What’s the difference between degree apprenticeships and degrees?

The new apprenticeship alliance: degree apprenticeships mean learners can get the best of university AND apprenticeships.

What's the difference between degree apprenticeships and degrees?

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Degree apprenticeships and degrees have the same qualification level – but what are the differences?  

Traditional degrees have been around for centuries, but their new counterparts – degree apprenticeships – are giving them a run for their money. Degree apprenticeships were only introduced last year, but they're already popular with students, universities and employers alike.  

So what's all the fuss about degree apprenticeships? And how do they differ from traditional degrees? We've done the research – see if you can spot the difference: 

1. Courses available 

DA: Degree apprenticeships are new to the HE scene, but there are already 100s of different courses available – from finance to engineering. Interest from universities is growing, so we expect numbers to rise rapidly.  

D: Universities have been around for centuries, so there are 1,000s of courses available in all areas of study.  

2. Course delivery

DA: Degree apprenticeships follow a set of standards which must be met by the apprentice. Apprentices spend around 30 hours a week learning practical skills in the workplace, and 20% of their time completing off-the-job training 

D: Depending on their course, students spend a proportion of their time on campus in lectures and seminars, and complete self-guided learning at home.  

3. Assessment process

DA: Degree apprenticeships are assessed at the end of the programme during an end-point assessment (EPA). The EPA can take a range of forms, such as an exam, portfolio showcase or professional discussion.  

D: Degree students complete a series of assessments throughout their course – such as assignments, presentations or group projects. Many students also complete a dissertation and have end-of-year exams.  

4. Audit trails 

DA: Degree apprenticeships are quality assured by the QAA, so universities need to record the full audit trail to stay compliant. This can be a challenge as apprentices spend 80% of their time training in the workplace, so most universities use an eportfolio to track their apprentices wherever they are.   

D: A full audit trail is required for traditional degrees too. Universities measure student attendance and engagement with online resources, and use the records for audits. They also use anti-plagiarism software and use internal and external moderators.  

5. Awarding bodies  

Universities are the awarding bodies for both degree apprenticeships and traditional degrees.  

6. Employer opinion and employability

DA: Employers love degree apprenticeships. They can design the standards so they're relevant to the specific occupation employers need to fill. Degree apprentices also work on-the-job from day one, which means employers can mould them to their way of work.  

D: Many employers respect academic achievement and prefer to hire traditional graduates. However, as more and more people go to uni, graduates have to fight harder than ever to land a great grad job.  

7. Funding 

DA: If the apprentice's employer pays the apprenticeship levy, the training costs are covered by their levy funds. If they don't pay the levy, the employer will co-invest with the government to fund the apprenticeship.  

D: Degrees are funded by the student – either paid by the individual or covered by the Student Loans Company. 

8. Earning potential 

DA: Degree apprentices start earning from day one, don't have any student debt, and are already in a job when they qualify – so they have very good earning potential. In fact, 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer, and 36% of higher apprentices get a promotion after completing their apprenticeship.  

D: Graduates have higher employment rates and earn an average of £31,000 per year, compared to £22,100 for non-graduates.  


When it comes to pros and cons, it's a pretty close race. So to help you tell degree apprenticeships and traditional degrees apart, we've created a comparison chart. 

Download 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.