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Higher and degree apprenticeships

Higher and degree apprenticeships


Higher and degree apprenticeships are typically from level 4 to 7 and are equivalent to a foundation, bachelors or master’s degree. While some level 6 and 7 are classed as ‘degree’ apprenticeships and are equivalent to a bachelors or master’s degree. 

We have highlighted some of the key questions and benefits below about higher and degree apprenticeships.

Did you know higher and degree apprenticeships are…?

  • Available to anyone over the age of 16 - you should be able to start an apprenticeship at any age as long as you’re over 16.
  • Recognised jobs so all apprentices earn a wage - apprentices are entitled to at least the national minimum wage for apprentices (£4.15 per hour from April 2020). Where higher level apprenticeships are concerned many employers may pay more than this.
  • Not just restricted to new starters or junior members of staff - as long as the training identified can be covered by the apprenticeship levy then it shouldn’t matter whether the apprentice is a current member of staff or a new starter.
  • A job with a formal programme of training - this might be a work-based, academic or combined qualification or a professional qualification relevant to the sector.
  • A way to gain a qualification while earning a wage and gaining several years of work experience.
  • Available in a multitude of different sectors and professions - from accounting to systems engineering, with new apprenticeships frequently being developed.

How long do higher and degree apprenticeships take to complete?

Depending on the apprenticeship standard, apprenticeships can take anywhere between a year and six years to complete.

Are there any entry requirements?

  Entry requirements can vary according to the different type of apprenticeship standard and are usually set with the employer in conjunction with the apprenticeship training provider. Apprentices might still need to start at an intermediate or advanced level so that occupational skills can be built up.
  Using the Level 6 Chartered manager degree apprenticeship as an example prospective apprentices may need to have:
  • A levels (or equivalents) or existing relevant level 3 qualifications
  • English, maths and information communications technology (ICT) at level 2

Some employers along with the apprenticeship training provider may consider prior relevant experience.

How does an apprenticeship work?

Apprentices will spend a maximum of 80% of their normal working hours, on the job, at work watching, learning and getting stuck into the role. This might include learning from colleagues across all levels of the organisation or working closely with a more senior colleague who reviews the apprentice’s progress and coaches them along the way. 

While a minimum of 20% of the apprentice’s normal working hours will be spent on occupational off-the-job training. This might include attending a college, a university or training provider, training at work or online.
‘Normal working hours’ are classed as paid hours excluding overtime.

What are the benefits of becoming an apprentice?

  • An apprenticeship is a job with a formal programme of training which allows the learner to work towards a recognised qualification - this can help the learner to achieve the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to succeed in their chosen profession.
  • Apprenticeships give learners the opportunity to gain several years of work experience and hands-on training that can be put into practice in a skilled working environment.
  • Learners can ‘learn while they earn’ – apprentices are paid a wage by their employer, with the government and the employer contributing to the cost of the training. This is a way of earning a valid qualification without the need to pay any tuition fees or building up a student debt.

What are the benefits of apprenticeships for employers?

  • The development of skills relevant to the organisation – skills gaps can make it difficult for organisations to fill vacancies. By training apprentices an organisation can develop employees in a way that promotes the specific skills required by the organisation.
  • Higher employee morale and increased retention of employees - employees tend to feel loyalty to employers who have invested in them which makes them more engaged and motivated to stay within the organisation - 
90% of apprentices stay on in their place of work after completing an apprenticeship.
  • Apprenticeships can be a cost-effective form of training as learners are contributing to the workplace while learning. In addition, the government contributes to the cost of the apprenticeship training via the apprenticeship levy.

ESPO’s Apprenticeship Dynamic Purchasing System (554)

ESPO’s Apprenticeship Dynamic Purchasing System (554) was launched nationally in June 2019 having been successfully piloted by a group of London Boroughs prior to the launch.
The dynamic purchasing system offers users a quick, simple and competitive route to purchasing apprenticeship training services.
As of December 2019, over 70% of the further competitions successfully awarded via the ESPO ADPS have been for apprenticeship standards that are level 4 or above.
The types of apprenticeship training categories or ‘technical areas of learning’ available via the ADPS include, but are not limited to:

  • Business and Administration
  • Legal, Finance and Accounting
  • Sales, Marketing and Procurement
  • Social Care
  • Digital
  • Childcare and Education

To find out more about our Apprenticeship Dynamic Purchasing System (554), please click here or contact the People and Professional Services team on 0116 294 4072 or via

You can also visit the National Apprenticeship Service website at