The ESFA is going to start inspecting universities

All universities that deliver degree apprenticeships will be subject to audit.

The ESFA is going to start inspecting universities

All universities that deliver degree apprenticeships will be subject to ESFA audits for the first time from April next year.

The ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) is responsible for ensuring public funding for the delivery of apprenticeships is appropriately spent. They check that funding is spent on training that fits the apprenticeship model, fulfills learner need and meets quality regulations, and that providers aren’t claiming funding for training they’re not actually delivering.

When the new rules come into play next year, all universities that deliver degree apprenticeships will be audited by the ESFA. HEIs can be given as little as 2 weeks’ notice of a financial assurance audit and only 3 days to present sample files. It’s very different to the current situation where the Office for Students carries out reviews on behalf of the EFSA.

ESFA compliance is a big deal in the apprenticeship sector. Universities need to make sure they comply with apprenticeship funding rules, claim the right amount of funding, compile their data correctly and are prepared for audit at all times. If universities fall short of the ESFA’s strict funding rules, they could be subject to significant repercussions – from financial clawback to disqualification from degree apprenticeship delivery.

One example of serious repercussions being made is Dudley College. They had to pay back more than £500,000 to the ESFA last year after an audit exposed non-compliance with apprenticeship funding rules.

How do the apprenticeship funding rules work?

The ESFA’s apprenticeship funding rules are complex.

Providers need to make sure they’re claiming the appropriate amount of apprenticeship funding for each apprentice and ensure they’re using the funds to deliver appropriate training. Funding cannot be used to deliver learning the apprentice already knows, or that falls outside the apprenticeship standard.

Apprentices must spend a minimum of 20% of their contracted hours completing off-the-job training. All learner progress data must be compiled and submitted to the ESFA each month via an ILR (individual learner record). Only when the ILR is submitted do providers receive their funding.

There’s a lot to think about and a lot of rules to comply with, so...

What can universities do to stay compliant?

  • Calculate apprenticeship funding claims according to each learner’s prior learning
  • Adjust course content and duration according to prior learning
  • Deliver training that’s relevant to the learner and standard
  • Track off-the-job training progress against the 20% minimum requirement
  • Submit correct, complete ILR data for all learners every month

This may sound like a daunting amount of change, but the best thing universities can do to comply with ESFA funding rules is to record everything online. There are some amazing degree apprenticeship systems available to help you track the entire apprenticeship journey – from calculating funding claims to tracking off-the-job progress.

OneFile’s apprenticeship system has been used to deliver quality degree apprenticeships since they were first introduced. It has all the built in features you need to comply with ESFA funding rules and Ofsted guidance – from a funding claim calculator to an ILR tool. That's why it’s used by the UK’s largest providers of degree apprenticeships – including Exeter University, the University of Warwick and the Open University.

To find out more about using OneFile to comply with ESFA funding rules, download your ultimate guide to degree apprenticeships.

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