Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK

Moves to downgrade degree apprenticeships could undermine the development of the skills necessary for the UK economy to be successful in future, warn university leaders.

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) is considering removing the degree element from the Digital & Technology Solutions Professional (DTSP) Degree Apprenticeship currently offered by employers and universities in many parts of the country. This degree apprenticeship is helping to meet critical demand for digital skills from employers, and the award of a degree is important to apprentices because it gives them the same status in the jobs market as graduates.

The IfA is also considering lowering the funding band for universities for some degree apprenticeships including the DTSP, below the actual cost to universities of delivering these courses. This has already taken place with Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships and could happen to others, meaning universities cannot continue to provide the support and teaching to maintain degree standards.

Universities UK, the collective voice for universities, is today launching a project to map out the future vision for degree apprenticeships, and to make recommendations for enhancing their development and delivery.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, is warning that removing the degree element from these apprenticeships will make them less attractive to potential applicants and employers: “Many universities want to be able to expand the range of their degree apprenticeships. Instead of looking to remove the degree element from these qualifications and limiting their appeal, their growth should be encouraged. The IfA should respect demand from employers and applicants for the degree to remain part of these apprenticeships.

“The degree element gives degree apprentices parity with other university students, it is a big attraction to applicants and a mark of quality. We need a workforce with strong digital skills if the government’s ambitions for digital clusters and its industrial strategy are to be realised.”

Bob Clift, Director of Employer Relationships, Tech Partnership Degrees, says degree apprenticeships are important in meeting employers’ skills needs: “Since the first Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship started in 2015 employer investment in them, across all sectors, has grown substantially and they are now integrated into their recruitment programmes. This degree apprenticeship is helping employers address critical digital skills needs and is having a positive impact on skills retention, career progression, social mobility and equity. Removing the degree from this apprenticeship will lead to a reduction in numbers and negatively impact the benefits employers have realised.”

The IfA’s consultation on the future of Digital Technology Solutions Professional (DTSP) Degree Apprenticeship can be found here: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/developing-new-apprenticeships/apprenticeship-standard-reviews/

The IfA’s recommendations on funding bands can be found here: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/news-events/funding-band-review/

By 2030, it is estimated that there will be a UK talent deficit of between 600,000 to 1.2 million workers for both our financial and business sector, and technology, media and telecommunications sector. For more information on how universities are essential to the nation’s future economic prosperity, please read the recent UUK report: ‘Solving future skills challenges’

The Office for Students (OfS) estimates there are currently 515 Digital Technology Solutions Professional (DTSP) Degree Apprenticeships and 595 Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships. The OfS has also argued for the inclusion of the degree element to meet student need.

Universities UK is running a full-day seminar on 26 February 2019 on the current challenges and opportunities surrounding degree apprenticeships. The Degree apprenticeships in 2019 seminar will put degree apprenticeships under the microscope and discuss funding, exploring the range of subjects offered, and widening access and participation.

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