Multiverse, founded by Euan Blair, son of former Prime Minister Tony, has become the first apprenticeship provider granted a licence to award degrees on the job.
All learning for the degrees will be on the job and taught through apprenticeship schemes. Significantly, the training will be free, so there will not be any student debt.
An initial cohort of 170 will enrol on to Multiverse degrees this month, with about double that number expected to start when applications for 16- to 24-year-olds open later this year.
They are set to train alongside full-time jobs at companies such as Rolls-Royce, Travis Perkins, Mastercard and Trainline who are partners on the scheme.
Dyson last year became the first company with a licence from the Office for Students – the independent regulator of higher education in England – to award degrees on the job, but Multiverse is the first apprenticeship provider to do so. The Office for Students is also considering applications from other providers.
Writing on LinkedIn, Euan Blair said: “From today, we have the power to award our own degrees. This is no small thing: it’s been a rigorous, detailed process that started some time ago, and builds on inspections and audits from a host of government regulators.”
Blair said those on a course will be paid a salary because they were carrying out jobs. He added : “Unlike a traditional academic degree it will signify what you can do, not just what you know. It is completely free to the individual, fully paid for by employers, with no debt and no deferred earnings.
“These powers give us another powerful tool to break open an academic-only education system and fundamentally transform who gets access to the very best careers. Apprentices start in the UK this month, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Multiverse was founded by Blair in 2016 with the aim of matching those without university degrees with jobs and training paid for by employers. It works with more than 8,000 apprentices.
Elisabeth Barrett, VP of learning at Multiverse, said the scheme was more inclusive than apprenticeships tied to universities. She said: “In degree apprenticeships at universities, just 12% of those aged 19-24 are from the most deprived areas. Among under-19s, degree apprentices are more than five times more likely to come from the most advantaged neighbourhoods.”
In contrast, Barrett said more than a third of the apprentices placed by Multiverse so far met “one or more indicators of socio-economic disadvantage”.
Blair has said previously that more than half of the apprentices that Multiverse had placed were from ethnic minorities while a third came from the most economically marginalised communities. More than 50% were women, including in tech roles.
Director of quality at the Office for Students, Jean Arnold, said: “We support innovation in the sector to enhance the options and quality of courses for students. We’re pleased to grant degree awarding powers to Multiverse as a provider that delivers opportunities and choice to students.”
The Office for Students has to test all applications for degree-awarding powers for factors such as their academic governance, experience and standards.
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