What do we know about progression for the second cohort of students with T Levels?

Friday 8 March 2024, Apprenticeships

by Philippa Alway, Senior Policy Adviser (Apprenticeships and Skills), UCAS

What do we know about progression for the second cohort of students with T Levels?

The 2023 cycle marked the second year that students in England with T Levels used the skills and knowledge they developed to access the right next step for them, from apprenticeships and higher education to employment. That is something to recognise on T Levels Day of National Apprenticeship Week 2024.
Philippa Alway, Senior Policy Adviser (Apprenticeships and Skills), UCAS

The English Level 3 qualifications landscape has gone through major reforms in recent years and there continues to be live conversations and development on the future of them with the Advanced British Standard (ABS) consultation. T Levels have marked the most significant change to the qualification landscape since the decoupling of the AS in 2015 and it is the Government’s intention that they will “form the backbone” of the new qualification.

These reforms sit within broader changes that have been seen over the last few years, including the introduction of Higher Technical Qualifications and degree apprenticeships. In totality, this offers students a clearer technical education progression pathway from Level 3 onwards. It is key that schools, colleges, universities, employers, and training providers understand what these reforms mean for the future pipeline of apprentices and students.

But what do we know of the progression of the second group of students to complete T Levels?

What are the aspirations for progression of T Level applicants? 

There are now just over 4,000 young people with T Levels on their CVs. The 2023 cycle saw T Level students getting their results for the seven new T Levels that were introduced in 2021 – including health, healthcare science and science, digital support services, onsite construction and building services engineering for construction. This adds to the first wave when T Levels were initially introduced in 2020 with courses in education and childcare, digital and construction. 

T Levels were designed to offer a broad range of next steps. A recent Department for Education (DfE) publication revealed that of the 2021 cohort one in five (19%) intended to progress to an apprenticeship (including degree apprenticeship) and that two in five (40%) of students planned to study towards a degree.  

We are tracking interest in apprenticeships and have found that interest in apprenticeship opportunities for those using the UCAS Hub is significant, at around 40%. With T Level applicants in the 2023 cycle, we see that they are 31% more likely than non-T Level applicants to tell us they are also interested in apprenticeships. This shows that T Level students are indeed considering a wider variety of next steps.

The debate about whether HE providers and employers would accept these new qualifications for entry was sparked from their inception. The data presents a resounding yes. Nearly all (97%) who applied through UCAS received at least one offer, including from some of the most competitive providers. Moreover, the aspiration seen in the DfE survey has played out – with around two in five of the 2023 applicants being placed – representing 1,430 students (83% of applicants with T Levels).

As is the case for other vocational qualifications, we see that in the 2023 cycle applicants were placed across all kinds of providers, with most going to those with medium (32%) and lower tariffs (64%). We know that different qualifications open and close doors to different pathways. Previous UCAS research has shown that one in five inadvertently close a door to a course of choice due to qualification or subject selection.

It is vital that T Level students understand the routes available to them, and as part of this, universities, colleges, and employers make entry criteria for apprenticeships and degrees clear. It is equally important for there to be clarity and good understanding from an earlier age about the various progression routes and options, from apprenticeships and Higher Technical Qualifications, to degrees.

A spotlight on health: What do T Levels mean for the NHS workforce?

Taking a key skills gap sector as an example, we can shine a spotlight on what T Levels can do for progression. The first students who studied health and healthcare science were awarded their qualifications last year and this qualification will educate a key part of the NHS workforce of the future. 

Apprenticeships form a key pillar of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, with the aim of providing 22% of all training for clinical staff through apprenticeship routes by 2031/32, up from just 7% today. It is promising, then, that 23% of the 2021 health and science T Level starters planned to progress through to an apprenticeship (from DfE survey). It is even more promising that those applying to HE through UCAS with T Levels are 54% more likely to tell us they are interested in a health-related apprenticeship than those with other qualifications.

And to give the full picture across post-18 pathways, UCAS data shows that nearly a third (31%) of young people with a T Level were placed in subjects allied to medicine. They are now developing the skills and knowledge they need to enter the health workforce in the coming years.

UCAS’ role in ensuring parity and progression 

Every young person who considers studying a T Level, or any other qualification for that matter, should know fully what progression opportunities it offers across undergraduate study, apprenticeships, and employment.

At UCAS, we deliver personalised information and advice to students via the UCAS Hub, with our careers quiz and industry guides highlighting pathways for T Levels students. As our work on apprenticeships expands, the insights that we develop about vocational and technical pathways and apprenticeships will grow.

As of October last year, every applicant who signs in to their UCAS student account, known as the UCAS Hub, will see the most relevant apprenticeship opportunities for them side-by-side with higher education courses. Students will be able to search for an apprenticeship at any time throughout the year, as and when employers are hiring, with vacancies updated in real time. A true step towards parity.

(UCAS statistics on T Level applicants correct as of end of cycle 2023.)