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University of Bath

Degree Apprenticeships as a Route for Widening Participation Based Access to HE (PhD Project)

A PhD research project examining the role of Degree Apprenticeships in education and training.

About this research

The research considers the development and current structure of Degree Apprenticeships and their potential impact. Degree Apprenticeships, launched in 2015, combine employer embedded training with degree level education. This initiative (included in the Government target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020) potentially offers a credible and welcome alternative to full time higher education, addresses employers’ concerns including ‘not ready for work’ applicants and supports the need for a highly trained workforce to decrease the skills shortages further highlighted by Brexit.

Throughout the launch of the Degree Apprenticeships much has been spoken of regarding their ability to increase participation in higher education from under-represented groups. Therefore, they can be seen as increasing routes into professional employment from socio-economic classes who may not have considered careers in those sectors. However, there is no formal widening participation agenda embedded within the employer led recruitment process or associated policies.

This project had two broad aims. Firstly, to consider the current initiative from a policy formation perspective and how it fits into the wider political socio-economic arena and drive to increase productivity as we move to a knowledge-based economy. Secondly, to consider how the programmes and admissions are structured particularly in relation to encouraging widening participation and determine the weaknesses of the current structure alongside the compelling arguments for engagement by all stakeholders – government, employers, universities, schools and participants. Taking a qualitative approach combining policy document analysis with in-depth interviews with representatives from each stakeholder group involved, this study makes recommendations to policy makers to ensure Degree Apprenticeships have a sustained positive socio-economic impact.

Project team

Jane Mackay, supervised by: