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A degree apprenticeship is a vocational and practical qualification that results in students receiving a high-class degree and three years of real life, real workplace training. 

Degree apprenticeships – why did the government introduce them?

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 to sift through the thousands of applicants they will have. But the cost of a well-balanced education at almost any university in the UK is high, with many students leaving university with debt of around £40,000 + living costs. Until 2015, there was no way to get a degree minus the debt, but the government has realised that the cost is a serious barrier for many young people.

There is also a greater need for more practical qualifications to be taught by the organisations and the businesses who understand what training, skills, and insights they want their employees to have. 

The solution they came up with was a degree apprenticeship (DA). The cost is nothing, yes nothing, and from what we hear from young degree apprentices, all the other boxes are ticked too. 

Why do one?

Doing a degree apprenticeship will give you:

  • A deep and specific knowledge of the industry and sector in which you are working.
  • A wide range of skills, many appropriate to sustain a long-term career.
  • The opportunity to live away from home, if you chose to.
  • Time to grow up as no employer has time to spend on coping with hangovers and tardy employees. Employers have high expectations. 
  • Opportunities to make friends, cultivate a network and find individuals who might become a mentor or help later on.
  • Generally, a job and a degree at the end of the course.

Degree apprenticeships – is it as good as a degree?

To help reassure parents, we can report that DAs are as rigorous as a traditional degree. In fact, these are degrees with 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 a job. Learning how to solve business problems and communication are essential transferable skills that can be utilised in any business later on, making any student far more attractive as an employee.  

The application process

For many Das, the application process is rigorous. Apart from needing excellent A level results, students will need to set aside a lot of time and effort to ensure they get a good chance of being accepted.

Stage 1 -  an online application: a CV, a job application covering letter and some basic, personal Q & As.

Stage 2 -  possibly a video or telephone interview

Stage 3 -  live assessment - held at an assessment centre it will be a busy day, with lots of other applicants .

Stage 4 -  hopefully, a job offer.

There are still only a fraction of the proposed number of DAs on the market. Some companies will only offer two to 10 places each year and, as they will have hundreds of applications and CVs to choose from, expect the process to be highly competitive. 

Who delivers them?

All DAs are created by businesses in partnership with an academic institution, which acts 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 programmes and their providers are accredited by a national body, which oversees DAs specifically. 

At the end of the course, many students are likely to remain with the organisation they have trained with and can advance in the job quickly, thanks to having acquired the specific skills, both practical and theoretical, combined with an understanding of how real life works that the organisation requires. 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 per cent versus 38 per cent. Other large businesses tell us that the appeal and success of DAs mean they are starting to invest less in graduate training programmes in the future and put more funding into their degree apprenticeship (and apprenticeship) schemes.

Are they right for everyone?

No. 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 there are a few management training programmes on offer. We have also heard that Queen Mary's University is considering a social change DA and Manchester Metropolitan University is providing a DA in Fashion buying.

What do the students think of it?

The degree apprentices that we have met are all delighted with their choices and suggest that they have advanced straight to GO! by being tuition debt free, having a degree, real skills and in the longer term a job. We suspect their parents are too! 

Overseas students

DAs are only available to students who are entitled to work in the UK. So overseas students who do not have an eligible work visa cannot apply.

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