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A multi-institutional exploration of the social mobility potential of degree apprenticeships.

Smith, Sally; Taylor-Smith, Ella; Fabian, Khristin; Zarb, Mark; Paterson, James; Barr, Matthew; Berg, Tessa


Sally Smith

Ella Taylor-Smith

Khristin Fabian

James Paterson

Matthew Barr

Tessa Berg


This mixed-method study at six universities asked degree apprentices about their trajectories into the apprenticeship, to better understand the social mobility potential of apprenticeships. The degree apprenticeship offers a route to a degree for apprentices, who are employees studying for a degree. As a new model, little is known about the apprentices: who they are, their journey towards this degree, and whether they fulfil the social mobility aspirations expressed by apprenticeship policymakers. Computing and IT apprentices at six universities in Scotland, UK, were surveyed (n=160) to ask about their background and previous experience. Interviews (n=28) were carried out with apprentices studying with one of the institutions, to enquire how their backgrounds impacted on their journey to this point. By taking a multi-institutional approach, the study reports findings across different degree apprenticeships and geographical locations. Apprentices were found to be drawn from all socio-economic groups and represented those new to work and upskillers, already in work. For upskillers, the degree apprenticeship offered a belated opportunity for degree-level study. However, young people recruited into the apprenticeship were disproportionally from more privileged groups. We make recommendations for recruitment and selection processes to increase equality of access to degree apprenticeship places.


SMITH, S., TAYLOR-SMITH, E., FABIAN, K., ZARB, M., PATERSON, J., BARR, M. and BERG, T. 2021. A multi-institutional exploration of the social mobility potential of degree apprenticeships. Journal of education and work [online], 34(4), pages 488-503. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 26, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 10, 2021
Publication Date Aug 31, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 22, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jul 22, 2021
Journal Journal of education and work
Print ISSN 1363-9080
Electronic ISSN 1469-9435
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 4
Pages 488-503
Keywords Degree apprenticeship; Graduate apprenticeship; Social mobility
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SMITH 2021 A multi-institution exploration (780 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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