Information for employers

shaking hand - 20 percent study and 80 percent work

Graduate apprenticeships

Important update for employers

On-campus learning at Heriot-Watt University has always been a key feature of graduate apprenticeship programme delivery and has undoubtedly helped to develop our GA community into the exciting network of employer partners that we work with today. The last year has required rapid adjustment to a responsive blended approach - enabling learners to access learning no matter their location.

We continue to respond to the needs of our current and future learners. So with this in mind we’re delighted to announce that GA programmes at Heriot-Watt will remain accessible remotely. Learners will have the option to attend campus (depending on any restrictions in place) or to access learning from their workplace or home. We look forward to continuing to work with existing partners and to welcoming new employer partners to our exciting programmes.

For more information on places available for a 2021 start please contact

Is your business facing new challenges that require new skills? Is your business relocating? Do your employees want to pursue higher education relevant to their work? We have a cost-effective solution for your business.

The graduate apprenticeships (GA) scheme is a ground-breaking initiative, creating degree-qualified employees with the skills your business needs.

They offer the opportunity to enhance your business, by supporting your current and new employees to develop skills and talents and become successful graduates. Our three study programmes are designed and modified to meet the needs of your business, bringing together academic and practical experience, transferring knowledge for mutual benefit.

All the degree programme fees are fully funded by Skills Development Scotland making GAs a zero-budget but highly effective investment.

How do apprenticeships benefit your business?

The combination of work-based learning and high-quality education allows both employers and employees to benefit in a number of ways:

Graduate apprentices still work full time, spending 80% of their time at work and 20% at Heriot-Watt, so they can apply their new knowledge right away.

Alistair Cameron, managing director of world-leading water treatment company Scotmas Group, discusses the business benefits of graduate apprentices.

Choice of degree programmes covering key disciplines

GAs are a ground-breaking initiative, creating degree-qualified employees with key skills tailored to the needs of your business. We offer the following range of programmes:

Places are in high demand, and offered on a first come first served basis to qualified employees – so please contact us for information now.

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 are graduate apprenticeships?

We are offering the opportunity to support your current employees and new talents to become successful graduates who can enhance your business. Our three study programmes are designed specially to meet the needs of business, bringing together academic expertise and real-world experience, transferring knowledge for mutual benefit.

What are the benefits for employers when they get involved with graduate apprenticeships?

There are two main benefits associated with GAs:

1) Attracting talented young people into your company

Recruiting young people straight from school provides a pipeline of future employees who will be trained with your needs in mind and their degree contextualised to work in your company

2) Developing existing employees to degree level while they remain in the work environment

It means increased productivity, expertise and engagement, and improved employee retention

What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning means that activities in the workplace count towards the degree in terms of learning and assessment.

So GAs are not like trying to do a degree as well as doing a full-time job – they are integrated so that work counts towards the degree and the degree contributes towards work.

In this way, the degree is completed in the same four years as a full-time traditional degree programme in Scotland (for a bachelor's degree with honours).

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 talents.

How do I enlist for a graduate apprentice?

If you are looking to make a new appointment please complete the web form first. Our team will then contact you to progress. You will advertise and recruit as usual. We can help to publish your vacancies and you should also advertise your opportunity on the Skills Development Scotland apprenticeships website.

Once you have completed your recruitment process you should introduce your candidate to the University and we will assess their suitability on a case by case basis. You may want to consider asking the university to assess your preferred candidate(s) before you make an offer.

How do I recommend my current employees for GA?

If you are looking to recommend a current employee, please complete the web form first. Our team will then contact you to progress.

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.

How does Heriot-Watt University support an apprentice?

Heriot-Watt provides a personal tutor for each apprentice. You can 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 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 to study on-campus for the required days, 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. The UK government estimates that 2% of employers will be eligible and it is expected to raise up to £3 billion a year by 2019-20. A specific employer guidance from the Scottish Government is emerging gradually.

To find out the most up to date position 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.

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.

Find out more