Aston University was one of the first higher education institutes to have Degree Apprenticeship graduates in 2017. 

And in 2020 we were named University of the Year at the prestigious BAME Apprenticeship Awards. We’ve worked with more than 300 organisations to deliver apprenticeships to more than 2000 learners.

On this page, you'll find thought leadership content where our industry experts share their knowledge, innovative ideas, and expertise in the field of apprenticeships. This content highlights how Degree Apprenticeships could impact the future of your organisation. 


Aston University experts share their insights into Degree Apprenticeships - the benefits, the challenges, and more.

Investment Case for Degree Apprenticeships  

In discussions with clients over many years, the issue of budgets has always been a major factor when designing and developing a programme. All organisations must make careful decisions regarding how to allocate limited resources, and budgetary constraints affect management development programmes and Degree Apprenticeships in the same way as with all activities. Budgets notwithstanding, I have always been keen to stress to our employer partners that staff development can and should be seen as an investment rather than simply as a cost, and the benefits of well-designed and targeted programmes are significant, and measurable. Degree Apprenticeships represent a new challenge in terms of budgeting, as they are paid for out of the employer’s levy funds, but they offer significant benefits, nonetheless. Some of these benefits are directly measurable, whilst others are likely to impact multiple operational budget lines, sometimes subtly, sometimes more obviously. 

“The decision to enrol staff on an apprenticeship represents a significant commitment by the employer and it does require effort and engagement by the employer as well as the apprentice over the life of the programme. Managed well, with the right level of support, apprenticeships represent a range of both tangible and intangible benefits and a measurable bottom-line boost”

Terry Hodgetts
Director of Corporate Client Solutions at Aston University 


Retention Benefits

One of the major areas of challenge in talent management is the retention of early career hires. We see severe pressure, especially in some industries, on the retention of graduate recruits. An investment in an apprenticeship is a statement by the employer regarding the value of their employee: it reinforces the psychological contract and evidences organisational commitment, which in turn helps with retention and engagement. At higher levels, employers can view Level 7 apprenticeships as a possible strategy to help “lock in” high performers in challenging labour markets. 

Talent Initiatives 

An apprenticeship programme sends a clear message to the employee concerning the organisations intentions and expectations of future performance and development. It provides a structured pathway in many cases into future roles and new responsibilities. Throughout the lifetime of their apprenticeship, participants can take advantage of the opportunities their studies present to them to network more widely in the organisation, build relationships with other departments, and get involved in projects of real organisational value. And for many apprentices, the synoptic project provides the apprentice with an opportunity to make a direct impact on the business. 


One of the major benefits of apprenticeships has been the opening up of opportunities for individuals from non-traditional backgrounds to further their professional development and gain qualifications. We see many participants on programmes who did not get the chance to go to university, now able later in life to gain a degree qualification, and the associated recognition, knowledge and skills. Many of our participants come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and for many of them the traditional route into university education would prove challenging due to the cost implications. We are excited to see the possibilities for apprenticeships to open up educational opportunity for all the talents from whatever background. Apprenticeships also offer the potential to widen participation to under-represented groups, and we have seen for example a much more balanced gender profile in Digital and Technology apprenticeships compared to full time computer science programmes across the university sector. Diversity in hiring is an area we are keen to encourage employers to consider when recruiting for apprentices. The research evidence is clear: a diverse workforce is a more creative and innovative workforce. 

Return on Investment 

As noted above, investment in Degree Apprenticeships offers potentially significant retention benefits. The evidence suggests that, for professional roles, the cost to recruit a new hire, considering all the associated administrative processes, including severance of the previous role holder, can be between 50% and 150% of the annual salary for the role – and even more in key positions. The value to the organisation of deferring such costs, if only for a few years, are clear. While the costs associated would be split across multiple budget lines (payroll, pensions department, administrative services, legal, HR recruitment costs, reduced performance during onboarding, etc.) the total costs remain significant. The synoptic project represents an opportunity for the apprentice to undertake a significant piece of work for the organisation. This can be seen as the chance to benefit from some “internal consultancy”. We see myriad examples of projects on process improvements, supply chain initiatives, new market opportunities, customer experience innovations and other areas which offer the potential for very significant business benefits. Some projects have projected margin increases of tens of millions of pounds for their employer, with a payback period measured in months. We encourage employers to engage proactively with the project to maximise this potential benefit, which provides a signature career experience for the apprentice, and a bottom-line boost for the employer.

Podcast Episodes 

Join us on Aston Means Business podcasts, where we bring you expert insights on degree apprenticeship topics handpicked by top academics. Gain essential advice for business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, and learners alike.

Our esteemed guests, interviewed by Steve Dyson, a renowned business journalist and former daily newspaper editor, share their wealth of knowledge. Tune in to learn from the best and stay ahead in the business world!

Listen now

MBA Students at Aston Business School Focused on Their Personal and Professional Development 


Yasmin Ansari, Aston Business School's MBA careers consultant, explains how students benefit from a module called Aston Edge, focusing on career skills and behaviour science. She said MBA students are fully engaged, with “super ambitious and super driven” career aspirations, and that their courses focus on real-life applications and case-based learning.

Release date: July 2023

Read the full press release.

How Executive Leadership Apprenticeships Can Drive Businesses' Talent Development 

Tomorrow’s boardroom superstars are emerging from executive leadership apprenticeships at Aston Business School. Discover more about the Masters-level programme from Terry Hodgetts, director of Corporate Client Solutions, and Dr Lloyd Parsons, director of the MBA and Chartered Management Institute programmes.

Release date: February 2023

Read the full press release.

Women in Business

Women in business should consider themselves a strength, not a weakness. That's the message from Professor Helen Higson of Aston Business School, and Daniella Genas, an MBA graduate and successful entrepreneur, in a podcast episode created to celebrate International Women's Day. 

Release date: March 2022

Read the full press release.

Case Studies 

The case studies showcase how the training provider relationship has evolved since the Department for Education set out its vision for apprenticeships. 

The findings demonstrate how the introduction of apprenticeships into the higher education space has impacted the provision of pastoral care, highlighted industry collaboration as a critical success factor, helped companies to start to redress the gender imbalance, and have been impactful and transformative regionally.

Promoting Equality: Women in Logistics 

Organisations working with Aston University have found that Degree Apprenticeships can form an integral part of a talent management strategy – aiding retention and recruitment, upskilling existing employees, and even addressing issues of diversity in the workforce. This has been especially powerful in some of the traditionally male-dominated industries, such as engineering and supply chain, where Aston University’s apprenticeships have helped companies to start to redress the gender imbalance.

“In order to change the perception of the industry, it is important to encourage females to join.” 

Claire Charlton 
General Manager at Wincanton
Supply Chain Leadership & Management Degree Apprentice at Aston University


Aston University’s BSc apprenticeship in Supply Chain Management and MSc apprenticeship in Supply Chain Leadership and Management are delivered by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The College was awarded a Gold Athena Swan Award in 2022, recognising “significant and sustained progression and achievemnt in promoting gender equality”. This success was reflected at the Everywoman Transport and Logistics Awards 2022, where Nikki Foley a postgraduate Degree Apprentice from Aston University was named Warehouse Leader of the Year. Nikki, who works for Wincanton, was previously named as the industry’s ‘Rising Star’ at the Logistics UK Awards 2021. 

Nikki said: “I’m delighted to win the Everywoman Warehouse Leader Award. My Degree Apprenticeship has really supported me in the role as general manager for Wincanton. The programme has given me a broad knowledge of management and leadership topics, which has helped me to successfully lead teams. “I encourage other women to thrive within the sector and I regularly mentor colleagues to help increase inclusion and diversity.” 


Additionally, two other Aston University apprentices were runners-up at the Everywoman Awards 2022. Claire Charlton, studying for an MSc Supply Chain Leadership and Management Degree Apprenticeship, was a Tech Innovator runner-up, and Amy Hinsliff-Smith, who was in the second year of a BSc Supply Chain Degree Apprenticeship, was nominated for Apprentice of the Year. 

Johanna Smillie, Early Careers and Apprenticeship Manager at CEVA Logistics has put employees through the BSc Supply Chain Management apprenticeship at Aston University and said her company saw the benefits almost immediately. 

“The impact on the organisation has already been recognised and highly praised by the Senior Leadership team. Not only is it a way of encouraging younger talent into the business although we are keen to challenge the perception of apprenticeships are only for school leavers it has assisted us with allowing for fresh ideas in stagnant areas of the business,” she said.
“Apprenticeships are also a fantastic way to provide a pipeline for our hard-to-fill roles and those where we have an ageing workforce providing us with more diversity not just in age but gender too.” 

Research has shown that women can often feel isolated and unsupported in male dominated industries (Hewlett et al., 2008), but Sian Coley, who studied the apprenticeship programme through CEVA Logistics said apprenticeships are key for introducing diversity into imbalanced workplaces. 

“In order to change the perception of the industry, it is important to encourage females to join. Bringing women into the industry, whether this is through early careers or general recruitment is the only way to reduce the imbalance,” she said, “Through the Degree Apprenticeship scheme, I have taken on roles early in my career that I would not have had the opportunity to do until graduation with a standard degree. I encourage other women to thrive within the sector and I regularly mentor colleagues to help increase inclusion and diversity.”

The diversity of Aston University’s apprentices has caught the attention of other awards too. In 2021, we were named University of the Year at the BAME Apprenticeship Awards. Bally Purewal - who studied an MSc Senior Leadership Apprenticeship at Aston University was Highly Commended in the Apprentice of the Year 2022 (Retail, Hospitality and Tourism) category at the Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.