Degree apprenticeships – a short guide

As the highest form of apprenticeship available, degree apprenticeships are a relatively new yet exciting addition to the UK’s vocational education landscape. Degree apprenticeships provide a route for those who want to gain a university awarded degree without having to give up earning a real wage or salary with an employer. Apprentices for these qualifications can also benefit from being free of the need to apply for a student loan to cover the course costs, as the tuition fees are covered by either the employer or the government.

Unlike higher apprenticeships which are roughly equivalent to the first or second year of an undergraduate qualification, degree apprenticeships usually demand the same level of academic rigour as required by a student studying for a degree in their final year. They can even go up to post-graduate level, making them the most prestigious and challenging apprenticeships available. As degree apprenticeships were originally introduced to help tackle the shortage of certain occupations in the UK, the subjects within which they are available often pertain to those in highly skilled jobs. Business management, nursing and nuclear engineering are all such examples.

Degree apprenticeships require collaboration between employers and universities, as an employer wishing to offer a degree apprenticeship is required to work with a university to support a blended course of learning and working. Despite the university being responsible for awarding and teaching the degree, the study route taken is customised to the needs of each individual employer. This is to ensure that the apprentice is gaining work experience and training in their specific field whilst also considering the employer’s training needs. This collaboration between employers and universities also reflects the holistic contribution made by degree apprenticeships, in that they can help to sustain relationships that support economic development and business expansion in local areas.

The advantages to an apprentice of completing a degree apprenticeship are considerable. Anyone above the age of 18 is eligible to start one and are a great way to gain a degree whilst gaining invaluable work experience. Apprentices who complete these apprenticeships are essentially degree graduates, who are not only able to gain a university qualification but also one in a skilled occupation where their expertise and experience are likely to be in demand. Unlike a conventional university graduate who may not have gained much work experience, degree apprenticeships are likely to lead to better future employment prospects through the skills and experience they embed. It’s no surprise that the demand for degree apprenticeships is only likely to keep on increasing.

Here at ORCA we work with a number of universities and employers to end-point assess degree apprenticeships. So far, we have gained ESFA approval to assess for the Level 6 Chartered Manager (ST0272) and the Level 7 Senior Leader Master’s Degree (ST0480) apprenticeships, with more applications to assess for degree level apprenticeships in the pipeline. As apprenticeship specialists we understand the importance of providing high-quality services in end-point assessment to ensure that both apprentices and employers can be confident of the level of expertise and neutrality used in producing the final end-point assessment result. To find out more about our apprenticeships, including our degree level apprenticeships in management and leadership, find us at and check out our standards page.