Delivering quality degree apprenticeships
Higher and degree apprenticeships are quality assured by the QAA (The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education).
This means HEIs are solely responsible for maintaining quality throughout degree apprenticeships – even though only 20% of the programme is delivered in a university setting. They must work closely with employers to meet the Quality Code throughout the apprenticeship journey – from designing the standards to external moderation.
We've examined how quality assurance affects each stage of a degree apprenticeship:
Degree apprenticeships differ a lot from traditional degrees as employers are the driving force behind the programme – but HEIs are responsible for quality assurance. This means HEIs need to work with employers when they're developing the standards to ensure both academic and vocational criteria are met – without compromising on quality.
Recruitment, selection & admission
The admission process will also be assessed by the QAA. As employees, apprentices will be recruited by the employer, but will also have to meet the HEI's minimum entry requirements – so they'll have to take a collaborative approach. Academic staff may want to take part in the interview process for applicants, but a three-way contract or commitment statement confirming the requirements of the role will suffice.
Assuring quality on- and off-the-job
A key feature of degree apprenticeships is that the majority of learning takes place on-the-job. This means instead of a lecture theatre or seminar room, there's a huge range of sites and situations for learning. HEIs will need to ensure the quality of these learning opportunities is consistent with all other higher education programmes. The Quality Code emphasises the importance of reflective learning, feedback and assessment in all situations, so employers and academic mentors will have to work together to meet the KSBs (knowledge, skills and behaviours) in the standard and support their apprentices both on and off the job. Using a learning log or eportfolio will provide a platform for learning, discussion, reflection and assessment – and will track the entire audit trail for the QAA to assess.
HEIs are responsible for awarding degree apprenticeships. The assessor must judge the apprentice on their academic performance and workplace competence – either simultaneously or in separate assessments. Some end-point assessments (EPAs) might have to be carried out by assessors with relevant experience rather than academic expertise. In this case, an independent AAO (apprentice assessment organisation) will conduct the assessment. The AAO must have no affiliation to either party, be selected by the employer, and contracted with the HEI to comply with QA arrangements.
External moderation is an essential part of degree apprenticeships and ensures quality is maintained across the sector. HEIs are responsible for arranging external moderation, but the external examiners they contract need to have practice-based experience and be independent from the provider to meet QAA standards.
Quality assurance puts students at the heart of education – and although apprentices are employees, they're students too, so it's important they receive the same quality learning experience as traditional students. The Quality Code makes it clear that learning and teaching are most effective when there's a strong partnership between all stakeholders, so employers and HEIs must work together to maintain quality.
Degree apprenticeships are still very new, so meeting all the QA quality criteria may seem like a challenge. But it doesn't have to be. OneFile's learning software is specifically designed to manage apprenticeships, encourage collaboration, track compliance and generate reports for QA audits.
To see exactly how OneFile meets the QA criteria, download our ultimate guide to quality.