Degree Apprenticeships and university will both get participants a Level 6 qualification: a full bachelor’s degree. There are even Degree Apprenticeships at Level 7—postgraduate degrees.
But there are some differences in the method to gaining this qualification, and some careers will suit one path while others will suit the other.
Degree Apprenticeships aim to bring together the best of higher and vocational education, and are offered in many areas, including chartered surveying, engineering, nuclear, food science… it’s now even possible to become a solicitor on a Degree Apprenticeship.
Groups of businesses, universities and colleges have developed practical, vocational degree courses that will allow people to combine academic study from a traditional university degree with the practical experience needed for wider employment.
Apprentices split their time between university study and the workplace, and are employed throughout—gaining their degree while earning a wage and getting real on-the-job experience in their chosen profession.
As with other apprenticeships, the cost of course fees are shared between government and employers, meaning that the apprentice can earn a full degree without paying any fees
As such, students/trainees on Degree Apprenticeships do not qualify for student loans in the UK—but with their fees paid for and a full-time wage from their employers, there isn’t a need for a loan.
So, if a young person wants a debt-free degree and hands-on experience, and there’s a Degree Apprenticeship in a sector they’re already interested in, this could be the option for them.
However, they won’t suit everybody. Students are limited to the universities working with the apprentice providers—which might be in towns or cities they don’t particularly want to live in—and to the subjects provided, which are industry-specific.
Traditional degrees offer the broadest choice—basically any subject a person is interested in will be catered for—and prospective students can apply for places in up to five different towns and cities.
Some people will also want to immerse themselves fully in academic study and explore in-depth theoretical ideas and analytical thinking, without the work-experience element that’s a big part of a Degree Apprenticeship, which of course means a traditional degree will be more suited to them.
There are also still many careers that require traditional degrees, which can’t be attained via a Degree Apprenticeship (although this is changing all the time as more apprenticeship programmes are developed)—check jobs in the desired sector and establish whether or not this is the case.