Information for employers

shaking hand - 20 percent study and 80 percent work

Graduate apprenticeships

As an employer, are you looking:

  • to fill critical skills gaps in your business?
  • for a cost-effective way to upskill existing employees and attract new talent?
  • to develop talent that is able to make an immediate impact in the workplace?
  • for a solution to help retain key staff and improve succession planning?

Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) are a ground-breaking initiative, combining work-based and academic learning to create degree qualified employees with key skills tailored to the needs of your business. More and more employers across are recognising the benefits of the GA model. In fact, 100% of GA employers confirmed that GAs are included in their long-term recruitment strategy (SDS Report June 2021).

Why Graduate Apprenticeships?

Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) have been designed to fill critical skills gaps. Research has shown that GAs are proven to deliver tangible business benefits, including increased productivity, talent development, improved service delivery and staff engagement. Here are just some of the ways they can help an individual and a business:

  • They are a great way to upskill and reskill existing employees
  • They are also an ideal way to increase staff loyalty and retention
  • All degree programmes are fully-funded - meaning there are no additional costs to the employer or the employee
  • The programmes are designed by industry and employers to develop skills tailored to the needs of business
  • Work-based learning approach ensures practical application in the business environment
  • They are an excellent way to recover the Apprenticeship Levy the company may already be paying
  • We provide a hybrid learning model where students can do their academic learning either on campus or remotely online - whatever suits them best.

Download our GA Employer Guide

Get in touch today!

If you’d like to discuss how a Graduate Apprenticeship could benefit your business, simply register your interest by completing our short form.

Register your interest

Choice of degree programmes covering key disciplines

We offer the following range of GA programmes:

Why Heriot-Watt University?

We are a world-leading university with five campuses around the globe educating leading professionals of tomorrow and generating pioneering research.

Our degrees are highly regarded for their professional relevance and we have an excellent record of preparing students for successful careers with employers like you.

Your and your employees' needs are at the heart of what we do. Read our GA partners' success stories who are already seeing the benefits.


What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning refers to tasks and projects carried out in the workplace that count towards the degree in terms of learning and assessment. Importantly, because academic and work-based learning are integrated, the degree can be completed on the same timescale as a traditional undergraduate degree.

What is the proportion between work and studies?

The exact split between work and learning is agreed by employer and the university providing the course, which means that attendance at university can be flexible based on the employer's requirements. The optimal balance between work and study is about 4 to 1.

Are GAs for current employees or new recruits?

Both. Graduate Apprenticeships are open to existing employees and new recruits.

How long does the course take?

The honours degree-level course takes four years to complete.

How is the GA delivered?

We work with you to ensure that the learning experience of your apprentices develops them into the graduates you need. We will do this through an initial programme design and regular update meetings to ensure that your apprentices meet all of the required outcomes over the 4-year programme. We help to devise projects and identify your desired outcomes for the mutual benefit of the individual and business, while meeting the outcomes of the apprenticeship framework.

The study includes standard classroom sessions with other apprentices taught by our leading academics and industry experts, as well as online learning modules, directed learning and work-based projects. Each apprentice has a dedicated academic supervisor and we arrange regular supervisory meetings, either on-site or via conference call or Skype.

How can I affect the GA programme content?

Each apprentice has an individual learning agreement (ILA) forming the basis of their learning. The ILA is individual to each apprentice and designed and discussed with both the apprentice and their employer. Formally the ILA is agreed each year but is reviewed quarterly to address any changes due to business requirements.

What is a role of the employer?

Employers taking part in the GA programme must:

  • consider whether a candidate has a reasonable chance of achieving the selected programme during the selection process – this includes not only the course content but the acquisition of wider graduate attributes  
  • provide agreed information to support the candidate's application to the degree course
  • provide apprentices with suitable opportunities for the type of experience in the workplace that will support their learning and skills acquisition
  • provide each apprentice with a nominated mentor who must be readily accessible by the apprentice and to the learning provider
  • liaise with the learning provider on the content and practical activities in the apprentice's individual learning and training plan
  • provide information that will support the individual apprentice and their assessment.
How does Heriot-Watt University support an apprentice?

Heriot-Watt provides a personal tutor for each apprentice. You should also provide workplace mentors for your apprentices and we will provide training for mentors if required. This will also count towards CPD for your employees.

The combination of personal tutor and workplace mentor provides the majority of the support for your apprentices throughout the programme, although apprentices can also get support from University staff and their colleagues in the workplace throughout.

How are the apprenticeships funded and will my organisation have to contribute?

All programmes are fully funded by the Scottish Funding Council and there are no fees charged. The only cost you have is the salary of your new or existing employee.

Do I need to pay a salary to the apprentice?

Graduate apprentices must receive a salary. They are not entitled to the same support that traditional students receive, i.e. loans and bursaries. It is recommended that you pay at least the living wage for new employees, and salaries for existing employees must be assessed individually, and remember that Graduate Apprentices must be full-time employees.

Is there any compulsory aspect to GAs?

Employers must allow apprentices time for their academic learning, approximately one day a week, so they are able to manage a demanding university degree programme.

How will the apprenticeship levy impact GAs?

From April 2017, employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million are paying an apprenticeship levy at 0.5% of the employer's pay bill. The apprenticeship levy is aimed at funding apprenticeships across the UK. For the most up to date information about the Apprenticeship Levy and what this means for employers please refer to the Skills Development Scotland website.

Which companies can take on a GA?

There is no restriction on the size of organization, industry or location.

Is there a deadline for applying?

The deadline for applications is in August, but please apply as soon as possible once you are certain you want to enter the programme, so that we can reserve a place for you. We have limited places per year and they are offered on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified candidates.

When does the programme start?

September, although there are flexible entry and exit points, so this can be negotiated to fit the needs of your business.

Why do we need Graduate Apprenticeships in Scotland?

International experience demonstrates how degree-level apprenticeships can drive economic growth. We believe this approach can benefit the Scottish economy. The range of approaches taken in countries including Switzerland and Germany to develop employer-led, work-based learning pathways to learning and employment provide the basis for how Scotland can use work-based learning to improve the operation of the labour market and to deliver economic growth. Skills Development Scotland is now leveraging the development of graduate apprenticeships to support this change.

Register your interest in Graduate Apprenticeships

Places are in high demand, and offered on a first come, first served basis to qualified employees – so please register your interest right away.

If you are an employer, please complete the contact form to our GA team and we will contact you to discuss a detailed plan for your company.

If you are already working, ask your manager to get in touch with us by completing this web form.

If you are looking for an employer who could employ you and put you forward for the GA programme, you can look up the Skills Development Scotland home page and use the key word “Graduate Apprentice” to find vacancies with current partner companies.

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