Degree apprenticeships: a missing link in Scotland’s skills system

Scotland is facing a skills gap that could hamper its economic growth and competitiveness, according to a new research by the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC). The study reveals that over a fifth (22%) of the UK’s top 100 universities do not offer degree apprenticeships, a work-based route to higher education that combines academic learning with practical training.

What are degree apprenticeships and why do they matter?

Degree apprenticeships are a relatively new form of education that allow students to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree while working for an employer. They typically last between three and six years and cover a range of subjects, from engineering and digital to health and business.

Degree apprenticeships are beneficial for both students and employers, as they provide:

  • A debt-free alternative to traditional university courses, as tuition fees are paid by the government and the employer
  • A chance to gain valuable work experience and industry-relevant skills
  • A guaranteed job and a competitive salary upon completion
  • A way to address skills shortages and gaps in key sectors of the economy
  • A means to increase diversity and inclusion in higher education and the workforce

How does Scotland compare to the rest of the UK?

The UVAC research analysed the provision of degree apprenticeships across the 100 universities that are traditionally recognised as the top performers in the UK. It found that Scotland has the lowest number of universities offering degree apprenticeships, with only 11 out of 50 (22%) doing so. In contrast, England has 44 out of 50 (88%), Wales has 7 out of 8 (88%), and Northern Ireland has 1 out of 2 (50%).

Degree apprenticeships

The research also looked at the range of subjects and job roles that students can train for through degree apprenticeships. It found that the most common areas are business and administration (48%), health and science (45%), and digital and IT (36%). However, there are significant gaps in other sectors, such as law and legal studies (1%), creative and design (6%), and catering and hospitality (4%).

What are the barriers and challenges to delivering degree apprenticeships in Scotland?

The UVAC report identifies several factors that limit the availability and uptake of degree apprenticeships in Scotland, such as:

  • The lack of a clear and consistent policy framework and funding model for degree apprenticeships, which creates confusion and uncertainty for universities, employers, and students
  • The low awareness and understanding of degree apprenticeships among potential applicants, parents, teachers, and careers advisers, who may not see them as a viable or attractive option
  • The limited engagement and collaboration between universities and employers, who may have different expectations and requirements for degree apprenticeships
  • The rigid and inflexible structure and delivery of degree apprenticeships, which may not suit the needs and preferences of learners and employers, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing nature of work

What are the recommendations and opportunities for improving degree apprenticeships in Scotland?

The UVAC report calls for a more strategic and coordinated approach to developing and delivering degree apprenticeships in Scotland, which involves:

  • Establishing a clear and coherent vision and strategy for degree apprenticeships, aligned with the Scottish Government’s economic and labour market priorities and the Future Skills Action Plan
  • Developing a sustainable and equitable funding model for degree apprenticeships, that supports both universities and employers to invest in skills development
  • Raising the profile and reputation of degree apprenticeships, through effective marketing and communication campaigns, and showcasing success stories and best practices
  • Enhancing the quality and diversity of degree apprenticeships, by expanding the range of subjects and sectors covered, and ensuring they are accessible and inclusive for all learners
  • Fostering a culture of partnership and innovation, by facilitating dialogue and collaboration between universities and employers, and enabling more flexibility and adaptability in the design and delivery of degree apprenticeships

The report concludes that degree apprenticeships have the potential to be a key driver of skills development and economic growth in Scotland, but they require more support and recognition from all stakeholders. It urges the Scottish Government, universities, employers, and other partners to work together to unlock the full potential of degree apprenticeships and ensure they meet the needs and aspirations of learners and employers.

By Axel Piper

Axel Piper is a renowned news writer based in Scotland, known for his insightful coverage of all the trending news stories. With his finger on the pulse of Scotland's ever-changing landscape, Axel brings the latest updates and breaking news to readers across the nation. His extensive knowledge of current affairs, combined with his impeccable research skills, allows him to provide accurate and comprehensive reporting on a wide range of topics. From politics to entertainment, sports to technology, Axel's articles are engaging and informative, keeping readers informed and up to date.

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