HEA eases the way for institutions considering Apprenticeship Levy funding for accredited professional development

Thursday, 2 March, 2017

Author: John Rose-Adams, HEA Apprenticeship Lead

April 2017 is an important moment for UK employers, as the Apprenticeship Levy kicks into action and in doing so commences a new era of apprenticeship training, particularly in England.

From April, all large organisations in the UK will start paying a payroll tax which can only be returned to the organisation through apprenticeship training. The response from across UK industries has been lukewarm. Public sector bodies have been handed a statutory requirement that 2.3% of their workforces must be apprentices.

And from our own corner of the world – higher education – the Apprenticeship Levy represents significant additional challenges to institutions at a time when concerns around future income are front of mind. 

Like all public and private sector employers with payrolls over £3million per annum, higher education institutions across the UK will be required to pay 0.5% of their payroll as the Apprenticeship Levy.

Academic staff are the lifeblood of higher education - around 50% of all staff in HEIs in England - so levy-fundable professional development for academic staff was perhaps an inevitable development and one that many institutions are engaging with.

A small group of HEIs led by Southampton Solent University and Staffordshire University put together a proposal to form a Trailblazer group (the name for the employer-led vehicles used to develop new apprenticeships for industry sectors) with the Academic Professional apprenticeship being the most well advanced.  The Trailblazer group has quickly expanded to include more than 70 institutions with a sub-group of 24 institutions responsible for developing the apprenticeship standard and assessment criteria for the Academic Professional role.

When invited, HEA, along with other stakeholder organisations, has provided input to the Trailblazer group. Key HEA contributions to the thinking of this group have included:

  • Ensuring the full diversity of current provision, developed by the sector over more than 15 years to meet the specific needs of institutions, is within the scope of what can be levy-fundable.
  • Encouraging the group to move at pace, as the Apprenticeship Levy will commence from April 2017.
  • Acknowledging that the sector has well established models for professional development and existing professional standards for teaching and research in higher education.
  • Feeding in the wider views of the sector to support the group in understanding the level of diversity in high quality provision in the sector thus aiding development of an apprenticeship standard that is useful and accessible to as many institutions as possible.

The HEA is now actively supporting institutions that are considering making use of Apprenticeship Levy funds for academic professional development in a wide range of ways:

  • For institutions that want their programmes to be levy fundable, we have commenced a series of events for leaders of accredited programmes to discuss and develop action plans to ensure their provision can be used to draw down levy funds.
  • We are working closely with Vitae to ensure that researcher development can be a prominent feature of the Academic Professional apprenticeship for institutions that wish to develop this.
  • We are extending the number of windows we have for institutions who wish to amend their HEA accredited provision to ensure that it is levy-fundable, and we will ensure that these amendments are considered through our accreditation processes at no additional cost to institutions.

The HEA believes that it is in the sector’s interests that we continue to invest in a professional development eco-system that supports those engaged in teaching and supporting learning throughout their career.

We are particularly keen to see that the past 15-20 years of a culture of continuous improvement in teaching quality across all UK institutions is maintained and that developments in England relating to the apprenticeships agenda are supportive of that.

  • If you would like more information about available HEA help and support on the Apprenticeship Levy, please email HEA Apprenticeship Lead John.Rose-Adams@heacademy.ac.uk or Academic Lead for Accreditation Karen.Hustler@heacademy.ac.uk 
  • We also welcome conversations with institutions that are currently Access Partners, or not current subscribers to any HEA packages, about how we can support you to leverage Apprenticeship Levy funding for the development of your academic staff.