Posted : 7 months ago by Samuel Taylor

The Apprenticeship Workforce Development (AWD) Programme: Helping to Realise the Degree Apprenticeship Growth Opportunity that NO University Should Miss

The Apprenticeship Workforce Development (AWD) Programme: Helping to Realise the Degree Apprenticeship Growth Opportunity that NO University Should Miss

The mood music for universities can seem at times a little depressing. The chorus chant that too many young people go to university is rising in volume. A rebalancing of post-18 education between apprenticeships and technical education, and higher education in favour of the former, often dominates the proposals advanced by policy makers in England. Indeed, there are some significant differences in the broad policy objectives of the three main political parties, that have major implications for higher education (HE) and the apprenticeship and vocational programmes that UVAC champions and supports the sector to deliver. There are also similarities in some areas, support for Apprenticeships as a whole, T levels as a concept, and alternatives to traditional ‘academic’ HE programmes and to a certain extent, the principles of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE). The good news is that from today’s standpoint, and in anticipation of a general election at some point in the next 12-15 months, apprenticeships are and will remain a priority for all political parties.

For now, in HE delivery, there is a significant growth opportunity: higher and degree apprenticeships. Not least of all because the Office for Students (OfS) have recently announced how they aim to allocate the £40M of the Strategic Priority Grant Fund to “grow and build capacity and increase equality of opportunity in Level 6 degree apprenticeships provision” delivered by new and existing HE providers across the 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years. This follows the allocation of £8M to accelerate the growth of degree apprenticeship announced in March this year for existing providers of provision. It is suggested that OfS want to establish their own ‘gold standard’ model for degree apprenticeship providers.

With this growth potential comes the opportunity for providers to take stock of the quality and capacity of delivery as an exercise in identifying key success characteristics and practices that underpin pedagogical practice in higher and degree apprenticeships. This may extend to evidencing a work-integrated learning ‘signature’ pedagogy (Lillis, 2018); approaches that go beyond recognised standards in HE and offer a learning experience, process and practices that are the result of negotiation between apprentice, workplace mentor and tutor supported by a range of opportunities and underpinned by reflection. It is also a time to consider a whole organisation approach to

UVAC is committed to supporting its members and the wider apprenticeship sector to develop and grow higher and degree apprenticeships and to respond to the government’s degree apprenticeship growth calls. Which is why we are providing very practical long-term support through our involvement in the Apprenticeship Workforce Development (AWD) programme. Funded by the Department for Education (DfE), the AWD programme is being delivered by the Education and Training Foundation in partnership with the Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Strategic Development Network (SDN) and University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC).

UVAC would note finally how much apprenticeships enjoy cross party support.  Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP the Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Minister and former Chair of the Education Select Committee delights in describing ‘degree apprenticeship’ as his two favourite words in the English Language.  He has also made clear that he wants ALL universities to offer degree apprenticeships.  The Secretary of State the Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP has similar enthusiasm seeing herself, when she started work, as one of the first degree apprentices.  Meanwhile, Toby Perkins MP Labour’s former Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Lifelong Learning made it clear that “For Labour, apprenticeships are the Gold Standard”. 

Providers of apprenticeships have demonstrated considerable resilience in the past few years. Taken together the scale of public sector apprenticeships and their requirement for higher-level skills (aligned with regulated professional standards) and the importance of routes into higher level occupations and the professions in private sector organisations, created a major opportunity to transform the perception of apprenticeships in England. With this shift has come a greater demand on the professional practice of all those involved in maintaining apprenticeship as an aspirational programme available at all educational and skills levels. There is no doubt that the achievements and prospects of a programme that is no longer seen as “a good choice for other people’s children” and which now provides genuine work-based progression routes are testament to the determination and innovation of our community of practitioners and research across further and higher education. The AWD programme, now developed and in development, is an opportunity to collectively raise, promote and resolve a number of important issues of quality including withdrawals and qualification achievement rates.


 For more information about the current AWD offer, see HERE.

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