Degree apprenticeships: a new way to learn

A partnership with global professional services firm PwC has created an innovative way for young people to launch a career in technology.


A four-year BSc course designed together with PwC is one of the first and largest examples of the new degree apprenticeships.

Degree apprenticeships are a new approach to learning, which link students, employers and universities very closely. Combining invaluable ‘on the job’ training in paid employment with study for a degree qualification, they aim to meet the demands of employers, address skills gaps and enhance UK productivity.

Key features of a degree apprenticeship at Leeds are:

  • Rather than applying as individuals, as traditional undergraduates do, those studying on degree apprenticeship courses are nominated as apprentices by their employers.  Employers pay their salary and academic fees.
  • They have to meet equivalent entry requirements to students studying on traditional degree courses at the University.
  • Students take part in extensive work placements whilst studying, and receive a University of Leeds degree upon completing their studies.
  • Degree apprenticeships at Leeds are developed in co-operation with individual businesses, firms or organisations to meet their needs whilst ensuring the University’s rigorous standards of research-based teaching are maintained.

The Computer Science BSc with PwC is one of two degree apprenticeships and one higher apprenticeship developed by the University. It is intended to help address the UK’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s diversity.

PwC research has found that 67% of UK chief executives find it difficult to recruit people with digital skills. Separate PwC research found that only 27% of female A-level and university students would consider a career in technology compared to 62% of men.

Professor Peter Jimack, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, said: “Deepening the relationship between universities and leading private sector businesses is one of the key ways academia can support the UK’s economy.

“At Leeds we have a long-standing commitment to, and record of success in, attracting students from all backgrounds to study with us and we see this degree apprenticeship as being one more example of this commitment.”

Initially 40 students will be accepted on to the programme in September 2018. At the end of their studies, students will receive a University of Leeds degree in Computer Science and a job at PwC, if they meet performance criteria.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, added: “For the UK to prosper post-Brexit we need to invest in creating a vibrant tech sector right across the country and more people with the skills needed to help businesses transform.”

“People often perceive that all the tech talent needs to be in London, but with our programme we are opening up the opportunities right across the country and to people who may have thought that university or technology careers were out of their reach.”

Other apprenticeship courses at Leeds

The University has also entered into a partnership with three other education providers to develop a leadership and management master’s degree apprenticeship for Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. It is due to accept apprentices from September 2018.

Also from this September the University is launching a Healthcare Assistant Practitioner higher apprenticeship, developed with NHS trusts across Yorkshire.  This course is aimed at adult learners already working within the NHS in a clinical support worker role.

Further degree apprenticeships are planned as the market for this new approach to higher level training and education grows. The University is seeking to work with leading UK and global employers to develop programmes to suit their needs.

For further information, contact David Gardner.

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