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No Fee Degrees: Alternative Pathways

Kathryn Norris, from St Benedict’s School, Ealing in west London, talks about increasingly popular alternatives to university education.

By 2020, the government hopes to have created three million new apprenticeships. Programmes in a variety of industries – including technology, banking, law and the Civil Service - are being developed in order to meet key skills gaps and shortages. The annual level of spending on apprenticeships is set to double, to £2.5 billion over the next two years, largely funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, which was introduced in 2017.

The St Benedict’s Careers Department recently ran a ‘No Fee Degrees: Alternative Pathways’ evening to help parents and pupils understand how sponsored degrees work, and whether Higher Level apprenticeships can compete with a Russell Group university degree. 

We were delighted to welcome representatives from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS); the Bank of England; Pearson College (the training partner for IBM, L’Oreal and the BBC, and providers of a unique rotational apprenticeship degree programme); and Jaguar Land Rover. Interest from parents and pupils was high from the outset, with over 140 attendees and front rows packed with pupils. 

Every presenter illustrated a different aspect of apprenticeship. The NAS gave a powerful overview and each company presented completely distinctive offerings to help flesh out the framework, from sponsored degrees to modular training. We were particularly fortunate to have an award winning apprentice from Jaguar Land Rover, Alice Belcher, now in the final year of her Sponsored Degree in partnership with Warwick University. She illustrated how choosing a Higher Level apprenticeship created opportunities that have made her a more mature, interesting employment candidate than peers pursuing a conventional full-time university degree. Named as one of Autocar’s Rising Stars in 2016, and a powerful role model for women in engineering, Alice is aiming for First Class Honours. St Benedict’s students were also interested to hear about the salary Alice has earned throughout her apprenticeship!

Alice Belcher, award winning apprenticewith Jaguar Landrover/Warwick University, at the St Benedict's School Careers Fair, Ealing.
Alice Belcher, award winning apprentice from Jaguar Land Rover/Warwick University

So was the evening a success?

Absolutely. The level of interest from pupils and parents demonstrated the thirst to understand more on this area and feedback from pupils, parents and the organisations supporting us was overwhelmingly positive.

As a result – for the first time - our Careers Fair this year included a ‘Meet the Apprentice, Alternative Pathways’ area. Representatives from NAS and six apprentices shared their experiences and programmes from Dentons (a City international law practice) and JLL  (Jones Lang Lasalle, the global professional services and investment management company employing 60,000 staff).

St Benedict's School Careers Fair. Ealing, west London
The St Benedict's School Careers Fair included a ‘Meet the Apprentice, Alternative Pathways’ area for the first time this year.

At a minimum cost of £9,000 per annum, young people should seriously consider whether full time university is necessarily the ‘best’ pathway after school. Students interested in pursuing careers in law, chartered surveying, engineering and the creative industries - to name a few – now have several routes to choose from. With Brexit, the number and range of Higher Level apprenticeships and workplace-based higher education opportunities will increase, as will the range and quality of programmes. Entry requirements and competition for the highest quality sponsored degree programmes will become increasingly competitive. With a high quality degree delivering work based experience in a sought after company, ‘No Fees’ becomes the icing on a very substantial ‘alternative to university’ cake*.

*apprenticeships in hospitality and catering here!

Kathryn Norris, Careers Department




Tagged  Careers