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Investigating work-integrated learning and its relevance to skills development in degree apprenticeships

Iro Konstantinou (Pearson Business School, Pearson College London, London, UK)
Elizabeth Miller (Pearson Business School, Pearson College London, London, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 13 October 2020

Issue publication date: 27 November 2020




Previous research suggests that higher education provision, the government's knowledge-based economic agenda and the attributes employers look for in graduates are not always aligned, leading to a skill shortage and the production of graduates who are not “work ready”. Degree apprenticeships (DAs) are well placed to address this gap because employers are involved in both the design and delivery of higher education and work with higher education institutions (HEIs) to develop the skills both parties believe graduates need through work-integrated learning (WIL). This paper will address how DAs can be utilised to that purpose.


This paper draws on data collected from students, ranging from their first to final years, enrolled in the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) programme at a higher education provider in London, UK. The national context of the UK is crucial both because of how DAs have been introduced by the government; how the pedagogical implications defer from other national contexts and work based provision and also because there are clear contrasts in how the private and public sector in the UK are “using” degree apprentices. The authors adopted an exploratory research design using semi-structured interviews and focus groups.


The authors argue that a reflective approach in assessed coursework, in conjunction with an explicit focus on the skill development of students, can enhance the experience of degree apprentices completing WIL modules. The authors highlight the potential of WIL modules in advancing the ability of degree apprentices to reflect on their practice while they are working and studying, a process which can have long- term benefits to their professional identity. The authors draw attention to the affordances given to apprentices to develop their professional identity drawing comparisons between the public and private sector in the UK.


This paper adds to the work on DAs and WIL currently being undertaken in the UK. By exploring the case study of a cohort of DAs engaging in productive reflection with regards to the skills they develop at the workplace and in the classroom, the authors point to a way in which module development can integrate such reflective elements.



The authors want to thank Dr Augusto Newell for his early involvement in setting up and collecting the first stage of data for this project


Konstantinou, I. and Miller, E. (2020), "Investigating work-integrated learning and its relevance to skills development in degree apprenticeships", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 767-781.



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