital industries
  • electronic systems engineering
  • financial services
  • life and industrial sciences
  • nuclear
  • nursing
  • power engineering
  • public relations
  • surveying.

Where can I study?

Due to their success, as the scope for degree apprenticeships expands so does the range of universities and employers offering opportunities. The institutions currently offering degree apprenticeships include:

  • Aerospace engineering and Aerospace software development - University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancaster University, University of the West of England (UWE).
  • Architect - University of Portsmouth.
  • Chartered manager - Aston University, University of Chester, Leeds Beckett University, The Open University, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford, University of the West of England (UWE), University of the West of London (UWL).
  • Civil engineering - The University of Exeter and University of Portsmouth.
  • Construction - Anglia Ruskin University, Birmingham City University, University of Derby, Liverpool John Moores University, London Southbank University, Southampton Solent University and UWE.
  • Defence - University of Bristol, University College London (UCL) and Cranfield University.
  • Embedded electrical systems design and development - Aston University and the University of Portsmouth.
  • Digital and technology solutions - Aston University, University of Exeter, University of Greenwich, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Open University, Queen Mary University of London, Sheffield Hallam University, UWE and Winchester University.
  • Healthcare science practitioner - Aston University (Audiology), University of Birmingham, University of Salford, Sheffield Hallam University, UWE, UWL.
  • Life and industrial sciences - University of Greenwich, University of Kent and Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Nuclear - University of Bristol, University of Cumbria and The University of Manchester.
  • Nursing - The Open University.
  • Postgraduate engineer - Aston University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Power engineering - Coventry University.
  • Professional engineering - Aston University (Ordnance, Munitions and Explosives and Nuclear).
  • Project management - University of Portsmouth.
  • Risk management - University of Portsmouth.
  • Senior Leadership - The Open University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Surveying - Birmingham City University, London South Bank University and University of Portsmouth.

Organisations of all sizes can take advantage of degree apprenticeships. There are currently around 1,000 degree apprentices in England, but the government is aiming to grow this number significantly – especially among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Universities UK's 2017 Degree Apprenticeships: Realising Opportunities report discloses that at least 60 universities are implementing or planning to implement degree apprenticeships in 2017.

Some of the most high-profile employers currently involved in the scheme include:

  • Aerospace engineering and Aerospace software development - Airbus, BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.
  • Automotive - BMW Group UK, Toyota Manufacturing UK and Vauxhall Motors.
  • Construction - BAM Construct UK Ltd, E-ON Energy Solutions Ltd and Willmott Dixon Holdings Ltd.
  • Defence - General Dynamics, Raytheon and Serco.
  • Digital and technology solutions - BT, Fujitsu and Network Rail.
  • Electronic systems engineering - ARM, Embecosm and FlexEnable.
  • Financial services - Barclays, HSBC and Santander.
  • Life and industrial sciences - Astra Zeneca, GSK and Pfizer Inc.
  • Nuclear - EDF Energy, Magnox Ltd and Sellafield.
  • Power engineering - Amey, Siemens and SSE.
  • Public relations - Claremont, Golin and KOR Communications Ltd.
  • Surveying - Axis, EC Harris and Faithorn Farrell Timms.

Course structure will vary across universities and employers, as each programme is tailored to suit individual employer needs and delivered in the style of the university's teaching model.

For a full list of employers and higher education institutions currently involved in degree apprenticeships visit GOV.UK, or search for an apprenticeship to see what's on offer.

How much will it cost?

As with other apprenticeships, you won't pay for your training or tuition. With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017, employers whose salary costs exceed £3million per year will pay 0.5% of their wage bill into an apprenticeships fund to cover training and tuition fees. With additional government contributions to the fund it's hoped that, by 2020, organisations across England will be investing £2.5billion into apprenticeships thanks to this levy.

SMEs and organisations whose annual salary costs fall below £3million will receive a significant contribution towards apprenticeship funding from the government - up to 90% of the total cost, with employers paying the remaining 10%.

You'll have to plan ahead to cover your living costs, however, as degree apprentices aren't eligible for student loans. However, you'll receive at least the apprentice National Minimum Wage (NMW) on your course, so you won't be left completely in the dark.

If you're an employer, visit Great Business to find out more about the Apprenticeship Levy.

Will I be guaranteed a job?

No, but even if you aren't offered a permanent role you'll be an employable graduate. You'll have benefited from studying a course that's tailored to industry needs, plus amassed several years of highly relevant work experience. This means you'll have gained critical skills that are valued by employers in your chosen career.

How do I apply?

You can search and apply for degree apprenticeships by through GOV.UK's Find an apprenticeship service. You'll be redirected to wherever your chosen course accepts applications, as some are sorted by employers or universities directly.

If you're looking for opportunities specifically in the digital and technology solutions sector, visit Tech Partnership.

Unlike traditional degrees, there's no fixed cycle for degree apprenticeship applications. The majority of organisations will begin their recruitment processes in January or February for an August or September start date, but larger organisations will start advertising their positions from the previous autumn onwards and smaller enterprises may wait until spring.

Find out more

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