Ensure ‘parity of funding’ for degrees and apprenticeships, experts urge

Higher education experts are calling for money raised by the apprenticeship levy to be used to fund employer-sponsored degree programmes rather than just focusing on boosting apprenticeships.

A report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) claims that the government’s focus on apprenticeships could jeopardise other forms of established employer-sponsored higher education programmes that, for many, provide a more straightforward option for training staff.


Don’t ignore ‘tried-and-tested’ education

Director of HEPI, Nick Hillman, said: “There has been general agreement for decades that employers should do more to train up their own staff. Policymakers are now responding by imposing an apprenticeship levy.

“But, unless we are careful, this could drive out tried-and-tested forms of higher education that are already backed by employers, such as employer-sponsored degrees.

“We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

In the report, Professor David Phoenix, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, argued that while degree- and higher-level apprenticeships should form a part of the government’s education and training armamentarium, their expansion should not be to the detriment of other vocational routes.


‘Complement, not disrupt’

He said: “I enthusiastically support [degree apprenticeships]. But ministers must ensure they complement rather than disrupt existing employer-sponsored degrees.

“While there is much that is good about modern (including higher and degree) apprenticeships, they are clearly not a silver bullet for the UK’s skills and productivity issues.”

The report added that “there should be funding parity between apprenticeships and employer-sponsored degrees to encourage employers to engage”.