Ofsted finds degree courses rebadged as apprenticeships at university

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has voiced concerns over this issue multiple times in recent years

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has voiced concerns over this issue multiple times in recent years

21 Jan 2022, 13:54

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A university that rapidly recruited almost 1,000 apprentices has been slammed by Ofsted for delivering graduate schemes rebadged as apprenticeships.

Inspectors found ‘insufficient progress’ in two of the three themes judged at Leeds Beckett University, which received its first report from the watchdog this week since beginning to offer apprenticeships in 2017.

Ofsted said one of its three business schools has developed a curriculum that meets the needs of employers and apprentices. But there is a “lack of understanding of the principles and requirements of an apprenticeship” at the other two schools.

As such, these schools have “not developed a curriculum beyond the degree programme” and are “therefore not providing sufficient training for apprentices to develop their skills and behaviours”.

Ofsted was handed powers to inspect level 6 and 7 apprenticeships from April 1, 2021. Before then, the inspectorate’s remit only extended up to level 5, while the Office for Students held responsibility for overseeing higher-level apprenticeships.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman had voiced concerns multiple times that some universities were getting away with offering level 6 and 7 apprenticeships that are simply “repackaged graduate schemes”.

Ofsted said Leeds Beckett University – which has almost 1,000 apprentices mostly at level 6 in engineering, building and management – had ineffective governance over apprenticeship delivery.

Leaders do not identify well enough what apprentices already know and what they need to learn at the beginning of the apprenticeship, and they do not coordinate on- and off-the-job training effectively, according to inspectors.

Ofsted did, however, say that leaders have accurately identified most of the weaknesses in their apprenticeship provision and have plans to rectify them.

Academic staff are also “highly qualified and have appropriate industry experience to deliver their academic subjects”.

A Leeds Beckett University spokesperson said: “We accept Ofsted’s findings that while our apprenticeship provision clearly meets the needs of local and regional employers and delivers its degree content effectively, there are areas where we need to improve.

“We are urgently addressing those areas of concern ahead of a full Ofsted inspection, which will take place in the next 12 months.”

Another university, the University of Wolverhampton, had a ‘requires improvement’ full inspection report published by Ofsted this week.

The university delivers to more than 1,000 apprentices at levels 5 to 7. Ofsted praised the university for ensuring most apprentices who complete their courses develop the “essential attributes to succeed in their roles”.

But “too few” apprentices remain on their course or achieve all aspects of their programme “as well as they could in the time allocated”.

Nicky Westwood, director of apprenticeships and higher technical education at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The university has put in place a full action plan in response to the recommendations of the Ofsted report.”

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