De Montford University  in Leicester is one of many offering Graduate Apprenticeship programmes that differ from traditional degrees but retain the same level of academic rigour. They bring employers and training providers closer together by ensuring that learning programmes are relevant to the workplace and enabling apprentices to contribute to their employers while following their studies.


We often think of apprenticeships as a work-based qualification that is an alternative to going on from school to further and higher education.  However, for candidates there is a different perspective, including as an alternative to university degree courses:

  1. Apprenticeships are based on real jobs that include relevant training. Apprentices are paid and have an employment contract and similar rights to other staff.
  2. Apprenticeships are available at many levels. It is possible to start low and work up to graduate level and beyond.
  3. Degree apprenticeships offer the benefits of higher education but without the costs involved.


  1. While larger employers pay a small apprenticeship levy, whether or not they take on apprentices, all companies can benefit from subsidised high-quality training.
  2. They are directly involved in developing apprenticeship standards, if they so wish.
  3. The training is relevant to the needs of the company and helps to close skills gaps and shortages.
  4. Apprentices tend to stay loyal to the company that first employed them.


  1. Programmes provide better links with employers that can lead to other joint programmes.
  2. Academic rigour and vocational skills are combined to provide the best educational opportunities.
  3. Clear funding streams exist that do not lead to financial challenges for some students.


Candidates can apply for these at the same time as applying for normal university places, although it is usually via an employer participating in the programme.

With a degree apprenticeship, apprentices split their time between university study and the workplace, and remain in employment throughout the course. De Montford works with local employers to offer programmes in areas such as chartered management, cyber security, digital and technology solutions and development engineering.  Programmes are also being developed in architecture, accountancy and building services design.

Employers participating in the programmes include the National Health Service, British Telecom, KFC and Leicestershire Police. However, graduate apprenticeships are not confined to larger organisations. Small companies can also participate, with most of the costs covered externally.

Practical experience in the workplace makes 80 per cent of the training, meaning that employers and students benefit immediately rather than waiting until the end of a programme before accumulating practical experience. As with all new apprenticeships, ‘standards’ are developed by groups of employers that target the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for a particular occupation. These are mapped against university programmes to ensure relevant content and learning outcomes.

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