Going to university is often thought of as the gold standard of academic success and a rite of passage for many young people, but some are breaking with tradition and taking up degree apprenticeships instead.
When 19-year-old Radhika Parmar finishes her four-and-a-half-year course she will be awarded a BSc Hons Degree in Digital and Technology Solutions. But unlike most students, Parmar will not start her working life burdened by the debt of tuition fees and will not have to search for a job.
Parmar has just completed the first year of a degree apprenticeship at IT consultancy Capgemini. She works full-time at the company as an applications consultant, gaining on-the-job training and earning a salary while also studying for a degree. There are no tuition fees to pay as the government covers two-thirds of the costs, while the employer pays a third.
Introduced by the government in 2015, most degree apprenticeships are in areas such as engineering and technology. Apprentices earn an average starting salary of £17,511, rising to £24,652 when the apprenticeship is finished.
Although Parmar applied to study computer science at university, she soon made it her plan B after hearing about the degree apprenticeship.
“Everything I’ll learn during my degree I’ll be putting into practice in my job. Whereas if I’d gone to university, I’d just be learning lots of things, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean that I’d be able to implement them into my day-to-day job,” she says.
Parmar’s school was supportive of her decision, but not all are so encouraging.
Twenty-two-year-old Amber Westmoreland is half-way through a tax accounting apprenticeship with Ernst & Young. Working as an assistant tax adviser, by the end of her five-year course she will qualify as an ACA chartered accountant and a CTA-chartered tax adviser.
Her sixth-form college, however, was far from happy about her decision not to go to university.
“It wasn’t until I had the job they asked me to go back and do a talk at college and then while I was there they were still trying to push the degree route rather than the apprenticeship,” says Westmoreland.
Though she will not have a degree, the qualifications she will gain are those that any graduate has to acquire in order to become an accountant.