Given most students go to university for career reasons, doesn’t it make more sense to integrate learning pathways and provide students with an option that combines academic development with the technical practicality?
Thankfully, there is now a choice that does exactly that: a degree apprenticeship.
Degree apprenticeships are fairly new on the scene, and mean students no longer have to choose but get to go to university and work in the professional world from day one. Given most students work while at university anyway, it makes great sense for that work to be directly relevant to their studies – and they get paid and graduate debt free.
That being said, a traditional degree remains the right choice for many. It provides students with the opportunity to study their favourite subjects and they can immerse themselves fully in the academic and social life of the university, whereas degree apprentices will have to work typically four days a week.
Furthermore, traditional subjects offer students valuable analytical skills, and plenty of English, history and theology graduates go on to become accountants and lawyers. However, it is arguable whether a traditional degree provides people with the best start professionally.
For many years, the only alternative to a degree has been an apprenticeship. However, apprenticeships require people to specialise in a particular area faster than they otherwise might.
Increasingly, students will not have to make such a binary choice. As more degree apprenticeships become available they will have the chance to study both an apprenticeship and a degree.
Degree apprenticeships are in more practical subjects such as Business Management, IT, and Engineering. Nevertheless, students still study a full honours degree and all the academic theory and reading that goes with that, but they also do practical work-based projects and contextualise their learning in the real world.
Students have to be exceptionally talented to get onto a degree apprenticeship – after all a company is going to employ them for several years and pay their tuition. Furthermore, it is not necessarily about grades; some major firms now look beyond educational qualifications for talent indicators. Instead they look for traits like enthusiasm, commitment, motivation and potential.
Degree apprenticeships are a great choice for people wanting to combine academic study with relevant work experience and develop a strong CV with no graduate debt. But they can be competitive and demand hard work.
In light of recent fee rises, it’s important that students now think more critically about their higher education choices.