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Degree Apprenticeships: Supporting the changing landscape

Data collection

Degree Apprenticeships represent a fantastic opportunity for students and a significant reporting challenge for higher education providers.

Degree Apprenticeship programmes are set to grow substantially in the next few years

These programmes are set to grow substantially in the next few years. With the advantages these present to students it is not hard to see why. They allow students to obtain a degree while also gaining valuable experience and leaving university with substantially less debt than a standard degree programme.

The new style of apprenticeships (Apprenticeship Standards) was first launched in 2015. There were 4,300 starts on these in the 2015/16 year, a fraction of the total number of apprenticeships (509,400)*. With the government’s aim of 3 million total apprenticeships by 2020, the number of Apprenticeship Standards is set to rise dramatically.

This increase in numbers means the reporting challenges for providers will only grow going forward

This increase in numbers means the reporting challenges for providers will only grow going forward. In response to this, we have developed additional functionality for our data collection system and devised a new ‘Engagement’ entity to capture apprenticeships information. This work has helped to streamline the process of submitting apprenticeship data for HE providers.

Degree Apprenticeships and data returns

Due to the funding arrangements, Apprenticeship Standards represented the first time that students needed to be submitted to both the Skills Funding Agency’s Individualised Learner Record (ILR), which collects data about FE students, and to the HESA Student record. For many HE providers, this was their first time returning data to the ILR. Add to this the requirement for in-year reporting and monthly submissions, and you can understand why data returns are one of the main concerns for HE providers engaging with Degree Apprenticeships.

Part of HESA's role is to reduce burden on providers where we can

As a sector owned body, part of HESA's role is to reduce burden on providers where we can. With this in mind, we set out to develop our data collection system to assist those providers who submit to the main HESA Student return with producing the necessary ILR files for their Apprenticeship Standards courses. Our work enabled providers to upload an xml file meeting the updated HESA schema to our data collection system. This would then be converted to meet the ILR specification and an ILR schema ready file could be downloaded.

As work began on this it was clear there were going to be some difficulties. The two returns were designed separately and certainly not with the requirement for this type of tool in mind, so there were several structural differences to overcome. Notably, there is a greater granularity of data which comes with monthly reporting. Students taking breaks and transferring between courses need to be reported on a monthly basis with specific dates and details rather than the end of year position which is returned to HESA.

As a result of our work, providers have been able to successfully convert HESA files to produce their ILR submissions, a great achievement given the complexity

Our solution involved the creation of the new ‘Engagement’ entity to capture apprenticeship details. This, combined with the HESA ‘Instance’ entity, could stand in for the closest ILR equivalent: the ‘Learning Delivery Records’. The ‘Engagement’ entity allows for this greater granularity of data with multiple engagements able to be returned depending on the student's pattern of study.

As a result, providers have been able to successfully convert HESA files to produce their ILR submissions, a great achievement given the complexity and the concerns providers have around returning apprenticeship data.

Looking forward

Looking to the future, the funding arrangements for Degree Apprenticeships are set to change again. From the 1st of May 2017, the new Apprenticeships Levy will come into force. Businesses with a pay bill over £3 million a year will be required to pay into a pot that can be drawn down by employers and providers running Degree Apprenticeships. This presents a new challenge to HESA and providers with a change to the ILR specification coming in May that needs to be incorporated into the HESA system.

This change also means that from the 1st of May the reporting requirements for new starters on Apprenticeship Frameworks (the precursor to Standards) will be the same as for starters on Apprenticeship Standards. As a result, Frameworks will also need to be returned annually to HESA as well as monthly to the ILR. We are currently undertaking additional work in order to incorporate and account for these changes to allow providers to continue to take advantage of the system we’ve implemented.

We always welcome any suggestions for further improvement and developments to enhance how HESA works for you

Any changes will also need to be done with considerations for the developments that will come in the next few years as Data Futures is implemented.

Degree Apprenticeships are just one example of HESA responding to sector needs. We always welcome any suggestions for further improvement and developments to enhance how HESA works for you.

 

*Clarification (23 February 2017) We would like to make clear that the figure of 4,300 starts on Apprenticeship Standards and 509,400 total apprenticeships in 2015/16 applies across all levels, including those below degree level. More facts on apprenticeship numbers can be found here.

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Ruth Underwood on @ukhesa's work to overcome the data reporting requirements around degree apprenticeships

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Ruth Underwood

Ruth Underwood

Data Policy & Governance Analyst