University leaders have been criticised for using the apprenticeship levy to let senior management take “free MBAs” offered by the institution.
The University of Sheffield is offering its heads of department, faculty directors and department managers the chance to take a senior leadership apprenticeship that leads to an MSc or MBA and which is delivered by the university’s own management school.
A spokesman for the Sheffield branch of the University and College Union told the Times Higher Education: “The money should be spent on furthering opportunities for the wider community, not on developing the CVs of the university’s highest-paid staff.”
Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 there has been a rise in the number of older apprentices taking higher and degree level apprenticeships. At the same time, there has been a decline in the number of younger apprentices taking level 2 and 3 courses.
'The spirit of apprenticeships is being flouted'
In May, a survey of more than 100 universities on the government's register of apprenticeship training providers by Tes reported that dozens of universities planned to launch MBA apprenticeship programmes this year.
The practice drew criticism from many, including Jon Richards, head of education at the union Unison, who said “the spirit of apprenticeships is being flouted” by companies using government money to fund MBAs for staff who already have degrees.
A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “We currently employ 50 apprentices across a variety of roles including business administration, human resources, public relations, as well as university technicians.
“The senior leadership apprenticeship cohort – which forms part of our commitment to renew, broaden and enhance the university’s leadership and management development offering – will take approximately 20 members of staff from January 2019. We are continuing to recruit apprentices in other roles across the university, as well as supporting the development of our existing members of staff who want to undertake apprenticeships.”