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Stigma remains among students about apprenticeships versus degrees – survey

Apprenticeships are still looked on with stigma compared with a university degree, a survey has suggested (Taylor Wimpey/PA)
Apprenticeships are still looked on with stigma compared with a university degree, a survey has suggested (Taylor Wimpey/PA)

Stigma and dated views remain around apprenticeships as being second-rate to a university degree, a survey has suggested.

Graduate careers service Prospects said views of apprenticeship content on its website have dropped by 7% compared with last year, while views on advice for getting into university have increased by 38%.

The Prospects Early Careers Survey from education technology organisation Jisc found that while 60% of school and college students surveyed said they are hoping to do an undergraduate degree at university, just 12% would like to do an apprenticeship.

Some 39% of those opting to go to university said they think a degree has a better reputation than an apprenticeship, and one in 10 said their parents are against the apprentice route.

Just under half (43%) of students surveyed whose parents went to university said a degree has a better reputation, and 13% said they would not take the apprenticeship route because of their parents’ views.

Meanwhile, among students whose parents did not go to university, a lower percentage – one third – said a degree has a better reputation than an apprenticeship and 8% said their parents are against the apprenticeship route.

The results of the survey – which had 5,255 responses from students and graduates in January and February this year – also suggested school students are most reliant on their families for careers advice (65%), rather than going to teachers (57%) and careers professionals (35%).

Chris Rea, careers expert at Prospects for Jisc, said: “Careers that were once only accessible through higher education are now viable routes for those who want to do an apprenticeship.

“However, despite the equality of esteem apprenticeships have acquired in the eyes of government and educators, some stigma remains in the public mind.

“Dated views place apprenticeships as second-rate to university and an option more suitable for low-attaining students, but modern apprenticeships are a very different career opportunity to when many parents were at school.

“In particular, degree apprenticeships offer an alternative way of accessing higher education while also gaining valuable work experience.”

This year, around 1,000 students will get results for the first wave of T-level subjects – introduced in 2020 – which are equivalent in size to three A-levels and are intended to help young people progress to skilled employment, university or apprenticeships.

Meanwhile, a separate survey of some 500 employers suggested 74% are less interested in university degrees than a decade ago.

The research for jobs website Indeed suggested employers consider a strong work ethic (62%) and a willingness to learn (63%) to be the biggest attributes for people wanting a successful career, valuing them more than someone having a good university degree (13%) or high A-level results (11%).