Degree apprenticeships – an opportunity for all?

Claire Hughes, Gillian Saieva

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The purpose of this paper is to explore how curriculum design, internal infrastructures and support systems have had to be innovated to best meet the requirements of Higher Degree Apprenticeships (HDA) programmes within the business management portfolio at Solent University. This paper is written from the perspective of University, apprentice and employers’ journeys to support accidental and aspiring managers in the pursuit of the destination of “management professional”.

    Feedback and insight from both apprentices and employers were gathered from a range of organisations within both public and private sectors; these were then reviewed as part of this case study approach. All of the samples either had practical knowledge of an HDA and were currently active in the study or were supporting apprentices in the workplace. The other sample groups were internal colleagues who were identified because of their current working knowledge of providing infrastructure support for the HDA provision. From this, thematic analysis was conducted to allow the analysis of patterns of feedback or concerned areas of employees, which allowed researchers to identify where the challenges and blocks were occurring along the journeys. The samples were identified from within the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and Level 5 Operations and Departmental Manager HDAs. A case study methodology was used.

    From the analysis of the feedback and insights, there were a few themes which were identified and will be discussed further within this paper as to how Solent has approached these areas and will: provide outcomes around how Solent worked with employers to help them understand the benefits of implementing HDAs; outline how innovation in central service infrastructure took place to support employers and apprentices in the on-boarding both to ensure the correct assessment of apprentice suitability and route and also to support their apprenticeship journeys; discuss how we have effectively de-mystified some of the more challenging areas of the HDAs including that the 20 per cent off-the-job training will be “time out of the office” and how this can be positively managed to benefit both the apprentice, employer and organisation; and define how support mechanisms can ensure a high-level “apprentice experience”, whilst supporting them to balance the rigorousness of work and study.

    Research limitations/implications
    There is still much research to be completed in the area of impact and added value not just at the micro-organisational level but also at the macro-UK economy and GDP levels, alongside further research on how to market and de-mystify the common misconceptions so as to avoid blockers to enable even more apprentices to enter the market. Finally, research needs to be undertaken around the best pedagogic practices to support these apprentices.

    Practical implications
    The challenges and complexities of being involved at the trailblazing stage are that you are working on a pilot basis, which does not always make for a smooth journey. This case study does not offer any final solutions, and the expectation is that these areas will evolve and require change over the next few years. Instead, this case study hopes to give the reader the knowledge and confidence that they are not alone in the challenges they face; by being trailblazers in a new wave of HDAs, solutions will evolve over a period of time.

    Social implications
    All training providers should also regularly remind themselves, especially when those bumps in the journey are felt, that by developing and delivering HDAs they are greatly moving forward widening participation to an even wider net of people than ever before and assuring a future of well-developed leaders and managers.

    As HDAs are new area, there is currently ahead of limited discussion on the practicalities of developing and delivering these, and this case study aims to aid this discussion for peers across the sector who have either not entered or are very new to HDAs, providing them guidance on areas to consider.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)225-236
    JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2019


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