Euan Blair’s Multiverse granted degree-awarding powers

Apprenticeships provider that became UK’s first edtech ‘unicorn’ to offer candidates chance to study ‘debt-free’

九月 1, 2022
Receiving a degree

An edtech start-up valued at £1.4 billion has been granted degree-awarding powers in the UK, allowing it to offer bachelor’s qualifications to its apprentices. 

Multiverse, co-founded by Euan Blair, the son of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, said that it has become the country’s first apprenticeship-only provider to be able to offer degrees after a “rigorous approval process led by the Office for Students”.

Candidates will be able to study programmes in areas such as data science and technology alongside on-the-job training. Multiverse said apprentices will not be charged for their degrees, and they will not have to take on debt. 

An initial cohort of 170 apprentices will be the first to enrol onto the company’s degree programmes this September as they begin positions at companies such as Rolls-Royce and Mastercard. Applications for all 16- to 24-year-olds will then open later this year, Multiverse said. 

Elisabeth Barrett, Multiverse’s vice-president for learning, said that traditionally, young people “have been faced with an artificial trade-off between getting a degree or starting a career and immediately learning real-world skills” – but now they could do both. 

She said that the company’s vision will “allow people to obtain a quality education – but where a salary replaces debt”, and that degree apprenticeships allow young people to obtain a “high-quality job from the start” instead of being “unprepared for the modern workplace by the time they graduate”. She added that they will replace “theoretical lectures and outdated exams” with “applied learning and personalised coaching”.

The company has previously offered degree apprenticeships via a partnership with the New College of Humanities, the private institution founded by philosopher A. C. Grayling that recently changed its name to Northeastern University – London following a takeover by the Boston-based university. 

Mr Blair has been keen to talk up taking apprenticeships, as opposed to the traditional three-year degree route, in rhetoric that some have seen as countering his father’s famous commitment that 50 per cent of school leavers should go to university. He has said apprenticeships now “pass the middle-class dinner party test” after traditionally being seen as a a less prestigious option for school-leavers.

Multiverse became the UK’s first ed tech “unicorn” – the moniker given to start-ups that are valued at more than $1 billion (£862 million) – in June after raising a further $220 million in its latest funding round. In 2021 it announced its intention to go global by expanding into the US.

The company said that its admissions system for its degrees will be “built on equity and aligned to workplace success”, and will create opportunities for those who may be disadvantaged by the current system. 

Jean Arnold, director of quality at the Office for Students, said to be granted degree awarding powers, applicants must "be able to demonstrate an emerging self-critical, cohesive academic community with a clear commitment to the assurance of standards supported by effective (in prospect) quality systems."

She stressed that providers initially operate with the new powers on a probationary basis, and must demonstrate their progress towards meeting the criteria required to retain them.

"We support innovation in the sector to enhance the options and quality of courses for students. We’re pleased to grant degree awarding powers to Multiverse as a provider that delivers opportunities and choice to students," Ms Arnold added.



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Reader's comments (3)

The system resembles that introduced in 1956 and referred to as the Diploma in Technology via a sandwich course over 4 years, alternately spending 6 months at college and 6 months in a suitably industry each year with the students being paid a wage during their industrial secondment. The concept was good but suffered from poorly thought out administrative structure. For example, within a few years the Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs) gradually morphed into the traditional processes of the red brick universities. The terms Diplomates, MCTs and Dip Techs were phased out to be replaced by Graduates, PhDs and Bachelors of Science. A measure of the success of the Multiverse degrees will be the extent to which it will resist changes in its regurgitated version of the original Diploma in Technology designed to be an alternative degree in all but name.
This is so wrong and will destroy the reputation of British degrees worldwide.
Think outside the box. Could this model be used to help accommodate the glut of African students talked about in another of today's articles, which comments that overseas fees mean only the most wealthy students are able to leave Africa in search of an education.