More than 100 universities and colleges will receive a slice of an £8 million fund to help accelerate the growth of degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students has announced.
But the funding will only go to those higher education providers that already deliver the programmes, rather than those that are struggling to kickstart their degree apprenticeships offer.
The government has given the HE regulator an additional £16 million of recurrent funding this year, with the intention to use half to support the development of level 6 degree apprenticeships and the other half to increase the provision of level 4 and 5 qualifications.
The funding can be used by higher education institutions (HEIs) to develop new degree apprenticeships beyond their current offer, refresh their existing programmes to “better meet the needs of the labour market” and upskill staff in delivering the courses.
Providers can also use the fund to “grow a pipeline of new degree apprenticeship vacancies” through research and intelligence-gathering, forming employer and skills body partnerships, and ensuring the alignment of degree apprenticeship provision with local needs.
The OfS has used a formula-led allocation using in-year student data based on degree apprenticeship starts, meaning the HEIs with the most degree apprentice starts in 2022/23 will receive the biggest amount of funding.
Anglia Ruskin University will receive the largest slice of £770,163, followed by Sheffield Hallam University with £445,222, and then Staffordshire University with £414,452.
Nelson and Colne College will receive the lowest amount of £466 (click here to download allocations in full).
The OfS said the allocations method includes a weighting to reward providers that have increased the number of degree apprenticeship starters since 2021/22.
Of the 102 providers receiving funding for level 6 degree apprenticeships, 57 recorded growth in the number of students starting study towards such courses in 2022/23 compared with the previous year.
Then-further and higher education minister Michelle Donelan first revealed financial incentives were on the cards to encourage more providers to offer degree apprenticeships in 2021. She then confirmed an £8 million fund would be developed last year.
Current skills, apprenticeships and HE minister Robert Halfon has repeatedly said it is his goal for every university and higher education provider to offer degree apprenticeships.
During a speech at the Universities UK conference last month he said level 6 and 7 programmes now make up over 12 per cent of apprenticeships overall, adding that in the last academic year, they have risen from just over 39,000 to more than 43,000.
Halfon then said: “When I made my first speech in this job, I challenged those universities who don’t offer any degree apprenticeships to ask themselves ‘Why?’
“With funding of up to £8 million on offer this year, there is a great opportunity to forge strong employer partnerships and develop new offers.”
Despite this, the OfS confirmed that the fund will not go to providers that do not have any degree apprenticeship students this year, even if they want to start offering such courses in 2023/24 and beyond.
‘I hope the next phase will encourage new providers to grow degree apprenticeships’
Mandy Crawford-Lee, chief executive of the University Vocational Awards Council, said: “Higher education providers have been waiting a considerable time since the financial incentive of £8 million via the strategic priorities grant fund for offering more degree apprenticeship opportunities was announced by a former minister last year.
“Despite the wait, I would observe that not since the higher apprenticeship fund in 2011 to 2013 has there been such a clear indication that universities need to get behind expanding opportunities through degree apprenticeships.
“While the first £8 million has been allocated I hope the next phase will encourage new providers as well as existing HEIs to grow degree apprenticeships and diverse their programmes to meet professional, sector, national, regional and local skill needs.”
Responding to today’s announcement, Halfon said: “Degree apprenticeships offer people of all backgrounds an alternative route to achieving their career goals than doing a traditional three-year degree. They enable students to earn while they learn the skills needed to build a successful career. I’m delighted that the OfS is continuing to support and encourage HE providers to expand their degree and degree level apprenticeship offer.
“This investment will help us continue to build a skills and apprenticeship nation and extend the ladder of opportunity to even more people.”
The OfS said it will monitor providers’ use of the degree apprenticeships funding allocations through a “light-touch monitoring exercise” that will be completed after the end of the 2022/23 academic year.
Providers will be asked to “provide a brief narrative to set out how they have used their funding allocations in line with the purposes, and to identify benefits and outcomes achieved”. Further details are to be announced “later this year”.