Apprenticeships: A gateway to university? Part 1

For some people apprenticeships might not seem like an obvious progression route to university. The traditional entry route to universities in the UK usually involves acquiring A-levels or similar qualifications, such as a Level 3 BTEC Diploma to gain access to an undergraduate course at university. Yet with more alternative routes to university available than ever before, it makes sense that certain types of apprenticeships can now provide a great way of entering higher education.

Not only can apprenticeships provide a stepping stone to a degree course at university, but some can even lead to the awarding of a degree qualification upon completion, as is the case with degree apprenticeships. Our aim with this article, divided into two parts, is to shed further light on how you can gain access to university through an apprenticeship, what sort of criteria you may have to be aware of before applying and the alternative option of degree apprenticeships which may suit some people more than a conventional university experience.

The first thing to bear in mind when looking at apprenticeships as a stepping stone to university is to consider what type of apprenticeship qualification you’ll need. As apprenticeships are available from anywhere between Level 2 and Level 7 on the UK’s National Qualification Framework (NQF), it’s important to find out where your intended apprenticeship programme falls on that particular framework. Normally universities will require qualifications at Level 3 on the NQF as acceptable for course entries, such as A-levels, before any prospective candidate can be admitted to university.

Therefore an apprenticeship available at Level 3, which would normally be classified as an ‘Advanced Apprenticeship’ would likely be needed to gain entry. Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeships are considered to be GCSE equivalent, which means that it would be unlikely for anyone to be admitted to university on the basis of that alone. Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeships are normally considered to be equivalent to 2 A-levels between grades A-C. By contrast, apprenticeships available at Levels 4-6 are usually considered to be university level study, so they might also be considered to be acceptable by admissions officers. However a Level 3 apprenticeship would normally be considered sufficient for entry onto various degree courses.

Another factor that needs to be considered is what type of degree course you aim to apply for upon completing your apprenticeship. It would usually make sense to apply for a degree that relates to what you studied as an apprentice. For example, an IT or Computing apprenticeship completed at Level 3 would make sense if your intention was to progress onto a BSc degree course in Computer Science. A Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Animal Management could potentially be used as entry to an undergraduate degree in Animal Welfare and so on.

Therefore it might not be a good idea to try and apply for courses at university that have little or no relation to what you studied during an apprenticeship, although universities can be flexible when considering applicants with non-traditional qualifications. The important thing is to research your chosen course beforehand to identify the specific requirements stated by each university for their courses and what they expect in terms of any qualifications or work experience you may need. It might also be a good idea to get in contact with the universities that interest you and ask their admissions team about any entry requirements for their courses.

It’s not uncommon for universities to also expect potential applicants to have additional qualifications such as GCSE Maths and English or equivalent. If you do get the opportunity to complete such qualifications as part of your apprenticeship programme, a good thing that come out of getting those qualifications is the stronger likelihood of being accepted into university. GCSE Maths and English at grades A*-C or 4-9 are usually a requirement for most degree courses.

We’re not finished just yet! To find out more about how you can use an apprenticeship to gain access to university, check out Part 2 of our article which can also be accessed via the News section of the ORCA website.