A new report published by the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) calls for universities to work together to deliver high quality “build your own” modular apprenticeship programmes.
Such courses, the report argues, would appeal to a larger range of employers and see universities form consortia to offer a range of modules in their areas of expertise.
The report draws on evidence from UPP’s annual student survey of over 1,000 applicants and first years along with a series of roundtable events during which sector experts were given the opportunity to interrogate the survey data. The report identifies key trends in student behaviour and creates a snapshot of student decision-making both ahead of and during their time at university.
There is good news for the Government’s efforts to create a parity of esteem between apprenticeships and university with only 12% of respondents worrying that apprenticeships are not respected by employers, however students still feel that university is the best option for future employability. By combining a degree with an apprenticeship, the report suggests, students will benefit from the best of both worlds.
Our insight shows that students are increasingly anxious about their own employability and universities are coming under pressure to demonstrate both their links to businesses and that their courses make students work ready
UPP’s research with the sector suggests vocational partnerships between HE institutions and businesses tend to be skewed towards larger employers who have the means to invest and the numbers to fill a course. It is more challenging to create courses that appeal to a sufficiently broad base of SMEs, who may be keen to offer high-quality apprenticeships but to just one or two students a year. The report suggests Universities could overcome these issues by forming consortia to run rolling modular vocational courses. Under such as model several universities would come together to offer one or two modules towards a single vocational course with – for example – one institution offering Business Management and another Electronic Engineering. This could be particularly effective in large conurbations with multiple universities.
The report also supports calls for an increase in technical conversion courses aimed at digital skills. This would see universities offer one-year post-graduate courses modeled on existing conversion courses such as in law. Such courses would provide young people with a technical route following a degree that would explicitly prepare for a given sector. They would also give employers a new intake of graduates with a high level of both technical and academic skills.
Jon Wakeford, UPP’s Group Director of Strategy said: “Our research and work with the business community leave us in no doubt that there is an appetite for high-quality vocational courses on both the supply and demand side of the market.
“Our insight shows that students are increasingly anxious about their own employability and universities are coming under pressure to demonstrate both their links to businesses and that their courses make students work ready. From an employer perspective, as plans for the Apprenticeship Levy develop, businesses are looking more carefully at how they can get the most out of vocational education sector. This creates an opportunity for innovation within the sector and we hope this piece of work will be food for thought.”