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What is a Degree Apprenticeship?

For a long time, people entering the workforce have been faced with two very different choices, two very different potential paths – either going to university to get a degree, or going more directly to the workplace through an apprenticeship. But, there is an alternative that can provide the best of both worlds.

Launched in the UK in September 2015, a degree apprenticeship is similar to a high-level apprenticeship – but the key difference is that they provide all the benefits and on-the-job training of a traditional apprenticeship combined with the opportunity to gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree qualification at the end of it.

Degree apprenticeship courses are often designed in partnership with employers, with the apprentice working part-time there as well as studying part-time at a university or college. Depending on the level of the course, they can take between three and six years to complete – so, potentially longer than a traditional degree, but you have the advantage of working on the job at the same time – and are only currently available in England and Wales.

How does the qualification work?

After combining both academic learning with occupational skills and competence, a degree apprentice will complete an assessment at the end of the programme to determine their ability in both areas.

The courses and assessments are often created by employers, universities and professional bodies coming together to design a fully integrated degree course bespoke to the apprenticeship, or employers can use existing degree programmes to deliver academic knowledge combined with their own test of the apprentice’s on-the-job skills.

Whichever way the degree is achieved, it is awarded by universities and is completely equivalent to those that gain their degree through being a traditional full-time undergraduate.

What are the benefits of degree apprenticeships?

So glad you asked! There are lots of ways that degree apprenticeships benefit both the apprentices themselves as well as the employer providing the qualification:

  • Apprentices are employed and paid a wage throughout the course, making it much more feasible to complete for a lot of people in comparison to a full-time university degree that limits their ability to work.


  • You can gain a full degree, whether it’s a bachelor’s or a master’s, without needing to pay student fees and take on thousands of student debt, which is better financially for the government as well as the individual.


  • The fact that apprentices work on the job as well as studying gives them a massive head start and advantage over those in the classroom full time. They finish their qualification with a much higher level of employability than traditional graduates, and know that they have acquired the specific skills they need to succeed in their chosen career.


  • Many degree apprentices will then become permanent members of staff in the business they’ve trained in, as they show their value and become accustomed to how that business works too. This can help reduce time and resources spent on other kinds of recruitment and produce a pipeline of skilled, loyal employees.


  • This kind of qualification is extremely attractive to high calibre school-leavers who want to earn their degree but in a more work-based environment, enabling your company with a new method to attract top talent.


  • The costs of this type of apprenticeship are co-funded by the government and the employer – so, the burden of the cost is split, and it becomes a much better investment in your company’s future, as you train valuable new members of your team in a much more advanced way.


Where do you start?

Development of, and recruitment for, degree apprenticeships is the responsibility of the employer. Companies can look to organisations like the Open University and other higher education establishments to find what programmes they already offer and how they can work together to produce a degree apprenticeship scheme that’s right for them.

Then, they can start attracting and recruiting top talent to complete the degree apprenticeship. That’s where the expertise of a graduate recruiter like Gradvert comes in handy! We can provide independent expert consultancy and share with you case studies on how to implement and maximise the levy.


Download our guide on how to maximise the Apprenticeship Levy.

If you’d like to find out more about degree apprenticeships, get in touch with Gradvert today.

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