Revealed: UCAS’ points plan for apprenticeships

Higher education admissions body UCAS reveals how many UCAS points level 3 apprenticeships will be worth

Higher education admissions body UCAS reveals how many UCAS points level 3 apprenticeships will be worth

23 May 2024, 14:40

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Long-awaited plans to award UCAS points to apprenticeships have been revealed by the university admissions body. 

From this September, people completing level 3 apprenticeships could be awarded up to 112 UCAS points to apply to universities, depending on the length of their apprenticeship.

However, the proposed tariff model would mean learners on apprenticeships lasting less than two years would not reach the typical minimum entry requirements for an undergraduate university course. 

Introducing points for apprenticeships will help higher education institutions compare the programmes with other post-16 qualifications in their admissions processes, a consultation on the plans launched today said.

The proposed UCAS tariff for apprenticeships uses the expected duration set out by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) to determine the number of points. Apprentices must pass their end point assessment to be able to use UCAS points on their university applications.

Lindsay Conroy, head of apprenticeships and UCAS, said the aim is “to position level 3 apprenticeships on an equal footing with A-level, T Levels and other UK level 3 programmes of study”.

She added: “While universities and colleges are used to managing differing qualifications in their offer-making, apprenticeships have not carried tariff points to date. We want to ensure all doors are open for all students considering their next steps into higher education, to ensure all pathways are visible to them and to maintain an informed and fair admissions system.” 

The proposals

UCAS has baselined level 3 achievement so a two-year apprenticeship is equivalent to three grade C A-levels and so worth 96 UCAS points. 

Apprenticeships lasting 18 months would be awarded 64 points and a 12-month apprenticeship would be awarded 48 points, according to the model proposed. 

UCAS said typical entry criteria for year one university entry requires 72 to 128 tariff points. Between 32 and 64 points are typically required for entry to a foundation year.

For example, the most popular apprenticeship for under 19-year-olds last year was the level 3 business administrator, which IfATE states has a typical duration of 18 months. This would give successful apprentices 64 UCAS tariff points, short of the typical minimum university entry requirements.

Achieving a 24-month apprenticeship would be equivalent to 96 tariff points and an apprenticeship lasting 36 months or longer would accrue 112 UCAS points.

Simon Ashworth, director of policy at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said the proposals mark “another positive step forward to ensuring proper recognition of the currency of vocational and technical programmes alongside academic equivalents which has been severely lacking”.

“Whilst the expected duration of level 3 apprenticeships ranges from a year to up to 4 years, the average expected duration of all the 230 currently approved level 3 apprenticeships is around 25 months. For a typical level 3 apprenticeship under these proposals it would mean the awarding of the same tariff points awarded for three A-Levels which is what they should be,” he added.

Not all apprenticeships come with qualifications. For those that do, apprentices can use the UCAS points attached to the qualification they’ve achieved if that is higher than the apprenticeship. 

One model for four nations

As the tariff points system is UK-wide, UCAS has had to find a way of making its proposed model work across four countries with different apprenticeship requirements. 

UCAS’s consultation acknowledges “concerns” that apprentices in England could be advantaged because they have access to apprenticeships that last longer than in Northern Ireland, where there is a two-year maximum.

And while apprentices in England can achieve pass, merit or distinction grades in their apprenticeship assessments, apprentices in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can only achieve a pass. UCAS’ proposed model therefore provides points for a pass for all UK apprentices so English apprentices can’t be unfairly advantaged. 

UCAS said level 4 and 5 apprentices can already apply for degree-level courses through existing accreditation of prior learning (APL) admissions. 

The admissions body first announced its intention to award UCAS points to apprenticeships in March 2023. Since then it has worked with over 60 organisations UK-wide to land on these proposals. 

The consultation will close on June 20, 2024.

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