Why is nobody talking about degree apprenticeships?

I wouldn’t blame you for not having any prior knowledge of this. I was only made aware of ‘degree apprenticeships’ after watching an episode of Question Time. In a debate about university tuition fees, an audience member took the initiative to raise the point that it is already possible to go to university for zero tuition fees; it’s called degree apprenticeships.

At the time, I remember thinking, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me about this? Why am I always the last person to know about something good?’

In case you didn’t know, a ‘degree apprenticeship’ is a new education route, introduced by the Conservative government in 2015, which brings together the best of higher education and vocational training. This new option allows university study as well as valuable on-the-job training that is typical of an apprenticeship, without having to cover the cost of tuition. Sounds good, right?

Yet most families have not heard about this alternative education route. In The Guardian’s recent survey of 1,000 UK parents with 11 to 18-year-old children, it was discovered that just 20% were aware of degree apprenticeships. Why the lack of knowledge? Partly it’s the government’s fault for not letting people know about their own policy, but universities have to also share some blame for not raising more awareness of these programmes.

Perhaps there’s a belief that people will perceive such programmes to be inferior compared to traditional course routes. Let’s face it, it is quite a British thing to look down on apprenticeships and see them as only an option for the less academically able. If this is the case (and I believe it is), then society really needs to change its mentality. We should look to our European neighbours with better economies than ourselves: in Germany, for example, there is recognition across society of the value of vocational education and its parity with academic education. The Germans recognise the importance of vocational education such as engineering for the country’s productivity. I think it would do Britain good to adopt the German model, not least because our productivity is fairly poor. We need to therefore place more emphasis on vocational education in order to tackle our productivity crisis, and ‘degree apprenticeships’ provide an obvious way to do this.

It just doesn’t make sense to me why both the government and higher education institutions are not informing people of this option. It’s unfortunate that most people I have spoken with were not aware of ‘degree apprenticeships’ at the time they were applying for university. I plead with universities across the country and those in government to spread the word about ‘degree apprenticeships’ – prospective students will undoubtedly take comfort in knowing that there is an alternative route in which they will not be saddled with tens of thousands of debt.

For more information about degree apprenticeships, click here.