The groups welcomed the extra £12 million but warned that apprentices from poorer backgrounds will not feel the benefit unless the minimum wage for apprentices is increased in line with the Real Living Wage.
The Office for Students (OfS) has today confirmed it will invest £12 million to increase the number of Level 6 degree apprenticeship courses and places available in English higher education.
This is part of the OfS’s £40 million degree apprenticeships fund, which will provide support for 205 Level 6 degree apprenticeship programmes at 51 higher education providers.
NUS UK and NSoA expressed their excitement at the additional funding for degree apprenticeships, which offer a different path to university for people who would otherwise be unable to access it.
However, they also warned that without an increase in the minimum wage for apprentices, people from poorer backgrounds would be unable to benefit from the funding boost.
Commenting, Simon Hawthorn from the National Society of Apprentices said:
“NSoA welcomes any increase in degree apprenticeships. We're especially impressed with the spread of institutions across the country, with colleges across the West country all the way up to University of Cumbria really putting flesh on the bones to the idea that degree apprenticeships can be a driver of social mobility.
“Degree Apprenticeships give young people access high quality education and a real job all without getting saddled with unpayable debt.
“There's always a but though. We share the concerns of the Sutton Trust that degree apprenticeships are at risk of becoming the preserve of young people from well off families rather than the "engine of social mobility" that the Minister so enthusiastically supports.
“To make degree apprenticeships truly accessible, the UK Government must increase the apprentice living wage in line with the Real Living Wage.”
Commenting, NUS UK Vice President, Chloe Field, said:
“Any and all extra funding for education is welcome, especially for degree apprenticeships which offer an alternative route to higher education that allows for students to put theories into practice.
“Degree apprenticeships should aid social mobility as a way for people to access education without incurring student debt. However, many people cannot afford to undertake apprenticeships when the apprentice minimum wage is a mere £6.40 per hour.
“Like all students, apprentices are not exclusively school leavers who can rely on their parents to make up their earnings. Many apprentices live by themselves, and many are retraining later in life and have families they need to support.
“In order to make sure people of all backgrounds can benefit from this extra funding, we urge the UK Government to increase the apprentice minimum wage in line with the Real Living Wage.”