Apprenticeships: A gateway to university? Part 2

So far, we’ve covered how more and more universities are now prepared to accept apprentices onto their courses, as well as some information about the criteria you may have to be aware of before applying. In Part 2 of our article on apprenticeships as a route to university, we cover some of the additional factors that need to be borne in mind when applying to university as a former apprentice. We also briefly cover degree apprenticeships, which can enable you to gain a degree whilst completing an apprenticeship.

The great thing about both apprenticeships and university is that they have no upper age limit, which means that they are open to younger and older adults alike. Even if you may have worked in your chosen field for some years after completing your apprenticeship, that doesn’t have to be a barrier for starting a degree. Indeed it can even prove to be beneficial, as mature students can bring lots of additional knowledge accumulated through work experience, as well as having a more serious approach to their education. Emphasising your previous work experience as well as the skills and knowledge you’ve gained in your course application is likely to present any admissions officer with a portrait of a much more well-rounded individual than someone who’s just finished their A-levels at school.

Whatever age you are, all applications to university have to be made via UCAS, which uses a points system to establish how many UCAS points are needed for entry onto various courses. All Level 3 apprenticeships and A-levels carry UCAS points, whilst higher grades often attract a larger number of these points. It’s important to make sure that your apprenticeship qualification attracts the required number of UCAS points specified by each university, which UCAS can assist with finding out. Applications made via UCAS also require a personal statement and information on how the course costs are going to be covered, such as via a loan from Student Finance England.

If on the other hand you’d like to complete an apprenticeship before starting a degree, we’ve also put together a short article on how to find an apprenticeship on our news section entitled ‘Apprenticeships – How do I find one?’ which provides further details on searching and applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

An alternative option might be to consider degree apprenticeships. One of the disadvantages of university for some people are the tuition fees and full-time commitment they require, which can put some people off from applying altogether. The good news is that there is now such a thing as degree apprenticeships, which are a relatively new yet fantastic option for anyone looking to gain a degree whilst earning a wage or salary at the same time. The downsides that can come with studying for a conventional degree, such as the student debt and relative lack of work experience at the end of it need not be a problem with degree apprenticeships.

Tuition fees are usually paid for by the employer who sponsors you during their apprenticeship, whilst the degree awarded at the end of it is no different from any other qualification of a similar kind. Another advantage is the ability to gain significant work experience with your employer, which should help you to stand out from other graduates who might not have the same level of work experience. You could hypothetically complete a Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship and go on to a degree apprenticeship with all of your fees and course costs taken care of by somebody else!

Applications for degree apprenticeships can however be competitive and are usually made via UCAS. If you’re thinking about starting a degree apprenticeship, make sure you research the course and employer to ensure that you’re clear on what criteria you have to meet as well as the extent to which the employer is prepared to help meet your costs. We’ve also put together a guide on degree apprenticeships which can be accessed via the ORCA news portal.

There are therefore plenty of options for apprentices who may want to use their apprenticeship as a stepping stone to a higher education course. University is not for everyone, and it’s understandable that many people, for whatever reason, will prefer to stay on in the role that they’ve trained for after completing their apprenticeship rather than go straight to university. If however you do want the option of studying for a degree, the good news is that there are more options available. Degree apprenticeships are one example of the many new opportunities available as a result of the expansion in higher education. More universities are also willing to be flexible in accommodating students who might not have A-levels but do have alternative qualifications like apprenticeships.