A website maintained for the Sheffield City Region by the HEPP

Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Information for Current/Former Apprentices

What can I do next?

You already know the advantages of training as an apprentice but have you considered what you would like to do next?

You may wish to make further progress in your profession and may need to consider further qualifications. More and more apprentices are now going on to obtain higher-level qualifications to support them in their careers.

You have a number of options, depending on the level of education that you want to attain and way that you want to study:-

“The course took 2 years to complete and I’m now hungry for more, so I’ve enrolled on the HND course that will take me another year of study.”

Emma Campsill

Modes of study for higher education

You may wish to study for your degree on a full-time basis. You will need to ensure that your Advanced Apprenticeship qualification is accepted by the university or college that you want to go to - many more are now.

As a full-time student, you will be able to get a student loan to assist with the costs of your study, such as the course fees and subsistence costs.

You can study on a part-time basis. This can be for one-day per week, in the evenings, or by a combination of these. More than 40% of students in higher education are studying on a part-time basis so this is a well-recognised option. An advantage of this route is that you can continue to earn a wage while you study. From 2012 part-time undergraduates can also get a student loan to pay for the cost of the higher-level course.

If you cannot get the time off work or you work shifts, you could consider a course with the Open University. Learning takes place at home using a combination of support materials, such as books, tapes or through on-line learning. Loans are also available to help with the cost of studying OU courses.

Why study for a higher-level qualification?

There are many reasons why you might wish to continue your studies to gain higher-level qualifications.
Here are a few:

  • Graduates tend to earn more money over their lifetime. As an example, it has been calculated that those in engineering can earn at least £200,000 more, over their lifetime, than an engineer without a degree.
  • Graduates are also less likely to be unemployed later in life than those without degrees. This is partly because their higher-level skills allow them to do a range of jobs.
  • Graduates tend to work at higher levels in a company so degrees certainly help in career progression.
  • To enable career progression there may be a requirement for a higher-level qualification, for example to gain chartered status in subjects such as engineering or accountancy, or to do certain jobs where the higher-level qualification is a requirement.

Advantages & disadvantages

There are many advantages in training as an Apprentice. Here are just a few:

  • You get paid. The level of pay depends on your employer and the skill area in which you are training. But, compared to staying on at school or college, where you may have to work in the evenings or at the weekends to earn some money, you're going to be better off.
  • You will learn by a combination of attending college, your training provider and your employer. You are out of the school classroom and much of the learning will be by doing things rather than having to remember facts. So if you don't enjoy school then this may be a better option for you.
  • You gain recognised qualifications - NVQs, Key Skills and a Technical Certificate.
  • You will be trained to do a job. So, unlike those who stay on at school and take A Levels, you will have a qualification that shows that you have the skills necessary to do that job. Employers know that they will not have to spend a lot of time training you - you will have the ability to 'hit the ground running' and, all being well, a good reference from your employer to support you.
  • If you want to gain a higher qualification such as a HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or Honours Degree and you have a supportive employer, you can continue to study on a part-time basis while continuing to receive a wage. Your employer may even pay for the higher level course if they feel that it would benefit the company. If not, you can access the same higher education loans as full-time students.

There may be some disadvantages - it depends on the skill area and your preferred method of learning:

  • If you want to go to university it may take longer to get there with some Apprenticeships, depending on the subject area.
  • If you want to continue to study at a higher level on a part-time basis this will also take longer - but remember, you need to balance this against the future debt of full-time study, when you will probably have to live away from home and not be earning.
  • You may be more suited to classroom study and full time education.
  • Not all occupations offer Apprenticeships, so you may have no option but to take the academic route.
  • The range of courses you can study at a higher level may be more limited. Universities still understand A levels better than Apprenticeships, but this is changing and, as long as you choose a course that is a natural progression from your training, this should not stop you.

So, make your choice - an Apprenticeship is just another way of pursuing your career, it’s not second best. In fact, many employers prefer apprentice-trained people to those who have just left school, college or university. Click here for further information on Apprenticeships.

What’s higher education going to cost me?

Full-time higher education

In 2010, after much controversy, the coalition Government raised the maximum fee for a full-time degree course to £9,000 per annum. As a sweetener they also raised the salary, at which a contribution to pay off the loan has to be paid, from £15,000 to £21,000.

Many universities and colleges offer bursaries to help those from lower-income families and some institutions charge less than the maximum for their courses.

If the cost of the fees is off-putting you should be aware that many colleges that offer BTEC HE courses also charge significantly less than universities’ own degree courses.

For further information on loans and the cost of higher education, click here.

Part-time higher education

The cost of part-time courses is usually proportional to the full-time courses, so a part-time course that delivers half of a full-time course will typically cost 50% of a full-time equivalent course, but this is not always the case. BTEC courses such as HNCs and HNDs usually cost significantly less.

Courses offered by the Open University will, like other universities, have become significantly more expensive from 1 September 2012. As a guide, a full-time equivalent course will cost £5,264 per annum (120 credits).

Most people study for fewer credits than this – 30 or 60 – in which case the costs are proportional. Student loans will now be available for Open University courses as long as the student studies at a pace that is equivalent to at least 25 per cent of a full-time student, for example an OU course worth 30 credits. And the undergraduate qualification must be at a higher level than already held. No longer does the Government support people gaining multiple degrees. For further information on costs and funding at the Open University, click here.