Scotland’s skills gap impacted by over a fifth of UK’s top universities not providing Degree Apprenticeships

A student completing a degree apprenticeship.

THE BARRIERS to unlocking highly skilled workforces and economic growth across Scotland have been uncovered by new research today, which reveals over a fifth (22%) of the UK’s top 100 universities still don’t deliver degree apprenticeships.

The study was conducted by the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) which has over 90 university members and examined the range of job roles students can train for when completing a degree apprenticeship.

Analysis across the 100 universities found that more work is needed if the UK’s higher education (HE) system is going to be in a position to offer every available degree apprenticeship to ensure Scottish employers and students’ ambition is met.

Of those universities reviewed, the greatest provision of degree apprenticeships is in business and administration subject areas, with 48% of universities offering a programme for those progressing their career in HR, as a business analyst or even as a senior leader. Business and administration courses, such as the CMI Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, make up 18% of the degree apprenticeships offered by the top 100 universities. 

It was closely followed by health and science (45%) which provides a pathway into roles such as a pharmacist or registered nurse. The third biggest subject area is digital and IT (36%) which offers a work-based route into roles such as software developer or data scientist.

Further positive news for the Scotland’s economy found within the research, was that 46% of degree apprenticeships are provided within recognised STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, such as engineering and manufacturing and finance and accounting.

The lowest provision of degree apprenticeships is within law and legal studies with only 1% providing them in that area. The following ranks which degree apprenticeships provide the most in volume starts across the 100 universities analysed:

  1. Business and administration – 48%
  2. Health and Science – 45%
  3. Digital and IT – 36%
  4. Engineering and manufacturing – 33%
  5. Construction, architecture and the build environment – 21%
  6. Care services – 20%
  7. Education, teaching and childcare – 18%
  8. Protective services (e.g. police or fire service) – 9%
  9. Financing and accounting – 7%
  10. Agriculture, environment and animal care – 7%
  11. Creative and design – 6%
  12. Transport and logistics – 5%
  13. Catering and hospitality – 4%
  14. Sales, marketing and procurement – 4%
  15. Law and legal studies – 1%
  16. Hair and beauty – 0%

Dr. Mandy Crawford-Lee, chief executive for UVAC commented: “Giant strides have been made to ensure the UK’s traditionally recognised top 100 universities are meeting the needs of students and employers in Scotland by maximising their contribution to the provision of degree apprenticeships. In the last academic year alone, degree apprenticeship starts increased by 9% compared to the previous year. Yet our research reveals there is still scope for far greater provision, given their proven impact on improving social mobility, addressing the skills gaps and shortages across public and private sector organisations and bolstering the wider economy.

“The UK’s world class universities have a fundamental role to play in ensuring employers across Scotland, including SMEs, have the right employees with the right skills to raise business performance and productivity. Too often universities are only seen as focused on academic programmes for young people, when in reality those delivering apprenticeships play a key role in supporting those new to the workforce, or currently employed, to develop the knowledge and skills needed to excel in any sector.

“UVAC recognises that delivering degree apprenticeships brings with it concerns around cost, employer engagement and regulatory requirements, preventing some universities from committing further. We still remain hugely optimistic, given the blueprint has been set by organisations such as the Russell Group, as more than half of its research-intensive universities provide 500 employers and over 2,100 apprentices with higher and degree apprenticeships in cities such as Exeter, Leeds and Sheffield.

“Moving forwards, we view the provision of higher and degree apprenticeships delivered by higher education as essential to levelling up regions and reducing the skills gap across Scotland. Our research shows that there is still capacity within our UK institutions to both deliver more degree apprenticeships and diversify into new industries and occupations. I believe universities provide a cutting-edge and aspirational approach that is continually helping raise the status of all types of apprenticeship across the UK.”

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