New research reveals the true impacts of Degree Apprenticeships

Degree Apprenticeships are helping to “level up” opportunities and contributing to greater productivity, according to findings of new research.

Suited man seated at a table

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Raheel Nawaz has led the review on the impact of Degree Apprenticeships.

Degree apprenticeships allow people to climb up the ladder of opportunity in the world of higher education and gain in-demand skills which will lead to a rewarding career. They combine the best of vocational and academic learning, allowing apprentices to earn while they learn and delivering the skills that businesses need.

Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships

The research is the subject of new academic paper titled Impact of Degree Apprenticeships: Analysis, Insights and Policy Recommendations, published in the academic journal Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy.

Led by Staffordshire University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Raheel Nawaz with co-authors from Manchester Metropolitan, the paper reports on the findings of the first critical and systematic review on the impact of Degree Apprenticeships which were launched in 2015 to address skills gaps.

Professor Nawaz said: “Although more than 85 higher education institutions are now delivering programmes to over 82,000 students in the UK, the majority of these programmes have developed organically without systematic analysis of relevant pedagogies and their impact on social mobility and productivity – two areas where the government wants to see improvement.

“In our research, we collate, interrogate, and analyse the findings of currently available research on the impact of Degree Apprenticeships, especially in terms of productivity and social mobility. Capturing the experiences of the three key stakeholders - employers, apprentices, and education providers - we create a meta-repository of over 4,000 data points - the biggest collection of data on the impact of DA known to date. We then conduct extensive statistical and qualitative analyses to determine if Degree Apprenticeships are achieving their aims and contributing towards productivity and social mobility.”

Professor Nawaz explained that the results indicate strong evidence that Degree Apprenticeships are meeting their aim and are positively contributing to improving social mobility and productivity, which is key to levelling up. However, the study also reveals the limitations of the current impact research into Degree Apprenticeships, i.e., lack of reliable, peer-reviewed, broad-based evidence. Nevertheless, this research provides statistically robust evidence for stakeholders and policymakers for moving forward with the Degree Apprenticeship agenda.

Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships Robert Halfon said: “As we begin National Apprenticeship Week, this research demonstrates the immeasurable benefits that a degree apprenticeship can provide.

“Degree apprenticeships allow people to climb up the ladder of opportunity in the world of higher education and gain in-demand skills which will lead to a rewarding career. They combine the best of vocational and academic learning, allowing apprentices to earn while they learn and delivering the skills that businesses need.

“We’ve seen the popularity of degree-level apprenticeships grow and grow with over 148,000 starts since their introduction in 2014/15 and I hope that this research highlights the need for universities and higher education providers to do more to increase take-up and achieve parity of esteem with the traditional university route.”

Professor Nawaz added that the new findings supported views expressed by the Minister that Degree Apprentices provide “a ladder of opportunity for all young people.” However, he is now calling on government, IfATE, UCAS, and UUK to work together to shape the future of Degree Apprenticeships.

Professor Nawaz added: “Stakeholders must work together to set strategic goals, and these must include policies and guidelines for recruitment of apprentices from under-represented geographies and demographics with a focus on equity of opportunity.

“Having determined that we are on the right trajectory, much more effort needs to be put in to raise the profile and prestige of Degree Apprenticeships and make them a universally accessible attractive proposition and a respected alternative route to higher qualifications, talent development and career progression.”

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