By Liz Gorb, Director of Apprenticeships at Manchester Metropolitan University, Sharon Blyfield, Head of Early Careers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, and Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive
Posted Tue 7 February 2023 - 12:00

Since the introduction of degree apprenticeships in 2015, student interest in these programmes has skyrocketed and it’s easy to see why – with students able to work, earn and learn all at the same time. This not only puts them in a strong position when entering the job market but means they are well placed to climb the ladder within an organisation, as is evidenced by the 30% of senior managers at Rolls Royce that started as apprentices.

This strength of interest is reflected in new UCAS data, which shows that almost half of students registering with UCAS – about 425,000 – are interested in learning more about apprenticeships. Despite this, only 37,800 people started a degree apprenticeship in 2021-22, with this figure being even lower for those aged 18-24, at only 2,480. This presents two challenges – increasing the supply of degree apprenticeships and helping learners, especially younger learners, access this pathway. It is key that growing interest and ambition of students is matched with a supply of opportunities, which is why Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s announcement that apprenticeships will be boosted under plans to broaden UCAS represent a major transformation. Under the new plans, students will be able to discover, decide and apply for any apprenticeship opportunities alongside undergraduate courses all in one place, through UCAS Hub from 2024.

And the opportunities aren’t just limited to students – degree apprenticeships offer significant benefits to universities and employers too. UCAS is aiming to create greater visibility of these high-quality partnerships, while helping universities and employers attract the best future talent.

How Manchester Metropolitan University is championing degree apprenticeships 

Manchester Metropolitan University has fully embraced degree apprenticeships from the moment the model was launched in 2015, becoming one of the leading national providers - delivering 18 programmes to more than 2,500 students in a range of sectors, including health, digital and science. They are an OFSTED outstanding provider, with 94% of students achieving a Distinction or Merit at their end point assessment, and first or 2:1 degree classification.

Manchester Metropolitan now works in partnership with more than 540 employers including Coca Cola, Barclays, Astra Zeneca, Lloyds, IBM, and the NHS, servicing the needs of industry by providing this exciting new route for learners – helping those that want to jump straight into work from school, or those that want to learn at a higher level but in a different way. They recognise the importance of not just working with large national employers but with a range of SMEs to achieve this and are a national exemplar for degree apprenticeships with SMEs (Small Business Charter, 2019). They experience high levels of student and employer satisfaction and have been the top university provider of degree apprenticeships at the RateMyApprenticeship Awards, 2019 - 2022, and University Provider of the Year at the Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards 2022.

Their successful delivery and advocacy for the degree apprenticeship programme can act as an example to universities nationwide and is evidenced in the University’s ‘Force for Change’ report, which outlines how its degree apprenticeship programmes have improved social mobility, increasing opportunities for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds and boosting earnings.

The delivery of degree apprenticeships also brings significant benefit to Manchester Metropolitan University and its civic mission – enabling the institution to provide an innovative and impactful offer, in line with the local, regional and national skills needs, while also offering significant social mobility opportunities. It also further diversifies the student population, offering benefits not just to apprentices, but to employers and the wider community.

How employers are levelling-up by hiring degree apprentices

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) is just one of the many employers who have realised the business opportunity of hiring school leavers and career changers on degree apprenticeships. CCEP currently employs 50 Early Career and a further 56 Career Builder Apprentices.

Learners on degree apprenticeships form a key part of CCEP’s current and future workforce, enabling the company to harness skills that best meet the needs of the business – across business units ranging from sales and merchandising, to food technology and engineering. And the partnership works for all parties – apprentices get the best of both worlds, with practical on-the-job learning and training, working alongside highly-skilled colleagues four days a week, coupled with one day of studying. This set up enables employers like CCEP to tap into the expertise of world class universities to upskill their future talent, allowing them to focus on other areas such as supporting employee integration into their company.

By hiring school leavers, CCEP can turbocharge the careers of young apprentices, helping them get on-the-job experience more quickly and learn the range of soft and hard skills that employment requires, while still getting a theoretical skill basis through their university study. Having successfully completed the program, apprentices have the opportunity to become permanent employees at CCEP in their chosen career – and since 2017, 85% of apprentices have chosen to continue their career with the company.

Degree apprenticeships also allow CCEP to hire from outside industry, bringing new ideas and a fresh perspective to the business, while being able to upskill them quickly to perform to the requirements of the role. As we have seen above, demand for degree apprenticeships is outstripping supply, meaning that there are high quality applicants who are crying out for the supply of opportunities to be increased – the business community can step up to meet this demand.

How UCAS is connecting students to degree apprenticeships

There remain challenges that learners face in accessing apprenticeships. UCAS research shows that one in three students do not receive information about apprenticeships and while 73% of students tell us that they find it easy to access information about higher education, for apprenticeships this figure is only 26%. To help realise the potential of this pathway, we need to ensure that these options are understood, visible, and able to be considered side-by-side other routes.

UCAS is aiming to do exactly that. Demand for apprenticeships is increasing – as well as almost half of people that register on UCAS saying they would consider an apprenticeship, the use of UCAS’s apprenticeships search tool service continues to grow, with more than 2 million searches over the past year. UCAS’s apprenticeship offer is wide reaching, helping students explore the full range of post-secondary routes, including apprenticeships, in a personalised way via the UCAS Hub. Students can come to UCAS to understand potential future careers through our Careers Quiz and Job profiles, and also look at specific employers through more than 50 employer profiles. UCAS also brings employers and students together through our 40 national exhibitions.

The need to ensure students can access these opportunities is becoming increasingly important. As the 18-year-old population grows, so will competition, making choice even more critical. Partnerships between universities, employers and UCAS will not only enhance visibility of these routes, but create new and exciting opportunities that offer benefit for all, as well as the wider economy.


UCAS Press Office

07880 488 795 (monitored regularly)



UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education.

Our services support young people making post-18 choices, as well as mature learners, by providing information, advice, and guidance to inspire and facilitate educational progression to university, college, or a degree apprenticeship.

We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

We also provide a wide range of research, consultancy and advisory services to schools, colleges, careers services, professional bodies, and employers, including apprenticeships. We’re a successful and fast-growing organisation, which helps hundreds of thousands of people every year.

We're committed to delivering a first-class service to all our customers — they're at the heart of everything we do.



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