Degree Apprenticeships are a relatively new yet highly exciting opportunity for those seeking an alternative to standard university education. Degree Apprenticeships are perfect for students who know what job they would like to pursue, as they enable students to gain valuable experience in the field while studying and earning a degree equivalent qualification. The interest in degree apprenticeships can be clearly seen with the growing number of apprentices opting for this route. There were over 30,000 new apprenticeships starting in 2019/20, which accounts for 9.4% of all apprenticeship starts. This number has since increased to 14.1% of all apprenticeship starts in 2020/21, showing that this is quickly becoming a popular option.
On July 16th, a consultation was launched by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), with a number of changes to degree apprenticeships. One of the main noticeable changes was relating to how Apprenticeships would be assessed.
The changes will hopefully integrate the End Point Assessment (EPA) with the degree examination in an attempt to create more unity between the two assessment methods. The main appeal of a degree apprenticeship is the ability to learn while you earn and the opportunity to gain experience in your chosen profession. Therefore the degree examination is something that needs to fit in with the course as a whole, and should be tailored to the programme's needs. IfATE will now require higher education institutions to develop tailor made degrees which will be aligned to the apprenticeship standard. Currently, Degree Apprenticeships are offered by a range of universities, including a growing number of Russell Group and high tariff universities. These higher education institutions are known for their ability to work with employers and professionals to create an in-depth programme, made to develop apprentices’ competence in their chosen occupation. In creating these tailor made programmes, apprentices are able to truly thrive in their industry as their education is focused on the skills they require in their future role.
Furthermore, the new proposed changes are aiming to reduce the number of students not completing the course. It has been found that, with the previous non-integrated EPA and degree, some apprentices have left the programme earlier once they have achieved their degree, and do not finish the apprenticeship portion of the degree apprenticeship. Integrating the EPA with the degree is therefore a measure that is being put in place to prevent apprentices leaving the programme early.
At the moment, there is no rule in place to ensure that the end-point assessments are conducted by an external third party assessor. Assessors are dependent on the university, and some universities don’t insist that assessors are from a separate department. While this may help to ease some anxieties apprentices can have during assessments (it is always nice to see a familiar face), this has led to concerns over the validity of the assessment. It is hoped that, in making it compulsory to have an external assessor it will “address the conflicts inherent in integrated degree apprenticeship assessment”.
Overall, these various changes show the constant improvement of the degree apprenticeship programme. The IfATE are listening to higher education institutions and apprentices, and seeing what is and isn’t working well. Ultimately, with these improvements, the degree apprenticeship programme is an even more attractive option to those looking to undertake a degree while working.
It is important to note that these changes have simply been proposed in the Consultation mentioned earlier. This was issued on 16th July 2021, but responses are still being welcomed until midnight 16th September 2021. If you have had any experience with degree apprenticeships or know of anyone who has led a degree apprenticeship or taken part in one, the Institute is looking to hear from you. You can follow the link here to take part in the consultation. This will keep the conversation going and ensure that all changes are well informed before being put into place.