Home > Policy and analysis > The future of degree apprenticeships in England

The future of degree apprenticeships in England

Universities UK is working with employers and key partners for a new project to ensure degree apprenticeships fully meet employers' skills needs, provide opportunities and contribute to productivity and economic growth.
The future of degree apprenticeships


What are degree apprenticeships?

Degree apprenticeships are a new and exciting form of provision that involve close collaboration between employers and universities, as well as work-based learning supplemented by teaching and learning at university.

Since degree apprenticeships were launched in 2015, over 100 universities in England are now registered to deliver degree apprenticeships. From very small numbers initially, we have seen steady growth in areas such as leadership and management, digital technology and engineering, all areas with significant skills shortages across England. There are an increasing number of standards being developed and introduced especially in the public sector such as teaching, nursing, police and social work.

Degree apprenticeships are meeting skills shortages in key sectors, helping to improve productivity and supporting local economic growth. They also have significant potential to increase social mobility and diversify the talent pool, and where employers have used degree apprenticeships to achieve this, the initial results have been impressive. Employers have told us that they value being able to award a degree as part of an apprenticeship because it makes it more attractive to both employers and apprentices, it is a mark of quality, it reinforces existing relationships with universities and it gives apprentices equal status in the labour market.

Challenges to degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are on the verge of becoming a significant success story, yet significant obstacles and challenges remain. The process of setting up standards has been overly complex and long, and the procurement process for providing degree apprenticeships to smaller, non-levy paying employers has left many 'cold spots' across England where universities are unable to provide them. There are question marks over of the sustainability of the funding model and concerns about the overall level of bureaucracy. There is also considerable hostility to degree apprenticeships from existing providers and many policy-makers with pressure on the inclusion of the degree in an apprenticeship.

Universities UK's work on degree apprenticeships 

Universities UK has considered the initial development of degree apprenticeships in Future growth of degree apprenticeships and then outlined the scale of university commitment and potential for growth in Degree apprenticeships: realising opportunities. It is now time to consider how we can ensure degree apprenticeships reach their true potential to meet employers' skills needs, provide opportunities and contribute to productivity and economic growth.

Universities UK is launching a project on the Future of degree apprenticeships. The project will be advised by a sounding board bringing together universities, employers and key partners, chaired by Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire. We will gather evidence from potential apprentices and their parents, employers and universities, and aim to report in June 2019. 

If you would like further information or would like to share your views, please get in contact with the project leader Greg Wade: Greg.Wade@universitiesuk.ac.uk 

MadeAtUni - Lifesavers


The Nation's Lifesavers - the 100+ ways UK universities are keeping us safe and healthy


Graduates in demand, but skills must match up with jobs

7 November 2018
With regular debates about the value of degrees and whether graduates have the right skills, Greg Wade considers the evidence from employers on graduate recruitment and their actual skills needs.

Challenging the higher Vs further education false divide

8 October 2018
UUK's Director of Policy looks at the need to go beyond the outdated and simplistic distinction between FE and HE. A new piece of research commissioned by Universities UK reinforces this message.



Greg Wade

Greg Wade

Policy Manager
Universities UK