An assessment of degree apprenticeships as a vehicle for widening participation

  • Jane Mackay

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


A key policy ambition for degree apprenticeships is to offer an alternative route to a degree for disadvantaged young people, and in doing so facilitate widening participation in higher education. However, degree apprenticeships in England are poorly understood and this is reflected in their policy conceptualisation and implementation in practice. Utilising a framework combining Varieties of Capitalism and Bourdieusian scholarships, this thesis seeks to analyse this issue by highlighting the structures and mechanisms at play at macro, meso and micro levels. In this way I draw attention to the conflicting key stakeholder perceptions, whilst also emphasising a general desire for degree apprenticeships to become a successful part of the education landscape.

I took a mixed methods approach that included interviewing degree apprentices as well as other key stakeholders, therefore providing a multi-stakeholder understanding of the degree apprenticeship landscape. My practitioner experiences in education with young people, brought a nuanced understanding of the context and added to the wealth of observations from interviewees. My findings indicate that the wider socio-economic landscape limits accessibility for young people, therefore negatively impacting the potential for degree apprenticeships to facilitate widening participation in higher education. It is clear that the structural and class inequalities underlying the current landscape need to be addressed in order for degree apprenticeships to provide a real alternative for the young school or college leaver from low socio-economic backgrounds. Changes in policy and practice are necessary for this to be achieved. This thesis opens up a discursive space for these changes to begin.
Date of Award14 Sept 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorFelicia Fai (Supervisor), Nick Pearce (Supervisor) & Hugh Lauder (Supervisor)


  • Degree Apprenticeships
  • Social Mobility
  • Policy analysis
  • Policy implementation

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