Degree apprenticeships will be regulated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and not by Ofsted.

The news was revealed by the Department for Education this morning, as part of its apprenticeships accountability statement.

It comes after FE Week reported in December that Ofsted had been seeking to extend its remit to cover higher-level apprenticeships.

“HEFCE will regulate the quality of degree apprenticeships (level 6 and 7),” today’s statement said.

Meanwhile, Ofsted “will inspect the quality of apprenticeship training provision from level 2 to level 5”.

But where this overlaps – where there are “apprenticeship providers at level 4 and/or 5 where the apprenticeship standard contains a prescribed HE qualification” – the statement said “HEFCE and Ofsted will reach a judgement, informed by joint working”.

FE Week reported in December that Ofsted had been in talks with the government, as well as HEFCE and the Quality Assurance Agency which oversees all university-level provision, about giving the education watchdog a key new role.

During an exclusive webinar, Paul Joyce, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills, told FE Week’s editor Nick Linford that:  “Where I would see the gap being [for Ofsted to fill] is the apprenticeship part of the degree, so not the degree qualification delivered in a university, that we won’t be looking at.

“We do need to ensure that the other part of the apprenticeships provision, ie what happens in the employer, is looked at and that it’s quality assured. So not the degree qualification, but the wraparound apprenticeship.”

He added: “I’m certainly of the view that regardless of its level, an apprenticeship is an apprenticeship. To me, it makes perfect sense that we have one inspection regime for an apprenticeship and that inspection regime should be Ofsted across the piece.”

Today’s news prompted AELP boss Mark Dawe to reiterate his organisation’s calls for a “single inspection framework” for all apprenticeships.

“Ofsted already has the expertise and experience to be the principal arbiter of whether a provider deserves a delivery contract on quality grounds for all level apprenticeships,” he said.

Mr Dawe said that HEFCE and QAA had an “important role” to play in “continuing to approve and oversee apprenticeships where a degree qualification is embedded”, but insisted that the education watchdog “should still have the overarching responsibility to ensure both consistency and transparency”.

Today’s statement, which outlines each of the bodies involved in apprenticeships and their accountabilities, comes on the first working day of the new Institute for Apprenticeships and three days before the apprenticeship levy kicks in.

Robert Halfon, apprenticeships and skills minister, said: “I am delighted that today marks the first working day of the Institute for Apprenticeships.

“This is a key part of the jigsaw that will ensure employers get the skills their workforce needs.

“With the apprenticeship levy coming into force later this week, we are truly working together with business to invest in home-grown skills and ensuring people of all ages and all backgrounds get their foot on the ladder of opportunity.”

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  1. I feel that Degree Apprenticeships should be looked at using the Common Inspection Framework. Certainly the work based element as a minimum…. and Ofsted are best placed to do that

  2. Andrew Stanley

    This is welcome news. Much as we all would have welcomed the prospect of Ofsted inspectors being winched onto drilling platforms by helicopter in a gale, in order to inspect every single workplace setting, as they suggested, this decision makes a lot more sense.

    • Mike Craigen

      I would enjoy seeing ‘fast track’ apprenticeships offered for older unemployed workers, who, it is deemed need to retrain. Given that many have very transferrable skills and experience to carry with them, it would be a great alternative to languishing on benefits, with the re-training shackles of the DWP and the costs of those benefits.
      I teach Employability and constantly meet older willing workers, who are on the ‘chicken and egg’ roundabout. They can’t get a job of a different nature, nor can they adequately retrain for a different career path, sufficient to attract employers.

  3. Mike Farmer

    This has all the hallmarks of a classic fudge. Interesting that HEFCE says on its own website that this represents a ‘settlement’ between it and Ofsted, which kind of gives the game away that they have been in dispute, doesn’t it? The DfE accountability statement also defines the role for QAA as ‘working with HEFCE to quality assure degree apprenticeships at level 6 and 7, and at levels 4 and 5 where the apprenticeship standard contains a prescribed HE qualification.’ Ofsted keeps its role for any teacher training apprenticeships even if they are at degree level. So its a messy, crowded (and probably expensive) regulatory field for what are at the moment tiny numbers of HE and degree apprentices. I agree with Mark Dawe about a single regulator, but he’s never going to see universities allow Ofsted across the doorway except for teacher training.

  4. FE Lecturer

    A very wise move. Keeping OFSTED out of the degree apprenticeship scheme is very good news; the chances of these apprenticeships working well are now far better. OFSTED would have had the same destructive effect that they have had on both FE colleges and schools.

  5. Darryll

    The AELP need to realise that HE and FE institutions delivering Degree Apprenticeships (and indeed any Apprenticeship that includes a prescribed HE qualification) have significant expertise in delivering apprenticeships and work-based learning degrees. There is also no ‘degree part’ and ‘apprenticeship part’ of Degree Apprenticeships, the best higher and degree apprenticeships fully integrate on and off the job learning but focus on the workplace as the primary site of learning. The QAA also have experience of assuring work-based higher education programmes and the QAA Code covers this kind of provision. The forthcoming QAA Characteristics Statement will make this even more explicit. Conversely, Ofsted do not have the required expertise to assure Degree Apprenticeships or work-based higher education. The promotion of Ofsted by AELP seems more like a strategy to build barriers to HE involvement in apprenticeships, perhaps motivated by self interest.