Colleges are key to disrupting higher education and powering apprenticeships

A new college hopes to spearhead a revolution in HE provision but real change will depend on a broader, deeper movement across FE too, says James Kelly

A new college hopes to spearhead a revolution in HE provision but real change will depend on a broader, deeper movement across FE too, says James Kelly

11 Nov 2023, 5:00

Corndel  have vast experience of working with industry to deliver transformative apprenticeships and focus on addressing some of the most pressing skills gaps in UK business today, having delivered training for 20,000 learners. With the launch of Corndel College London (CCL), we’re spearheading a new era of higher education. But we can’t disrupt the sector alone.

CCL embodies the opportunity afforded by building a higher education organisation from scratch, free from the constraints and burdens of traditional structures. By aligning industry demands with higher education, we will deliver better outcomes for students and employers alike.

Our long-standing relationships with FTSE 100 clients from BP to BUPA has allowed CCL to develop outstanding apprenticeship degree programmes that focus on management, data and tech, in order to deliver the skills that industry needs. These qualifications will instil employees with the knowledge that will help companies thrive, as well as the skills that will shape individuals’ careers.

Understandably, there is growing student and parent desire for a tangible return on investment in education. Our Workplace Training Report shows 79 per cent of 16-to-25s believe degree apprenticeships will become increasingly popular, and not just because students can earn while they learn. Students are seeking options that provide academic knowledge but also practical skills and direct pathways to employment. 

Degree apprenticeships offer practical in-job training with increased employment opportunities – a social mobitlity win and a win for the economy. Recent policy announcements of plans to look at degree programmes going forward show government have no missed this fact. The Prime Minister’s campaign to ‘crack down’ on poor value degrees, mentioned in this week’s state opening of parliament, comes with a boost for apprenticeships and a cut in the red tape needed to register for one.

Our goal is to redefine higher education, but we can’t do it alone

Visa’s decision to place a number of its early talent employees on our BSc (Hons) Applied Business Management degree apprenticeship programme is a great example of the value apprenticeship degrees offer and the business community’s faith in them.

We’ll be involving employers at an early stage in the design of our courses, asking them what they are trying to achieve in their businesses, what they are looking for in future graduates and what their pain points and friction points are. We then use this information to create courses that meet the needs of students and their future employers alike. Our goal is to guarantee a trajectory that leads to career success and fulfilment. 

Another strategy that has proven successful in our apprenticeship programmes is the incorporation of coaching from industry experts. This personalised approach allows apprentices to integrate industry requirements with their own purpose, desires, skill sets and personal development. By providing guidance from experienced professionals, we empower apprentices to excel in their chosen fields and stand out as exceptional candidates. 

The coaching from tutors who have industry experience helps learners to reflect on their learning and to grow personally and professionally, with our coaches combining industry qualification with higher education expertise. This coaching benefits employers, too, as they get to understand how employees are progressing professionally. Line managers get the opportunity to have coaching conversations with the learners, which can help them to develop skills and knowledge themselves.

Our ultimate goal is to redefine the higher education landscape, but we can’t do it alone. In every locality, there are businesses big and small looking to capitalise on this potential, and further education providers are key to meeting their needs. Not only do they understand the qualifications, but they already work with the young people who are most likely to benefit from this new and important pathway to good employment and a strong career. Employers want degree apprentices now, but they also want a secure pipeline of talent for the future, and that talent is in our colleges.

The goal is nothing less than to shift the focus from delivering a generic experience to providing tailored education that meets the specific needs of students and employers. Our initial portfolio of degree apprenticeships is the first step in achieving this vision. We already know we will expand our offer. Colleges should seize the opportunity to join us.

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