Social Mobility Foundation confirms HE Commission’s concerns on degree apprenticeships

The Higher Education Commission welcomes the Sutton Trust’s newly published report ‘Degree Apprenticeships: Levelling Up?’, which confirms what we warned about in our report ‘Degree Apprenticeships: Up to Standard?’ last year: that disadvantaged young people are being locked out of degree apprenticeships because of middle-class capture of these opportunities.

In our report we warned that degree apprenticeship cold spots are emerging in existing areas of severe educational and economic disadvantage. This means a double blow for disadvantaged young people. For example, a young person from (disadvantaged) Norfolk would on average have to travel seven times as far for the nearest opportunity, compared to a young person from (advantaged) Sutton.

“There is now a growing body of evidence that the undeniable potential of degree apprenticeships to support social mobility is not being realised. The Sutton Trust report together with our own sets our clear policy changes to address this and it is to be hoped that Government takes speedy action to implement some much needed changes”

Smita Jamdar, Inquiry Co-chair

The Sutton Trust’s report confirms our findings, stating that “Just 13% of degree apprenticeships come from neighbourhoods in the bottom fifth of deprivation. Over twice as many (27%) come from the most advantaged backgrounds.” More worryingly, its report suggests that this dynamic worsened between 2016/17 and 2018/19.

In our report, we recommended that disadvantaged young people, especially from educational and employment cold spots, should be eligible for maintenance support in line with the support offered to university students, so that they can access degree apprenticeship opportunities around the country.

We also recommended that the government should set out its ambition for degree apprenticeships to improve social mobility in terms that can be measured. Demographic data should be released more frequently by the DfE so that any inequality of access can be readily identified and timely interventions made.

Degree apprenticeships have the potential to be a great driver of social mobility, but clearly this potential is not currently being harnessed: the government must do more to ensure that disadvantaged young people are able to take up these opportunities.

Read the Degree Apprenticeships report here.

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    Degree App Sutton Trust