Do Apprenticeships Perpetuate a Two-Tier System?

Do Apprenticeships Perpetuate a Two-Tier System?

Narrowing the gap Research Social mobility University

A report has shown that doubts over the value of a university degree means that 4 out of 5 parents would prefer their child to pursue a form of apprenticeship over a university education. But GT Scholars wonders if it is this attitude towards higher-education that has helped strengthen the UK’s two-tier education system?

Raised university fees and the scrapping of the bursary will most likely have a negatively impact social mobility

With parental pressure towards vocational training, as well as fears over taking out large student loans, it’s no surprise that official figures suggest that poor teenagers are almost half as likely to go on to university than richer classmates. It’s likely that this means many gifted and talented children from less wealthy families are put off applying to university because of their socio-economic situation.

This is in stark contrast to parents from wealthier families who aren’t just more encouraging towards their children’s higher-education ambitions, but they are more likely to spend money on private tuition to help them gain access to the best colleges and universities. These parents have often taken on student debt themselves, have positive experiences of university and understand the value of a degree.

Graduates have traditionally earned more than their non-graduate peers

Scepticism over the value of a degree isn’t uncommon, but a recent study revealed that the majority of graduates are more likely to be in work and earn more than non-graduates. It also found that ten years after finishing university, graduates earned an average of over 25% more than non-graduates of the same age.

Although financial worries are a reality that aren’t going to disappear, nobody should feel like they don’t have access to higher-education because of their socio-economic background. It’s this unfortunate attitude that has helped to create a two-tier education system with students from poorer families less likely to pursue degrees – but the rise of degree-apprenticeships could help change this.

Degree-apprenticeships may be the solution

Degree apprenticeships allow students to do paid work at an accredited company, but also study for a management-related degree alongside it. Many high-profile firms across the UK, including M&S, Nestle, Rolls-Royce and Barclays, have signed up for the government backed scheme.

A student doing a degree-apprenticeship with Nestle spoke glowingly about the opportunity, “I find it incredible that at 21, compared to my friends who did go to uni, I’ll have not only a degree but also a professional status.”

Another student that made the decision to take up a degree apprenticeship because she was worried about getting into debt, saying “It was a worrying thought that I would be paying that off for the rest of my working life…The apprenticeship sounded a better option.”

With Government pledging to create 3 million degree-apprenticeships by 2020, this could be the change that sees working-class students have equal access to higher-education and finally puts an end to two-tier education.

At GT Scholars we believe that everybody should have access to the education that they want, no matter their background. That’s why we charge means-tested fees, to ensure that young people from lower income homes can access our programmes. To find out more about how we support young people through our courses, workshops and programmes, register your interest by visiting

Research from Demos and Big Change – Mind over matter

Growth mindset Research

This scoping report explores the concepts behind, evidence supporting and application of growth mindset through qualitative and quantitative research.

It explains the key concepts in mindset, and describes why mindset matters in the development of young people in various areas, from their academic attainment to their social and emo­tional wellbeing, character capabilities and other life outcomes.

As part of the project, Demos and Big Change produced a film featuring interviews with a wide range of community, business and sporting leaders

Click here to find out more.

NESTA research on tutoring and mentoring programmes

NESTA research on tutoring and mentoring programmes


There is strong evidence supporting tutoring and its impact on young people’s academic results. Mentoring provides role models for young people to aspire to, and coaching can help them to join the dots in how to achieve their aspirations. A wide range of social organisations have recognised this and are providing innovative opportunities for young people to benefit from these types of programmes.

Nesta has been supporting a number of organisations mobilising volunteers to provide tutoring, coaching or mentoring to young people.

Visit NESTA to find out more


Evidence from Sutton Trust supports combined intervention programmes

Evidence from Sutton Trust supports combined intervention programmes


We’re pleased to see that research from Sutton Trust published in December 2015 has shown that mentoring, multi-year combined interventions, personalised application information and assistance, residential programmes and tutoring are the strategies that are most likely to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get into higher education.

The review highlights some common features of the most successful outreach programmes. These are: combining several strategies into one longitudinal programme, improving academic attainment, intervening early, involving teachers and working closely with parents.

For more information visit the Sutton Trust website.