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Degree apprenticeships: realising opportunities

Launched in 2015, degree apprenticeships are a new and exciting opportunity to develop employer-focused higher education in England. They can play a role in meeting employers' skills needs, boosting local graduate retention and local growth, and increasing social mobility. From a low base, there is set to be significant growth over the next few years. 

This report sets out the findings of an extensive survey conducted by UUK, with support from HEFCE, into universities' uptake of and views on degree apprenticeships – their benefits, challenges, and what needs to be done to ensure their continued development and future success. 

The survey and report build on our March 2016 report The future growth of degree apprenticeships, an assessment of university engagement with the very early stages of the development of degree apprenticeships. 

Benefits of degree apprenticeships 

  • Universities have a clear and positive perception of degree apprenticeships, and the more they engage with degree apprenticeships the more they appreciate the benefits.

  • Degree apprenticeships are a way to complement current business engagement activities. Institutions value the opportunity to create closer links with employers, strengthen existing relationships and build new collaborations.

  • Degree apprenticeships could attract students that wouldn't have gone into traditional university programmes, helping institutions reach widening participation and social mobility goals.

  • Degree apprenticeships are a way to ensure higher education provision meets employers' needs.

  • Implementing degree apprenticeships allows universities to access a new income stream.

  • Thanks to relationships between institutions and local employers, degree apprenticeships have the potential to promote local growth and development, and increase talent retention.

  • Many universities are working closely with other training providers supporting the development of new education partnerships.


To ensure the success of degree apprenticeships, universities, government and higher  education sector bodies should work closely together. 

Universities should:

  • build a strong case internally for degree apprenticeships, and secure the support of all relevant academic and support staff

  • continue to explain and promote degree apprenticeships to employers, building on initial success

  • use their extensive links with employers to support the development of degree apprenticeships

  • consider working in partnerships with further education colleges both in the delivery and in administration of degree apprenticeships

  • work with careers services and leaders in schools to promote degree apprenticeships 

Government should:

  • continue and increase efforts to publicise and raise understanding of degree apprenticeships

  • ensure employers are made fully aware of the availability of degree apprenticeships through the National Apprenticeship Service, by integrating degree apprenticeships into the apprenticeship offer and ensure that they are also integrated into local apprenticeship hubs

  • encourage and develop careers advice and guidance across the education sector to promote degree apprenticeships 

The Institute for Apprenticeships should:

  • ensure the apprenticeship system enables universities to deliver the degree apprenticeships employers demand

  • make greater progress in developing a system that works for all providers and ensure higher education providers are as engaged, involved and supported as all other providers

  • work towards streamlining the development of new standards, ensuring appropriate guidance for trailblazer groups on implementing and delivering degree apprenticeships

  • work with the sector to ensure that appropriate and relevant data is collected on degree apprentices, building on the extensive data that is already collected in the higher education sector 

The higher education sector should:

  • encourage employers to engage with universities at the early stages of degree apprenticeship standard development

  • work with Skills Funding Agency and Institute for Apprenticeships to develop processes that are relevant to providers of all types, and increase mutual understanding


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