Skip to main content | section navigation
You are in :

May 2009/17 (web only)
Issues paper

This report is for information

Pathways to higher education

This report describes the attributes and progression to higher education of those who have undertaken apprenticeships at further education level.

To: Heads of publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK
Heads of publicly funded further education colleges in the UK
Of interest to those responsible for: Student data, widening participation, learning and teaching, work-based learning
Reference: 2009/17
Publication date: May 2009
Enquiries to: Mark Gittoes
tel 0117 931 7052

Table of contents and executive summary (read online)


  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Data sources and definition of cohort
  • Trends in numbers
  • Profile and pathways to higher education of apprentices
  • Additional work-based learning below HE level
  • Annex A
  • List of abbreviations

Executive summary


1.   This report describes the attributes and progression to higher education (HE) of those who have undertaken apprenticeships at further education level.

Key points

2.   As employees, apprentices work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills as well as studying for qualifications with a local training provider such as a further education college, usually on a day release basis.

3.   The number who completed an apprenticeship increased from 37,460 in 2002-03 to 90,130 in 2005-06.

4.   There were a number of apprenticeship and apprentice characteristics that affected the rate of progression to higher education within four years for those who completed their apprenticeship in 2002-03. These included:

Apprenticeship attributes

  1. Level of apprenticeship: a greater proportion of those on the advanced apprenticeship progressed (6 per cent) than those on the foundation apprenticeship (4 per cent).
  2. Industry sector of apprenticeship: a much greater proportion of those studying accountancy progressed (67 per cent of advanced apprentices) than those studying any other subject. This increased progression rate is in part due to structured Level 3 to Level 4 progression routes for accounting.
  3. Region of local training provider: the patterns of progression to higher education varied depending on level of apprenticeship and the region of the institution at which the apprenticeship was taught.

Apprentice attributes

  1. Gender: a greater proportion of females progressed to HE. This applies to both advanced and foundation apprenticeship completers.
  2. Age group: there was no clear relationship between the proportion of apprentices who progressed to HE and their age.
  3. Ethnicity: a greater proportion of non-White completers compared to White entered HE.
  4. Disability: of the 275 completers with a disability, 9 per cent progressed to higher education. This compares to a progression rate of 5 per cent for the 35,645 completers without a disability.
  5. Background: for those completing advanced apprenticeships, the highest rates of progression to higher education were seen for individuals domiciled in areas with high rates of participation in higher education. For foundation apprenticeships, the relationship was less clear.

Action required

5.   No action is required in response to this document.