The role of degree apprenticeships for social justice in higher education and employment

On 23 January, the Bridge Group held a seminar to improve understanding of the role of degree apprenticeships for social justice and assess the evidence of their impact so far. Our discussion was chaired by Professor Margaret House (Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University) and our expert panellists were: Professor Steven McIntosh (University of Sheffield), Professor Tim Blackman (Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University), Alex Mundy (Graduate Recruitment Manager, Dentons), and Johnny Rich (Chief Executive, Push and Engineering Professors’ Council). Our attendees included leaders and experienced practitioners from across sectors who were committed to sharing information to guide reforms to the qualification.

The huge potential of degree apprenticeships for social equality was made apparent, particularly their capacity to diversify the higher education and employer sectors and disrupt social segregation. For this potential to be fully realised, it was regarded as vital for the government to move away from its narrow social mobility focus to set meaningful social equality objectives for all stakeholders. Without clear policy design and objective-setting, there is a risk that degree apprenticeships will reinforce existing inequality and segregation.

Amongst the policy recommendations derived from the seminar are:

  • Funding. The Institute for Apprenticeships needs to recognise the expertise of higher education institutions in accrediting the degree quality of degree apprenticeships and fund them at a level that ensures a quality equivalent to standard degrees.
  • Careers information, advice, and guidance. Improved careers information, advice and guidance is required in all schools and colleges to increase demand for the qualification amongst school leavers from all social backgrounds. The government has a role to play in ensuring a national standard of delivery and a wide reach.
  • Brokerage. We recommend that UCAS acts as a broker for degree apprenticeships and advertises all available opportunities on a portal that is accessible by all stakeholders, preferably alongside standard degrees.
  • Increasing availability of opportunities. We recommend that the government takes urgent and strategic action to simplify the operating frameworks surrounding degree apprenticeships to speed up the process of introducing more opportunities.

You can read a summary of our discussion and a full list of our recommendations here.