People are calling for changes to Degree Apprenticeships

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Over 100 universities are now on board and able to offer degree apprenticeships, including many Russell Group universities

The Engineering Professors’ Council published a report this week, which calls for changes to Degree Apprenticeships.

Degree Apprenticeships have grown in popularity but that university professors claim that that too much emphasis is being placed on tailoring them towards specific "overbearing" employer needs, and that this could risk presenting them as an inferior option to a traditional degree.

Some observers say that the focus should be more balanced, catering for student apprentices’ needs. “Employers may be more concerned about ensuring apprentices are trained for a job, rather than for a career that may take the apprentice to other, perhaps rival, employers,” the report states.

“Moreover, there is a reason that the design of programmes in higher engineering skills has traditionally been the preserve of our universities. As academics, we have decades, even centuries, of expertise in teaching and learning. In the honest desire to ensure the relevance of apprenticeships, we must not overlook what we have learnt about learning.”

Professor Mike Sutcliffe – chair of the EPC’s Degree Apprenticeships working group – that produced the report, said: “The UK has a desperate shortage of engineering skills. Degree apprenticeships could be a game changer in meeting that need and encouraging people from many new and diverse backgrounds into the sector. However, that will only happen if we get them right.

“Degree Apprenticeships are still in their infancy, which is why the EPC feels it’s important to highlight some inconvenient truths while it’s still relatively easy for everyone to get behind a programme of helping them realise the potential.”

Despite the enthusiasm from all ends of the political spectrum, since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, Degree Apprenticeships have been the only type of apprenticeship to fall in number rather than rise.

As reported by FE News, Skills Minister Anne Milton sees the programmes as a challenge to university as the “default” post-school choice for school leavers, and her predecessor Robert Halfon said he wants 50% of students at university enrolled on Degree Apprenticeships. The rest of the main UK political parties are equally keen to see the programmes taken up by school leavers.

Despite the enthusiasm from all ends of the political spectrum, since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, Degree Apprenticeships have been the only type of apprenticeship to fall in number rather than rise.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: “For too long full-time academic degrees have been seen as the only route into a successful career. We want to change that, so we are transforming technical education to put it on a par with our world-class universities.

“You can now gain a degree while getting a salary, training on the job and having your tuition fees paid for you. Degree apprenticeships are available in a wide range of subjects including aerospace engineering, nursing, nuclear science and architecture. They offer those that might not have considered higher education as an option the chance to pursue a career path that is right for them. Degree apprenticeships also appeal to those who want to gain on the job experience whilst also getting a degree.

“Over 100 universities are now on board and able to offer degree apprenticeships, including many Russell Group universities – and we’re excited to see the opportunities they offer as they grow their schemes.

“So make sure you have a look at all the options out there, and choose the route that is right for you and will take you to the future you want!”

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