How are degree apprenticeships regulated?
Higher apprenticeships (levels 4-5) are regulated by Ofsted and the Office for Students.
Degree apprenticeships (levels 6-7) are regulated by the Office for Students who follow guidance from QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) – the UK’s quality body for higher education.
Everyone involved in degree apprenticeships is responsible for quality – the HEI, employer, assessment organisation and even the apprentice. However, HEIs have the legal powers to award degrees, so they’re responsible for maintaining academic standards and the quality of higher education.
Although HEIs can’t share their academic responsibilities, their responsibilities are dependent on their involvement in the apprenticeship delivery – whether they’re a main provider or subcontractor. It also depends on the type of programme – the academic level and whether the degree programme has an integrated degree apprenticeship or a non-integrated degree apprenticeship.
Degree apprenticeships have many different levels, modes of learning and locations, making quality assurance more complicated than traditional undergraduate degrees.
Degree apprenticeships are first and foremost a job with work-based learning included. Instead of just being a place to apply knowledge, the workplace is a site for learning, development and the generation of knowledge, understanding skills and behaviours. Higher apprentices spend most of their time learning in the workplace, but must spend a minimum of 20% of their contracted hours completing off-the-job learning.
This means the HEI and the employer have to have a close partnership to maintain quality throughout the apprenticeship – from recruitment to end-point assessment.
Unlike with traditional student selection, apprentices are employees and are recruited by the employer. This means HEIs don’t contract primarily with the student, they contract with the employer, and then have a three-way commitment statement with both the employer and apprentice.
As employees, apprentices will be recruited by the employer, but will also have to meet the HEI's minimum entry requirements. Apprentices don’t have to follow UCAS points or have level 2 English and maths to be accepted, they can show merit and potential in other ways – such as years’ industry experience.
On level 3 apprenticeships and above, Level 2 English and maths must be attained by the time candidates reach gateway on their programmes. Each university can set their own entry criteria, in consultation with employer partners, but the English and maths level is set down by the Government agency, the ESFA.
Learning and teaching
For degree apprentices, the majority of learning takes place on the job, so their work must focus on occupational competence. Off-the-job learning and training can take many forms – such as traditional face-to-face delivery by the HEI, additional learning in the workplace or online learning. The quality of the learning opportunities must be consistent with other higher educational programmes.
Another key part of the main provider’s responsibility is to make sure that the apprentice’s progression is tracked both on and off the job. Tutors and mentors must have visibility of progression to comment on progress and offer feedback on development opportunities. The HEI and employer must also use formally recorded reviews to support the apprentice towards the gateway.
HEIs are responsible for maintaining quality assessment in integrated degree apprenticeships, so they must be registered on both the Register for Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) and the Register of EPAOs. The assessment must include two assessment methods and be carried out by assessors who have relevant practice-based expertise and workplace experience of the occupation – academic ‘subject’ expertise may not be enough.
For non-integrated degree apprenticeships, the employer is responsible for choosing the EPAO, but the HEI is responsible for contracting with them.
External examining is an essential part of quality assurance in higher education. Like with traditional degree programmes, HEIs need to appoint an independent, experienced examiner with both academic expertise and practical experience.
As HEIs are responsible for apprenticeship delivery, maintaining higher education and awarding the degree, they must complete internal monitoring and review throughout the apprenticeship. They may also be subject to external monitoring from QAA and OfS. There’s a lot to think about, so many HEIS are investing in systems to improve quality assurance in degree apprenticeships.
At OneFile, our apprenticeship software is already used by 30 universities delivery degree apprenticeships to manage apprenticeship delivery, improve efficiencies and increase quality. OneFile has tons of built-in features that make apprenticeship delivery efficient, compliant and effective – like an eportfolio, reporting suite, off-the-job tracker, online course builder and evaluation scorecard.
To find out more about OneFile and how you can use it to improve quality in degree apprenticeships, download your free guide.
This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.