Event details

Degree Apprenticeships: What does research tell us already?

Wednesday, 09 May 2018

Degree Apprenticeships: What does research tell us already?

The government has set an ambitious target for apprenticeships in England and at the same time the apprenticeship levy is encouraging many employers, including universities, to consider offering apprenticeships for the first time. Degree Apprenticeships constitute one strand of this policy, which this seminar will examine in relation to social mobility; from the perspective of employers; and in relation to the balance of vocational and higher education in these degrees. Although apprenticeships have hitherto not been directly associated with this level of training or education, many occupational degrees such as medicine and architecture follow a recognisably apprenticeship-style path. The three presentations in this seminar will inform a discussion of what, if anything, degree apprenticeships offer that is new and valuable for students, employers and universities.



Employer Perspectives on the Value of Degree Apprenticeships

Valerie Antcliff, Manchester Metropolitan University

Degree Apprenticeships mark a departure from the dominant bachelor’s degree model.   They recast the employer as the purchaser of higher education and afford businesses a key role in developing higher education provision tailored to their needs, in the expectation that this will address skill shortages and drive forward economic growth.   However, the success of degree apprenticeships depends on the willingness of employers to participate.    I will draw on a practitioner case study to offer an early insight into employer experiences and expectations of degree apprenticeships.  While the opportunity to tailor training provision is highly valued, strong relationships, trust and ongoing dialogue between universities and employers emerge as a key component in fulfilling the need of employers.


Degree Apprenticeships and the challenges and opportunities for social mobility

Alison Fuller, UCL Institute of Education

Apprenticeship can be conceived as a model of learning for occupational expertise, but how far could and should apprenticeship programmes take individuals along this pathway? Conventionally, apprenticeships offered as part of vocational education and training systems have been associated with intermediate level occupations. This involves apprentices gaining the knowledge, competence and understanding that enable them to operate autonomously at a skilled level. Their achievement being evidenced through successful completion of a substantial and lengthy period of education, training and workplace learning and through the attainment of a licence to practise, or recognised credentials and qualifications at Level 3, 4 or 5.  Notwithstanding that apprenticeship as a model of learning underpins development for graduate professions such as medicine and the law, the introduction of degree level apprenticeships as a specific and formal kind of provision extends the approach to a wider range and higher level of occupations.  In this presentation, I consider the pros and cons of this initiative. I draw in particular on a recent report that I co-authored with Lorna Unwin for the Sutton Trust in which we identify and discuss the implications for social mobility of current government apprenticeship policy including degree apprenticeships.


Degree apprenticeships: higher vocational and/or vocational higher education?

Jim Hordern and Dan Bishop, Bath Spa University

This presentation will discuss degree apprenticeships in the context of the uneasy relation between vocational and higher education in England. Drawing on research into the development of degree apprenticeships in construction and aerospace engineering, we outline issues that illustrate tensions between the logics of vocational and higher education and demonstrate the challenges of developing such programmes in a marketised and historically voluntarist skill formation system.  


Speaker biographies


Valerie Antcliff is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Decent Work and Productivity at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.   She has many years experience in both teaching and research in the field of employment relations.  Her research for the ESRC, ACAS, the TUC and The Department for Trade and Industry has been published in leading journals including the British Journal of Industrial Relations, Human Relations and New Technology Work and Employment.

 Currently she is involved in a number of research initiatives at Manchester Metropolitan University to explore policy and practice in relation to degree apprenticeships, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of employers.


Alison Fuller is Professor of Vocational Education and Work, and Pro-Director (Research and Development at UCL Institute of Education. She has been researching, and publishing in the field of workplace learning, education – work transitions, apprenticeship, vocational education and training (VET), for over 25 years.  Alison is a project leader in the ESRC Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) researching employee-driven innovation in the healthcare sector, and is currently undertaking comparative international research for Cedefop on adult apprentices.  She has just completed a report for the Sutton Trust (with Lorna Unwin) focusing on apprenticeship quality and implications for social mobility. Alison is also a member of the UK’s All Parliamentary Skills Commission and is on the Board of Trustees for SEMTA.


Jim Hordern is a senior lecturer in Education Studies at Bath Spa University. His research interests are in educational knowledge and practice, particularly in higher, professional and vocational education. Recent work has focused on teacher education reforms, comparative studies of knowledge traditions, and the knowledge-practice relation.


Dan Bishop is a Lecturer in Employment Studies at the University of Leicester. Previously, he was a Lecturer at the Bath Spa Institute for Education, and a researcher at the Universities of Leicester and Cardiff. He also spent some time as a teacher in further education. His academic interests lie mainly in the area of workplace learning, vocational training and lifelong learning, and he has conducted and published the findings of research in these areas. In particular, he is interested in how the conditions, processes and relationships of working life shape the ways in which individuals learn (and what they learn) at and through work. 


Network: Post-Compulsory and Higher Education
Date(s): Wednesday, 09 May 2018
Times: 12:15 - 16:00
Signup Deadline: Tuesday, 08 May 2018
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier St, London N1 9BE
Lunch Provided: Yes
Spaces Left: Places available
Prices: Members: Free, Guests: £60.00
Worldwise news
Suicide prevention: research underway
30th March 2018
Call for Submissions: Teaching in Higher Education
Theories and theoretical concepts in the higher education research process
Call for papers: 15th Apr
Student being and becoming in the future university
Deadline May 1st 2018
SRHE Newer Researchers International Online Webinar Series 2018
Deadline 16th March 2018
25th Forum for Access and Continuing Education Annual Conference 2018
4-6th July 2018
Student being and becoming in the future university
Call for papers 01.05.18
Call for papers: Higher Education Research & Development
The 13th annual conference of the German Society for Research in Higher Edu
12th-13th April 2018.
Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
February 28th 2018.
SRHE membership benefits:
Engagement with
the global higher education research community…