Ucas applicants to be shown apprenticeships alongside degrees

UK higher education admissions service moves to put vocational routes into careers on an ‘equal footing’ with traditional options

February 6, 2023

Apprenticeships will be showcased alongside traditional degrees by the UK’s higher education admissions service, Ucas, to put vocational routes into careers on an “equal footing”, the Westminster government has announced.

Applicants will be able to search and apply for apprenticeship schemes via the Ucas hub from 2024 at the same time as they make their undergraduate degree applications. 

The Department for Education said students will be shown all the possibilities for their intended career path side by side as a way of providing them with “a wider choice of high-quality options”. 

Almost half the 1.5 million people registered with Ucas say they would consider an apprenticeship, the government said, but currently the service only handles admissions into higher education courses, with apprenticeship applications the responsibility of individual employers.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan, herself a former apprentice at a car factory who also studied business at Liverpool John Moores University, is known to be a strong advocate of apprenticeships alongside the higher education minister, Robert Halfon. While many universities have formed partnerships with industry to offer degree apprenticeships, other sector leaders have cautioned against the purpose of higher education being too closely aligned to employability

Ms Keegan said she wanted to develop a “one-stop-shop” where young people can compare the full range of occupations, training and education opportunities available to them.

“My apprenticeship was my golden ticket. It gave me a unique insight into how a business operated, from the shop floor to the boardroom,” Ms Keegan said. “I learnt the skills that businesses truly value and it launched my career in international business.”

She added that apprenticeships could help unlock careers “in everything from engineering to accountancy, healthcare to gaming software development”.

Ucas said it will begin to show apprenticeship opportunities in its hub from 2023, before opening up applications in autumn 2024.

Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said this would “not only transform the apprenticeship offering but create real parity by putting these options side-by-side with undergraduate courses”.

The announcement – timed to coincide with National Apprenticeships Week – was welcomed by business leaders and those in higher education.

John Boumphrey, country manager for Amazon UK – which currently trains 1,700 apprentices – said there was a need to increase the awareness of apprenticeships as a viable career path while Jane Hickie, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said it could be a “gamechanger” because “accessing information about apprenticeships can be confusing and complicated at times.”

Sir Chris Husbands, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said the university had “grown substantially” its degree apprenticeship provision and such opportunities across all levels “are an increasingly important part of our education eco-system”.

“We welcome this announcement as a step towards providing learners with better information on all the options available to them, so that they can take a considered view on what route is best for them,” Sir Chris added.


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