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University’s IT apprentices switched on thanks to Graduate Apprenticeships director

Work-based learning Apprenticeships Learning providers STEM Graduate apprenticeships
Uog Matthew Barr 057

Graduate Apprentices benefited from first-class support during the pandemic thanks to a dedicated university programme director.

Dr Matthew Barr went the extra mile to support Graduate Apprentices at the University of Glasgow during some of the toughest months of the past two years.

Matthew, 43 who is originally from Belfast but has been living in Glasgow for many years, is Programme Director for Software Engineering Graduate Apprenticeships at the university.

Recommended by apprentices

Anna Doyle, Liaison Officer at the University of Glasgow, said: “Our programme is so successful that 100 per cent of the Graduate Apprentices recommend their path over a traditional degree in Software Engineering.”

Matthew started at the university in 2007 as a Systems Developer, before moving into teaching and lecturing.


He said: “When the opportunity came up to help run the Graduate Apprenticeship programme I went for it.

“I think Graduate Apprenticeships are the way we should be teaching computing science and software engineering. It's a vocation to work in those areas. It's a bit like medicine, where you need to go out and work in a hospital before you get qualified.

“I was also attracted to working on our Graduate Apprenticeship programme because of its potential for widening participation. It's an alternative route to university.

“Graduate Apprenticeships remove certain socio-economic barriers as you get a salary which makes it an option that might not otherwise exist to do a degree.”

One to one support

The programme currently has more than 100 Graduate Apprenticeships across three years. There are several initiatives in place to support all the apprentices.

And Matthew has reached the finals of the Apprentice Instructor category as this year's Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.

Matthew said: “We are very serious about supporting our Graduate Apprentices. I'm the adviser of studies, or personal tutor, for all the first and second year apprentices. They come and see me two or three times a year for one-to-one meetings.

“We also have a buddy system and initiatives like a mental health support group, which have been particularly important during Covid times.

“A lot what we do is being reasonable and kind. We need to remember these students are also balancing a job so we try to be flexible and thoughtful about deadlines.”

Anna said: “A good ambassador for apprentices, like Matthew, is honest about explaining to Graduate Apprentices what they should expect. They have real experience and passion.”

Anna added: “Through Matthew's intervention a Graduate Apprentice who was made redundant due to the pandemic was offered a place with a large bank.

“Matthew has provided close support, pastoral care, and flexible learning plans for several Graduate Apprentices who have struggled with health issues through the pandemic. This has enabled them to continue to progress with their Graduate Apprenticeship.

“Without Matthew's proactive collaboration with the university, employers and Skills Development Scotland these individuals may have lost their place or given up but have progressed with vigour.”

Top grades

More than 52 per cent of the total cohort of Graduate Apprentices learning at the university are currently achieving 1st class honours grades.

Anna added: “The high attainment rate and very low attrition rate across the three years of the programme reflect Matthew's s leadership and effectiveness as an instructor and educator.

“Paying testimony to how much Matthew is valued by his apprentices and his exceptional performance as an educator, he was awarded University of Glasgow Best Advisor of Studies as voted by the students – a university wide initiative.”

According to Matthew there are numerous benefits that come from choosing doing a Graduate Apprenticeship.

Matthew said: “As their career progresses they have four years of work experience a 'normal' graduate has not.”

He concluded: “I'm delighted to reach the finals of the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards. I really appreciate that my work is getting recognised.”

Scottish Apprenticeship Awards

The winner of the Apprentice Instructor category will be revealed at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, which is organised by Skills Development Scotland and set to take place virtually during Scottish Apprenticeship Week from 7-11 March. Find out more about the award finalists and the event by visiting