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In September 2016, an email landed in my inbox from our Vice-Principal of Learning and Teaching, which was asking for Universities to get involved in offering the new Graduate Apprenticeships programme with SDS.

I jumped at the chance for my University. It was clear to me that this was a great opportunity to bring students to the University who would not usually contemplate University as being a choice for them. One of the main reasons I am an academic is to do just that!

My reasons for this are actually very personal. You see, I went to a school where there was very little history of students going to university. Also, neither of my parents attended University nor hold a degree.

 So, the day that I was accepted to University was a major milestone in my life. However, it was daunting and it took a lot of confidence, to walk in to the hall where I had to matriculate on my first day.

I remember having to ask other new students in the queue what the word ‘matriculate’ even meant (for the uninitiated it is just registration where you just sign a few pieces of paper etc, there is no blood oath involved!) 

For all that my first few days and weeks at University were a very steep learning curve, that I will never forget, in many ways I was actually very privileged. I had a very supportive family, I had the financial means to complete my degree and, I had no caring responsibilities.


Not all people have that level of privilege. For them the hurdles to attend University are very real and difficult to overcome.

Whenever I heard of Graduate Apprenticeships I realised that this was a way to help people overcome these barriers.

Graduate Apprenticeships are a way to give individuals the chance to gain their degree whilst in full time paid employment.

In September last year we launched four Graduate Apprenticeship programmes:

  • BEng hons in Engineering, Design and Manufacturing
  • BSc hons in IT Management for Business
  • BSc hons in IT Software Development
  • Dip HE in Civil Engineering


Partnership working with industry

There were two really exciting things about launching these new degree programmes.

Firstly, we got to work really closely with industry (including have them attend a one day scrutiny event, where we dissected all the details of the programmes) in order to make sure that the degree content would work for them. Being a primarily work-based-learning opportunity we have to make sure that the content fits with what the apprentices will do at the workplace.

This was really interesting as it opened my eyes to the skills based changes that are happening in local industry.

We also worked with them to look at various delivery models. In the end, we went for one day a week on campus over 42 weeks, with the remaining four days in the workplace. We collectively felt that this would provide the correct balance of academic learning with the industrial experience. It also provides the most benefit to the workplace (they still have an employee on site with their employer 80% of the time).

All of the learning completed at university is relevant to each of the apprentice’s job, meaning the work that they do is contextualised and students understand why they are learning theory and get to put it straight into practice.

Mix of students

Secondly, it was exciting to see the students that came on to the Graduate Apprenticeship courses.

The mix of students is everything I hoped it would be. We have mature students with caring responsibilities who are re-skilling for a changing world.

There are several students who completed a Modern Apprenticeship and without Graduate Apprenticeships their learning journey may have ended there.

We also have a women returner who wanted a career in a different area and some school leavers who were concerned that University would not necessarily lead to a job.

The great thing for all our Graduate Apprentices is they have that job security from day one of their University degree.

This September we will have six Graduate Apprenticeship courses:

  • BSc in Business Management
  • BEng hons in Engineering, Design and Manufacturing
  • BEng hons in Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control
  • BSc hons in IT Management for Business
  • BSc hons in IT Software Development
  • BEng hons in Civil Engineering

 I very much look forward to welcoming our new students onto their apprenticeships.

 I would recommend starting a Graduate Apprenticeship scheme to any University.

 It is not an easy journey you will go on. It is so new for everyone, including the industry partners you will work with. There will be teething issues through overcoming these.

I have learnt a lot about the power of good communication. But the result is a qualification which has been designed by industry which meets the needs of employers and the apprentices on the programme.

Get involved

If you are working in a company that would be interested in employing a Graduate Apprentice, please contact us at: we will be delighted to talk to you about being involved.

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