For the last thirty years, a degree has been viewed as being virtually the only pathway to a high-level level managerial career. In fact, many employers demand a 2.1 or above before they will even consider looking at a CV, essentially creating an internal triage system.
The cost of a well-balanced education, at almost any university in the UK, is high with many students leaving with a degree but also a student debt of approximately £40,000 plus living costs.
What does your money buy?
- A high-class degree (generally in a non-vocational subject)
- A deep knowledge in an academic field
- The ability to think critically, construct an argument and debate
- An opportunity to live away from home
- Time to grow up
- Opportunities to make new friends and diverse your network
- Finally, the chance of NOT having a job at the end.
Is there any other way to get a degree minus the debt?
Until 2015, the answer was there were not any other ways of getting a degree. But the government have realised that not only is the cost of a degree a serious barrier for many young people there is also a greater need for more practical qualifications taught by the organisations and businesses who understand what training, skills and insights they want their employees to have.
This alternative is called a Degree Apprenticeship; a vocational and practical qualification that results in students receiving a high-class degree and three years of real life, real workplace training.
The cost is nothing, yes nothing and from what we hear from young Degree Apprentices all the other boxes are also ticked.
As an example of one Degree Apprenticeship course Aspidistra Software (one of the first companies to embrace DAs) in partnership with Exeter University is providing DAs for Programmers, Project managers and Sales /Account managers. At present this course is looking for ‘’ambitious and talented candidates with (or predicted) AAB or equivalent at A-level’’. Candidates must also have strong analytical skills and be mathematically sound. As with any job application previous work experience, helps plus an interest in a long-term career in the world of software is probably a good idea!
To help reassure parents, DAs, are as rigorous as a traditional degree but come with a few added bonuses such as learning how to manage and communicate with clients, if relevant, to write code and be trained in reporting and management of all aspects of the job. Solving business problems and communication are both essential and transferable skills that can be utilised in any business later on making any student far more attractive as an employee.
All DAs are created by businesses in partnership with an academic institution who act as the degree provider. The course content has to conform to a National Standard which will have been written with the cooperation of at least ten other businesses working in the same field, ensuring that the degree has depth and is recognised and valued by others. All programs and their providers are accredited by a National body who oversee DAs specifically.
British Telecom report that the retention rate for Apprentices within their business is much higher than for those coming into the business via their graduate scheme: 93% versus 38%. Other large organisations are suggesting that the appeal and success of DAs will mean that they invest less in graduate training programs.
Living away from home and learning to be independent is for many an important part of being an undergrad as Aspidistra is based in the picturesque Devon seaside town of Kingsbridge. Four years spent there would be idyllic and being so close to the sea would also make it very easy to take up a new hobby such as learning to sail or windsurfing. Exeter is only 50 minutes away so reverting to student life where the warm welcome of the library is always an option!
At the end of the course, many students are likely to remain with the organisation they have trained with and can advance quickly thanks to their skills both practical and theoretical combined with an understanding of how real life works.
We should point out that DAs are not necessarily right for everyone. Applicants have to be motivated and prepared to put in the hours as they are usually expected to work a full week and study in their spare time. At present, the courses offered are mostly connected to technical jobs although we have heard that Queen Mary's University is considering a social change DA.
The Degree Apprentices that we have met are all delighted with their choice and suggest that they have advanced straight to GO! by being tuition debt free, having a degree plus real skills and a job.