Call degree apprenticeships 'career degrees', leading head urges

Lord Baker also said that he 'rather liked' the term 'career degrees' instead of 'degree apprenticeships'

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Renaming degree apprenticeships as career degrees would help to improve students' and parents' perceptions of the programme, according to Julian Thomas, master of Wellington College. 

Speaking today at the independent school's The Third Way conference in London, Mr Thomas said that rebranding degree apprenticeships would "update" people's understanding of the programme from an "old style of apprenticeship" to a genuine alternative to an undergraduate degree. 

He said: "At the moment students who gain a place at top universities will, by and large, take that place because not to do so is to place themselves at a competitive disadvantage later. At least that is their perception, and their perception is their reality."

Mr Thomas added: "So what needs to happen next? The first thing I would say is rebrand. The word apprenticeship does not resonate in the same way with students, and just as importantly it doesn't resonate with their parents. They still have an outdated view of the old style of apprenticeship. And I personally would drop the word altogether. I'd call them career degrees."

Former education secretary Lord Baker, also speaking at the event, said that he "rather liked" the term 'career degrees'. "Degree apprentices I strongly support," he said. "I rather like the name 'career degrees' rather than that – but the government, I'm sure, are going to call them [degree apprenticeships].

However Euan Blair, CEO and founder of apprenticeship provider WhiteHat, said that he believed dropping the word 'apprenticeship' might take something away from the qualifications.

Speaking to Tes, Mr Blair said: "[Degree apprenticeships] need some sort of rebranding...[but] I think if you drop the word apprenticeship entirely you perhaps lose something.

"The fact they managed to make it work in Switzerland, Germany [and] Austria as an apprenticeship – the word doesn't terrify me that much. It might just take a little bit more reeducation."

'I'm desperate for degree apprenticeships to succeed'

Earlier in the conference, Mr Thomas said that he had faced "something of a backlash" after he wrote in Tes last year that said many people had "never heard" of degree apprenticeships. However he maintained that in his experience the programme had "barely registered" with students and parents.

"I would say that in many of our schools, and in many of our students, degree apprenticeships have barely registered," he said. "And I made that statement in a Tes article...I think it was October. And my goodness it created something of a backlash, particularly from those involved in apprenticeship schemes, who said I was wrong and that it was well known [and] that students were aware [of the programme]...[but] it's not my experience, and it sounds as though it's not your experience."

He added: "What I want government officials to know is that I come from a position...I'm not against degree apprenticeships, which I think they thought I was – I'm actually desperate for them to succeed."

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