Founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl, writes to the Financial Times on degree-level apprentices and the Augar Review.

Justine Greening is right to argue that the Augar review’s proposals to reform UK student finance will do very little for disadvantaged young people (“Proposals to reform UK student finance would reverse social mobility”,, June 3). The reduction in tuition fees just tinkers around the edges of what is a grossly unfair system.

Half of young people go to university, which is a very expensive proposition. Many of them come out with skills that the marketplace doesn’t need. Five years out, a third of graduates are not in graduate jobs. This is a tragedy for the graduates themselves, and also for the taxpayer who has to fund their costs. Rather a significant portion should be doing degree-level apprenticeships where young people are employed by an organisation working with one or more universities. As a degree-level apprentice, they will earn while they learn, come out with very little or no debt and with skills employers want.

This year just 10,000 people will start a degree-level apprenticeship, compared with more than 300,000 taking up university degrees. This needs to change. Far more of these apprenticeships need to be available. Not just in technology, but in all disciplines such as the media, investment banking and marketing and public relations. They are a more efficient way of upskilling the labour force and they give young people a genuine alternative to a university degree.

In addition, our research found that a degree-level apprentice earns more than the average non-Russell Group graduate. In Germany and Switzerland, a majority of young people do high-level apprenticeships, many of whom reach the very top of their field. Augar has made some effective proposals for lower-level apprenticeships, but we would like to see much more emphasis on degree-level apprenticeships.

Read the letter (£), our research on apprenticeships, or the Sutton Trust view on the Augar Review.

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