Emerging Outcomes from the Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund
Nicola Turner from the Office for Students outlines key findings resulting from the Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund
Over £9 million of funding was distributed to 44 projects across England in academic years 2016/17 and 2017/18. The first wave of projects saw their first degree apprentices recruited in 2017/18, and the second wave welcomed their first cohorts this term. OfS has commissioned an external evaluation into how the funding has been spent, its impact and any learning we can draw out. Publication of the full report is expected by early January, but we can share early insights into some of the positive impacts and the obstacles that employers and providers have faced in the development of degree apprenticeships.
Providers and employers are working side by side to broaden the range of individuals who might benefit from degree apprenticeships. This includes testing methods of initial assessment that look at aptitude, rather than existing qualifications. Providers of all types seem to have embraced the opportunities presented by degree apprenticeships, promoting them as a new choice for those who may not have previously been able to access HE, including mature workers.
Providers have used their funding to develop new apprenticeships alongside employers; to conduct market research and awareness-raising activity with employers and potential apprentices; and to establish apprenticeship infrastructure that can better support the delivery and growth of high quality apprenticeships. We are seeing good progress in recruiting significant numbers of apprentices and those in their second year of delivery are seeing continuing growth. The funding has helped the provider base to embed a positive capacity for growth and laid the foundations for sustainable demand from employers, but the report finds there have been obstacles to growth beyond the control of the providers and employers.
The introduction of a new product is never without its challenges and there have been many cited by providers funded by this support. The barriers most frequently mentioned include the delays in the approval of standards; the initial readiness for and awareness of degree apprenticeships amongst employers and potential apprentices; and the availability and access to funding for non-levy employers for HE providers. In addition, providers are voicing new fears about stability and long term sustainability based on recent changes and reduced funding band allocations by the IfA. The report identifies growing caution amongst delivering providers around developing new and existing provision that costs more to deliver than it generates in income; the business case is weak without some other clear benefits to the provider.
The report is optimistic about the supply-side capacity for degree apprenticeships in England and concludes that the Fund has had direct impact on both the speed of development and coordinated market entry for this new wave of providers. Those funded by the DADF, and a significant number of other providers, are writing degree apprenticeships growth into their future institutional strategies. As the regulator we are especially energised by the stories we are hearing from apprentices taking this route, who are celebrating the new choice and opportunity to work and learn in this way.
Nicola Turner MBE, Head of Skills, Office for Students (OfS)
To hear more from the Office for Students and a range of sector leaders join the Higher and Degree Apprenticeships Conference on Tuesday 11th December 2018 in Central London