Following a request from the Department for Education (DfE), the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) has commenced a review of the funding bands for 31 standards. One of those affected is the management degree apprenticeship, which has been subject to some controversy after a substantial increase in popularity in 2016/17.
In February, the DfE announced plans to review the structure of the funding bands as some employers felt unable to negotiate pricing with providers. This review has led to the current 15 funding bands (maximum upper limit with no minimum as this is negotiable) being expanded to 30.
The 31 standards having their funding band reviewed include 21 of the 30 most popular (i.e. those with the most starts in this academic year). The IfA acknowledges the standards involved are some of those most in demand. However, it is also the case that others have had lower start numbers and it is believed take-up is potentially being impacted by current funding bands, according to employer feedback. Standards such as infrastructure technician and bespoke tailor and cutter have so far had zero starts this year.
The management degree apprenticeship had the second most starters in 2016/17 according to DfE statistics, and with its funding band already at the maximum upper limit of £27,000, it could only fall, which could cause significant issues for any universities offering the standard.
With 6,680 starts between August 2017 and February 2018, the team leader/supervisor standard has been the most popular, but is also vulnerable under this review. The IfA has been keen to express its willingness to work in collaboration to ensure the review is both open and fair.
The new 30 band structure for funding gives much more choice to the IfA. Previously, with the 15 band structure, if it wanted to reduce a standard from the £9,000 band, it would have to drop to £6,000. With the 30 band structure, options would include dropping the band to £8,000 or £7,000. The new funding affects only those starting from August 2018 onwards. In a similar scenario, which could affect the management degree apprenticeship, standards currently on the £27,000 maximum band could be dropped to £26,000 or £25,000 as opposed to the previous fall to £24,000.
The aim of the review is to ensure employers are able to access apprenticeships of high quality within funding bands representing value for both the government and employers. The recommendations from the IfA will be presented to the DfE, who will make final decisions on funding bands.
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