Degree apprenticeships were first introduced in 2015. At the time they were considered by many as a ‘second choice’ but, seven years on, some are now more competitive than a place at Oxbridge.

Degree apprenticeships offer the unique opportunity to learn on the job, achieve a university degree, and get paid. What is not to love? As a result, competition is fierce. The facts speak for themselves:

  • Recent figures estimate there are now more than 7,000 different types of degree apprenticeship available.
  • In 2019/20, 66,730 students were studying a degree apprenticeship at either Bachelors (Level 6) or Masters (Level 7) level. Whilst there were 1,734,775 undergraduate students commencing a degree course at university the same year.
  • Data published by UCAS in August 2021 shows there were 1.35 million searches for degree and higher apprenticeships in the previous 12 months, resulting in 225,000 job applications, up from 181,000 in 2019.
  • The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has published The Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships (2020/21) revealed that around 87 universities now offer higher and degree apprenticeships.

Examples of some of the most competitive

You don’t need to search too hard to find some very attractive degree apprenticeships offering some wonderful opportunities. Here are just a sample that really stand out:

BBC Business Management Degree Apprenticeship

This is an opportunity for you to work at the heart of BBC operations, learning to coordinate, support and manage the commercial side of the business. In return you will get a recognised degree awarded by the University of Cumbria, along with an apprenticeship qualification awarded by The Institute of Apprenticeships & Technical Education. An offer of a role in one of the BBC’s professional business management and administrative teams, with a starting salary of £25,927 or more, and the chance to seek new challenges and work in different areas of the BBC.

PWC Technology Degree Apprenticeship

PWC are offering the chance to start developing your career as a tech specialist straight away. You’ll spend most of your time working with world-class clients as part of their highly skilled team in the Manchester Technology Centre, building your network and enhancing your skills. In addition to this, for every few weeks you spend in the workplace, you’ll spend one week at college, studying towards a degree apprenticeship BSc in Digital and Technology Solutions.

CILex Law School Solicitor Degree Apprenticeship

This unique Solicitor degree apprenticeship is designed for those looking for a stimulating law degree combined with work-based learning. It is open to those who are either new to legal practice or looking to upscale their skills. This degree apprenticeship will provide an in-depth understanding of the practice of law in a working environment, and the knowledge and skills to become a fully qualified solicitor.

Jaguar Land Rover Degree Apprenticeship

Jaguar offer a range of degree apprenticeships in digital and technology solutions, applied professional engineering, supply chain and logistics, and finance. With all of them you’ll get to work on projects that are fundamental to their global success. You’ll enjoy hands-on experience and work towards recognised, in-demand qualifications

Healthcare Science Practitioner

Healthcare Science Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship was developed by Manchester Metropolitan University together with private and public sector specialists and offers a blend of academic theory with practical clinical skills. The course is ideal if you want to work in healthcare as you can specialise in cardiac physiology, neurophysiology, respiratory systems and sleep physiology. 

But things don’t just stop there. Once you begin searching, I have no doubt you too will find a whole range of exciting, new initiatives offered by both universities and leading companies.

The University of Central Lancashire has an A-Z of degree apprenticeships and was the first in the country to have students complete and graduate from their Social Work degree  apprenticeship. The three-year course enabled students to be released from work to study one day a week, and was designed in partnership with social work employers, service users and carers to upskill home grown talent. You can find more information here:

The University of Birmingham have recently advertised fordegree apprentices for a BSc in Computer Science with Digital Technology. This is a four-year programme and opportunities have been available with both Vodafone and PwC. 

Goldman Sachs is introducing training apprenticeships in London for the first-time next year, to boost social mobility across the UK’s financial sector. The apprenticeship is aimed at giving students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to earn a degree while working towards a career on the trading floor. You can find more information here: 

AstraZeneca offers a four-year apprenticeship, where you will have the opportunity to learn how scientific research is carried out in an industry setting; produce meaningful data to guide early-stage drug discovery and contribute to developments of new medicines. 

What’s next for degree apprenticeships? 

Michelle Donelan, The Minister of State for Higher and Further Education announced in September 2021 she was “genuinely looking at financial incentives to encourage universities to offer more places”. She said the number of degree apprentices had increased 8% since the pandemic began – and were now available at almost 90 universities – but the figures were “not good enough”. “I want every university to be holding degree apprenticeships,” she continued. Ms Donelan said she was pursuing the recommendations by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which backed reducing bureaucracy and obtaining a ‘clear brand’ for the qualifications. All of this is clearly helping to raise the profile and increase the number of high-quality degree apprenticeships available.  

Hints and tips for applying 

Applying for an apprenticeship is not all that different from applying for a job. There are many different places where they can be advertised, and no time of year at which you must apply. As a result, vacancies will not necessarily be advertised in the autumn, and if you are a Year 13 student you may even have to wait until the new year to apply to certain companies. 

Remember there is nothing to stop you applying to university via UCAS and applying for a degree apprenticeship at the same time. It is also worth knowing you can enrol onto a degree apprenticeship programme even if you already have a degree if it is in an unrelated subject. 

The final word

Degree apprenticeships are not for everyone. They are undoubtably a lot more competitive than opting for a lower-level apprenticeship or an undergraduate degree. This is because there are not as many places, and they continue to attract highly motivated individuals with good, if not exceptional, A level results.

If you do succeed in securing a place, you will need to show that you have a mature attitude, are confident and not scared of hard work. These qualities will be essential whilst working alongside experienced older colleagues. Finally, there is no doubt that students who have gone through the degree apprenticeship route have the potential to match and even exceed some graduates in their knowledge and experience of the workplace which will make them very attractive to any future employer.

Some useful websites