degree level apprenticeships
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Tim Robson, Programme Team Leader for Degree Apprenticeships at Arden University, discusses the longer-term career prospects and benefits of degree level apprenticeships

There are now 200 different types of approved higher and degree level apprenticeships in the UK. The top three sectors being Engineering and Manufacturing, followed by Health and Science Practitioner, Legal, Finance and Accounting.

The benefits of undertaking a higher level or degree level apprenticeship are clear for both the apprentice and the employer. The apprentice is able to gain a qualification which provides them with both the technical and academic skills required to operate at a more senior level within organisations, such as critical thinking and time management. Apprenticeships also provide a viable alternative to full-time degree courses with tuition fees for some programmes now leaving graduates with debts of over £50,000.

As with other apprenticeship standards, higher level and degree apprenticeships link the individual module learning outcomes with the knowledge, skills and behaviours and therefore enable the apprentice to get a deeper understanding of how theoretical concepts and models can be applied in the workplace setting.

For example, the Knowledge competence from the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship requires the apprentice to:

‘Create marketing and sales strategies, segment and target relevant markets and customers (global and local), and understand the need for innovation in product and service design.’

By linking these competencies to a relevant degree module and its assessment requirements, the apprentice is able to gain an understanding of how the marketing concepts work from both a theoretical perspective and, most importantly, how these concepts apply in the context of their workplace and how they can be used to improve business performance.

Benefits of higher level and degree apprenticeships

Employers are also increasingly seeing the benefits of higher level and degree apprenticeships and the impact it can have on their organisation from both a performance and learning and development perspective. Employers with existing apprentices at level 3 are able to offer a clear progression route to a higher qualification and therefore retain employees. For other employers, it enables them to cost-effectively upskill their existing staff or attract talented new employers to fill the identified skills gaps within the organisation. The need to be cost-effective when considering learning and development strategies is particularly important when employers are facing reductions in budgets which can result in a reluctance to allow staff to attend traditional day release courses and cover staff travel costs.

Skills gaps

The skills gaps employers are looking to fill range from sector-specific technical skills to the more generic management skills such as:

  • Ecommerce
  • Commercial awareness
  • Negotiation skills
  • Managing change
  • Business improvement
  • Analytical skills
  • Understanding the impact of the political, economic, social, technological and legal factors on the business and the sector they operate in

The Apprenticeship Standards most suited to filling these generic skills gaps include the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship which includes a BA (Hons) Business qualification and the Senior Leader Level 7 Standard which includes a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) qualification. Both qualifications have grown significantly since their inception with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Institute of Apprenticeships (IFA) reporting the following data on students who have started their course:

Standard 2016/17 starts 2017/18 starts 2018/19 Q1 & Q2 Starts Estimated 2018/19 for Q1-4
Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (Level 6) 580 2310 1830 2745
Senior Leader Level 7 MBA N/A 550 1850 2775


Higher level and degree apprenticeships provide a unique opportunity for both the apprentice and the employer. The apprentice is able to access a qualification which enables then to develop both their technical and critical thinking and analytical skills without taking on the large amount of debt. In this sense, higher level and degree apprenticeships will play a significant role in facilitating the Government’s agenda of Widening Participation (WP) in Higher Education. From an employer’s perspective, these new qualifications provide a cost-effective mechanism for attracting and retaining employees and upskilling existing personnel to ensure that the organisation remains responsive to the challenging demands of its external environment.


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