Through our innovative Degree Apprenticeships we aim to 'grow our own' talent to enhance our students' social mobility and employability.

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Formed in 2017, the Centre for Apprenticeship Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Winchester Business School aims to help accelerate the process by which employers and individuals with high aspirations can benefit mutually from high-quality apprenticeships.

Much-desired improvements in productivity and social mobility will only be achieved if there is much greater knowledge sharing about successful Apprenticeships policy and practice. This is a key conclusion from A race to the top. Achieving three million more apprenticeships by 2020 (Way 2016), which contains articles and case studies from top employers, advisors and analysts.

The establishment of a Centre for Apprenticeship Research and Knowledge Exchange will lead work to develop and share intelligence, focussing on higher skills and Degree Apprenticeships. Part of the University’s proposal to create a ‘social mobility pipeline’ to Degree Apprenticeships, it will also examine progression pathways and ways to enable greater social mobility.

The Centre will support the University’s Business Engagement Strategy. It will coordinate the exchange of information, research and case studies with participating HEIs, LEPs and others with an interest in Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and in achieving social mobility through vocational training.

The Centre will add to the University’s international reputation for vocational skills and learning established by its Centre for Real-World Learning, led by Professor Bill Lucas.


A race to the top. Achieving three million more apprenticeships by 2020. Edited by David Way, Winchester University Press, 2016.

Meet the staff:

CARKE updates

Launch of Social Mobility to Degree Apprenticeships Pipeline Project

The University of Winchester was successful in leading a bid to link two major Government priorities in the interests of the region’s employers and those with the potential to take advantage of the Apprenticeship route, including to Degree Apprenticeships.

The Social Mobility to Degree Apprenticeships Pipeline project was launched with many of the University’s partners on 8 November by Professor Neil Marriott and Professor Pru Marriott at the University’s Business School.

This project is very important for the University, sitting well with our mission and our desire to strengthen our links both with employers and with local communities.

The University was especially keen to thank those individuals and organisations who offered letters of support to the project in what was a very competitive process. These letters made a big difference and make the prospects of delivering the vital project outcomes so much greater.

The outcomes that we are looking to achieve were discussed with partners. The principal points made were as follows:

  • The creation of a pipeline is vital in order to secure the untapped potential in the region benefiting both employees and employers 

  • There is a need to raise the aspirations and ambitions of many individuals and communities as well as educating employers about Degree Apprenticeships 

  • Focused community action may be an important part of supporting social mobility, making individuals feel less exposed and vulnerable if they stretch themselves through their learning
  • We should target parents who are highly influential on young people and remember that digital media approaches may work less well for them 

  • We need to promote progression routes from sixth form colleges and FE colleges so that the journey into HE and work through Degree Apprenticeships is made as seamless as possible 

  • We should draw changing talent recruitment practices to the attention of employers, including the adoption of more ‘strengths-based’ or ‘person-centred’ approaches
  • More employers should be made aware of the opportunities to use their Levy on Degree Apprenticeships, though this will be an opportunity to reconsider and restructure training rather than a simple ‘re-badging’ exercise 

  • Degree Apprenticeships provide more opportunities for second-time learners who could now see a clear progression route open to them while they worked 

  • Degree Apprenticeships are an important contribution to Industrial Strategies and to the national productivity agenda as well as encouraging home grown talent 

  • Potential Degree Apprentices would be attracted by the simple message of ‘earn while you learn’. This would help replace the possible fear of undertaking a degree that can be daunting for many 

  • Degree Apprenticeships are aimed at all talent and not solely young people. This would be vital if the Government ambition of three million more Apprenticeships by 2020 is to be achieved.

In considering the way forward, we agreed that it will be vital to increase the number and range of Degree Apprenticeships that are available and to promote them more effectively to employers. 

It will also be important to ensure this project leaves a lasting legacy and that the work that it initiates continues. That will be one of the main themes of the next event in April when partners will have the opportunity to hear about progress and agree how we can learn lessons and sustain action.

For further information please contact David Way or Stella McKnight .

Degree Apprenticeships Knowledge Exchange – What are we learning?

Where did the time go? The Office for Students organised what might be the final network event for all of us engaging in the Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund on 12 June. There was a healthy mix of formal inputs from other HEIs, employers and apprentices as well as opportunities to discuss shared problems and progress.

Nicola Turner reminded us that this was a very product-centric initiative and that the funding had ben used to stimulate extra provision. Indeed a number of HEIs highlighted the increase in the range of Degree Apprenticeships they now offered. Nicola was clear however that DADF was as much about raising awareness. We should also be looking at the spill over effect into other provision. What had we learnt that would benefit degree courses that would make employment outcomes much more likely.

Degree Apprenticeships are not a modest part of DfE’s offering, they are an important part of the drive to boost productivity and raise standards of training. They also offer part of the answer to potential higher skills shortages as Brexit makes recruitment from abroad less easy. However, there remain serious challenges to ensure that they benefit SMEs and all parts of the community. Indeed the attraction of going to university through a vocational route will resonate with the aspirations of many within the BAME community.

The employers who presented reminded us that the introduction of the Apprenticehip levy can have a beneficial effect on training practice with the realisation that this is the opportunity to review their traditional recruitment strategies that have often been limited to graduates. A broader mix of Degree Apprentices and graduates has helped enrich the talent pool and overcome retention issues.

Employers prefer to start slowly and test out Degree Apprenticeships before expanding their programme. BP had developed the notion of school Apprentices and Career Apprentices to differentiate between new recruits and existing employees. They were more interested in securing value from the training practices than simply trying to spend their levy money.

The employers had clear views on two important issues. First, Degree Apprenticeships needed to include Degrees. This was vital for the brand and the confidence of employers in the product. Second, careers advisers needed to be much more aware of Degree Apprenticeships so that they would be committed to going and finding the best people to take advantage of Degree Apprenticeship opportunities.

The Apprentices were all very supportive of their Degree Apprenticeship route and had no regrets about not being at university full-time. They were able to sample campus life when they wanted but did not want three years of this. They felt they were getting the best of both worlds – university teaching and work experience. While it was hard work, they were getting a lot out of it. Their advice was to make more of Degree Apprenticeships through social media and to ‘just do it’ if you were considering this route.

One of the principal learning points from the HEI presentations was the need to connect effectively to labour market intelligence in the region. Knowledge of current and emerging high skill shortages where Degree Apprenticeships could provide a solution was vital. This could be achieved through commissioning reports or through access to a suitable database.

Teesside University talked about the importance of having a clear front door for employers wishing to engage with the university. How accessible are services for employers and how easy is it to find the way to advice and services that would include Degree Apprenticeships.

There was no commonality in approach to the organisation of the Degree Apprenticeships offer within a university. While some universities had formed a strong central team to run Degree Apprenticeships, most seemed to favour a ‘hub and spoke’ model. The latter held some core support functions such as the provision of information to the ESFA centrally but left delivering Degree Apprenticeships with the faculties.

There was agreement that leadership from the top of the university was vital to success. However this needed to be reflected in the allocation of resources as well as in refreshed Mission Statements.
One enduring thought however that will need to be addressed at some time in the future arises from achieving parity of esteem for graduates and Degree apprentices. This is of course a great aspiration. Employers talked of those following both routes coming into a common talent pool at the end. Again this represents great progress. However, it will produce tensions over fees and debts if one route is free for the individual and the other leads to substantial student debt. No doubt this is one for the post-18 Education and Funding Review.

Professor David Way CBE
16 June 2018

Growing your own graduates through degree apprenticeships

Growing Your Own Graduates Through Degree Apprenticeships

A Case Study of collaboration between the University of Winchester and CGI.

Stella McKnight Director for Employer Partnerships, University of Winchester and Professor David F. Birks Dean of Faculty Business, Law and Sport, University of Winchester (Abridged by Professor David Way)

This is an abridged version of the chapter first published in A Race to the Top – Achieving three million more Apprenticeships by 2020 that was edited by David Way CBE and published by The University of Winchester Press in 2016.

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