A relatively new - and growing - development for vocational higher education in England, degree apprenticeships combine full-time paid work with free part-time university study
Apprentices are employed on a full-time basis for between one and six years, working at least 30 hours every week and enjoying blocks of practical on-the-job training.
Simultaneously, they study a paid-for Bachelors or Masters degree at a partner university, using whichever flexible study method suits the employer’s needs - such as distance learning, blended learning or block mode learning.
Programmes are co-designed by Tech Partnership employers and higher education institutions to ensure that apprentices graduate with the career-boosting practical skills and academic knowledge their industry needs.
The qualification is similar to the higher apprenticeship; degree apprentices also have full-time employment status rather than student status. However, while work-based higher apprentices have the option to gain a Bachelors-level qualification, university study is central to the degree apprenticeship programme.
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 for 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.
In addition, 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?
What can I study?
Degree apprenticeships are currently available in dozens of areas, and the number is expected to grow. Current options include:
- aerospace engineering
- aerospace software development
- automotive engineering
- digital industries
- electronic systems engineering
- financial services
- life and industrial sciences
- power engineering
- public relations
Degree apprenticeships can be structured in one of two ways: either the employer and partner university co-designs a fully-integrated course of study and on-the-job training; or existing degree programmes are combined with additional vocational training, with a separate test of professional competence sat at the programme’s conclusion.
Which universities are involved?
Some of the most high-profile universities currently involved include:
- Aerospace engineering and Aerospace software development - University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Lancaster University
- Civil engineering - The University of Exeter
- Construction - Anglia Ruskin University, Birmingham City University, University of Derby, Liverpool John Moores University, London Southbank University, Southampton Solent University and University of the West of England
- Defence - University of Bristol, University College London (UCL) and Cranfield University
- Digital industries - Aston University, Exeter University, University of Greenwich, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Portsmouth, Queen Mary University of London, University of the West of England and Winchester University
- 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
- Power engineering - Coventry University
- Surveying - Birmingham City University, London South Bank University and University of Portsmouth
The way that degree apprenticeships are delivered varies, but all courses include blocks of practical on-the-job training and academic study. Each programme is tailored to suit individual employer needs and delivered in the style of the university's teaching model.
Which employers are involved?
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).
Some of the most high-profile employers currently involved 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 industries - 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
- Retail - Morrisons
- Surveying - Axis, EC Harris and Faithorn Farrell Timms.
For a full list of employers and higher education institutions currently involved in degree apprenticeships, visit GOV.UK.
How much will it cost?
As with other apprenticeships, you won't pay any training costs or tuition fees. Under the current funding model, two-thirds of the costs and fees (including external training and assessment) are contributed by the government, up to a capped amount of £18,000 per person. The remaining third is covered by the employer.
You'll obviously have to cover your living costs, but you'll receive at least the apprentice National Minimum Wage (NMW). Degree apprentices aren't eligible for student loans.
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 can employers benefit from degree apprenticeships?
Degree apprenticeships allow employers to:
- develop existing staff by encouraging them to mentor the apprentice
- expand workforce diversity
- fill high-level skills gaps by tailoring learning to their specific business needs
- recruit high-calibre future leaders who are likely to want to remain with the organisation after graduating
- spread new academic, vocational and technological knowledge throughout the workforce.
What's more, the government will pay the employer a completion fee of £2,700 when the apprentice graduates. And, if the company has fewer than 50 employees, the government will also pay an incentive fee of £2,700 for every degree apprenticeship start. On the downside, an apprenticeship levy is coming into place from April 2017 for employers whose overall annual salary costs are more than £3million.
Employers can discover which options are presently available by visiting Great Business, calling the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600 or checking availability with local universities.
How do I apply?
You can search and apply for degree apprenticeships by visiting employer websites, and through:
Some employers may even advertise vacancies via their partner universities. Learn more about applying for an apprenticeship.