Degree apprenticeships: 5 ways they could change

A public consultation on proposed changes aimed at 'strengthening' degree apprenticeships is to begin next week

Kate Parker

Degree apprenticeships: Plans for reform put forward by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Degree apprenticeships will undergo reforms to ensure that they offer the best of training and of higher education, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) said today. 

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event, Jonathan Mitchell, deputy director for standards development at IfATE, set out five proposed changes to degree apprenticeships that would allow them to better support the skills ambitions of apprentices, employers and government.

Since their launch in 2015, degree apprenticeships have grown increasingly popular. Set at level 6 and 7, they combine higher education with on-the-job training. According to the latest data from the Department for Education, in 2020-21 apprenticeships at level 6 and above accounted for 14.1 per cent (22,800) of all apprenticeship starts. In 2019-20, they accounted for 9.4 per cent (30,500) of all starts.

The proposed changes include IfATE providing better guidance on integrating the on- and off-the-job elements of the course, as well as ensuring that learner outcomes reflect the knowledge, skills and behaviours in industry. 

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Mr Mitchell said:”[We want to] really make sure that we get the very best out of the degree apprenticeship model. Degree apprenticeships do occupy a unique and slightly different place in the system, especially in the sense that they are unusual in having the end-point assessment organisation, the awarding body of a mandated qualification and the training provider, often, almost always being the same organisation. That brings a few opportunities that we think we want to make sure that we can make the best of, and a few things that we need to address to make sure that this works as well as possible.

'Getting the best out of degree apprenticeships'

“The changes are relatively technical and we absolutely want to make sure that we recognise as well as possible the role of degrees and graduate play in the labour market entry through this model. 

"We are really clear about how we will develop and improve upon the degree apprenticeship standards, to get that absolutely working as well as possible. And to make sure that we really strengthen the degree apprenticeship model so that it secures the best of being an apprenticeship, which is obviously really important to us, but also, of course, getting the best of higher education.” 

Mr Mitchell said a consultation on the changes would be launched next week. 

Jane Hickie, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: "Integration with on-the-job training is key and would be welcome. All apprenticeships need strong linkages between the on- and off-the-job training as it’s that what makes apprenticeships unique.

"Linking the degree to the EPA [end-point assessment] is also important as it recognises the value of the EPA and stops individuals leaving early without completing the entire apprenticeship by just settling for the degree element." 

The proposed changes in full

  1. Amendment to the mandatory qualifications policy to recognise the currency of degrees, including where there are no specific subject discipline requirements for entry to an occupation.

    IfATE will mandate degrees in apprenticeship standards that will be occupationally specific, only in the case of graduate-entry occupations at level 6 and 7.

    There will be no compulsion on employers to develop a degree apprenticeship if they do not want to.
  2. Degrees within a degree apprenticeship will fully integrate with the on-the-job training and development that apprentices experience.

    This will inform the ways in which degree apprenticeships are developed by trailblazer groups, and IfATE will provide better guidance about how employers and training providers are expected to integrate training delivered on- and off-the-job.
  3. IfATE will require the learning outcomes of any degree mandated in an apprenticeship standard to reflect the requirements of the occupation through alignment with the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the employer-specified occupational standard.

    This will require higher education institutions to develop and validate degrees specifically aligned to the apprenticeship standard.
  4. IfATe will only approve degree apprenticeships where the end-point assessment of occupational competence in a degree apprenticeship will integrate with the final assessment of the degree. 

    This is to ensure that neither the degree nor the apprenticeship can be awarded in isolation from the other, with the EPA serving both. 
  5. IfATE will require the integrated EPA of all degree apprenticeships to include assessment by individuals with appropriate occupational and industry expertise. 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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