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Degree apprenticeships: What you need to know

Whatever your A-level results, if you want to learn while you earn, a degree apprenticeship could be worth exploring

Much more needs to be done to narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, says the Fair Education Alliance

Whatever your A-level results, if you want to learn while you earn, a degree apprenticeship could be worth exploring

Degree apprenticeships are a new way to get a university degree, learn career-relevant skills, earn money and avoid racking up student debt all at the same time.

Sounding great so far? They offer a very different experience to traditional undergraduate degrees, so here is a guide to help you work out if they are for you.

What is a degree apprenticeship?

  • A degree apprenticeship is a job with training where apprentices earn a university degree.

  • The programmes are developed in a partnership between employers, universities, professional bodies and the Institute for Apprenticeships. These apprenticeship standards are based around 15 occupational routes.

  • Degree apprenticeships combine working with studying part-time at a university. Apprentices are employed throughout the programme, and spend part of their time at university and the rest of their time with their employer.

  • Apprentices will spend 20 per cent of their time on “off-the-job training”. This can be on a day-to-day basis or in blocks of time (for example, one day a week, one week a month) depending on the programme and requirements of the employer. The rest of the time will be spent doing a real job for an employer.

  • Degree apprenticeships take between three and six years to complete, depending on the course level. Currently, the scheme is available only in England and Wales, although applications can be made from all parts of the UK.

  • If you do not get the grades you want on A-level results day, then you may consider a degree apprenticeship as an alternative to the Ucas Clearing process. 

What are the advantages?

  • The biggest advantage is being able to get a degree without the need for a student loan. Degree apprenticeships are funded by the government or the employer depending on where you work.

  • You will “earn while you learn” and be paid at least the minimum wage for apprentices – and potentially a lot more.

  • You will still get student discounts if you apply for an Apprentice Extra Card through the NUS students’ union and, depending on where you live, you may even get travel discounts.

  • An apprentice is entitled to a minimum of 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

  • Currently, employers receive on average 19 applications per apprenticeship vacancy, versus 68 for a graduate vacancy, according to the Institute of Student Employers.

And the drawbacks?

  • It will not be the typical “university experience”. It is a job with a minimum of 30 hours a week at work.

  • You commit to one professional route. If you are unsure whether this is the career you will want to stick to and would like to keep your options open, this may not be the best route for you.

  • It is not the “easy option”. According to Ucas, a degree apprenticeship is just as challenging as a traditional degree, “but has additional pressures of working at the same time”.

  • Apprenticeship standards across some occupational routes are still in development, so you might not be able to take one in the area you want to work in just yet.

What grades do I need?

  • It depends on what apprenticeship you apply for. Some employers have lower requirements than some universities but others will have equally high requirements.

Will I get a job at the end?

  • Again, it very much depends on your employer. While there is not necessarily a guaranteed job at the end of your training, there is a good chance that an employer will want to retain the talent it has fostered. According to Ucas, retention rates for apprentices can exceed 80 per cent.

Where can I find vacancies?

How much will I be paid?

  • As apprenticeships are real jobs, all apprentices earn a salary. You must be paid at least the national minimum apprenticeship wage (currently £3.70 per hour for all apprentices aged 19 or under and any apprentice, regardless of age, in the first year of an apprenticeship).

  • Many employers pay significantly more, however. For example, apprentices working at some larger companies can earn a starting salary of £22,000 a year for business and professional services degree apprenticeships.

Will I get a degree?

  • Yes. A level 6 degree apprenticeship is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree and level 7 is equivalent to a master’s degree.

Will I pay tuition fees?

  • No. The government or your employer will fund your training.

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