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Guidance for Graduate Apprenticeships AY 2023-24



  1. I am writing to provide guidance on Graduate Apprenticeships (GA) for universities in Academic Year (AY) 2023-24, including eligibility criteria and reporting requirements.
  2. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is accountable for funding and quality of provision of Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) delivered through Scotland’s universities.
  3. The University Final Funding Allocations for AY 2023-24 confirmed that GAs remain a Ministerial priority for AY 2023-24, and the expectation is that the sector will deliver 1,378 new GA opportunities. The agreed targets set with each institution were primarily based on universities past provision of GAs, with adjustments made based on capacity to deliver this activity.
  4. While the sector target remains to deliver 1,378 new GA opportunities, universities have flexibility to recruit above their target within their non-controlled places, and to vire places between frameworks that the institution already delivers.
  5. In AY 2022-23, SFC created a separate allocation of funded places for GAs through the redistribution of non-controlled funded student places. For AY 2023-24, GAs are now embedded in non-controlled funded places and the relevant conditions of funding, including those for under-delivery against funded places, apply. SFC will review institutional recruitment against GA targets agreed with SFC when making decisions on future allocations of funded places.


  1. GAs were first introduced in 2017, created in partnership with industry and the further and higher education sector.
  2. The apprenticeships combine academic knowledge with skills development to enable participants to become more effective and productive in the workplace.
  3. GAs enable access to university learning for individuals previously unable to study and work through financial constraints.
  4. GAs support the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation which aims to ensure that people have the skills they need at every stage of life to have rewarding careers and meet the demands of an ever-changing economy and society and that employers invest in the skilled employees they need to grow their businesses.

GA frameworks

  1. The curriculum and the methods of delivery and assessment for each GA sectoral framework are based on employer identified current and near-future needs. This provides a benchmark against which the delivery of the programme is developed and can be quality assured as a GA.
  2. GAs are work-based learning programmes at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels 9, 10 or 11.
  3. They are nationally recognised, accredited, and certificated by universities. GAs at SCQF level 9, 10 or 11, lead to an undergraduate degree or postgraduate award.
  4. This guidance is for GAs in Scotland in the following subject areas:
Frameworks SCQF levels
Accounting with Professional Accreditation (5-year programme) 10
Business Management (which incorporates the former Business Management: Financial Services pathway) 10
Civil Engineering 10
Construction and the Built Environment 10
Cyber Security 10 & 11
Data Science 10
Early Learning and Childcare (pilot) 9
Engineering: Design and Manufacture 10
Engineering: Instrumentation, Measurement and Control 10
IT: Management for Business 10
IT: Software Development 10

National Outcomes and Outcome Agreements

  1. GAs are led by employer demand, aligned to industry need and are designed to meet the requirements of the future workforce.
  2. GAs support the delivery of SFC’s strategic objective to invest in education that is accessible to learners from all backgrounds, gives them a high-quality learning experience, supports them to succeed in their studies, and equips them to flourish in employment, further study and fulfilling lives.
  3. GAs also support the Scottish Government’s strategic priority of high-quality learning in a system which is seamlessly connected for the learner. This includes learning which prepares people well for the world of work and successful long-term careers, prioritising provision that meets known skills gaps in the economy.


  1. To be eligible to participate in an approved GA framework, a student must be at least 16 years of age at the start of the qualification and satisfy the criteria set out below. Universities must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that the student meets the eligibility criteria.
  2. To be eligible to participate in an approved GA framework, a student must be studying for a GA in Scotland and commence the course in AY 2023-24. For this cohort the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) will provide tuition fees. More information is available from SAAS at

Previous study

  1. Students who have previously been funded for a higher education course through UK or other EU public funds may still receive funding to study a GA. Students will still be eligible to participate in a GA when:
  • The individual holds an existing lower-level qualification in the same subject area as the GA.
  • The individual holds an existing same level qualification in a different subject area as the GA.


  1. To meet residency conditions, students must have settled status and been living in:
  • The United Kingdom (UK).
  • The Channel Islands.
  • The Isle of Man.

for the three years immediately before the start of the course.

  1. Students must also be living (ordinarily resident) in Scotland on the day their course starts. Where ‘ordinarily resident’ means to have ‘habitual and normal residence in one place’. The Scottish Government expects someone who is ordinarily resident in Scotland to have made their home in Scotland with the intention of staying and living here, and not just to undertake a course of study. More information is available from SAAS:
  2. The relevant dates are as follows:
  • 1 August for courses that start between 1 August and 31 December.
  • 1 January for courses that start between 1 January and 31 March.
  • 1 April for courses that start between 1 April and 30 June.
  • 1 July for courses that start between 1 July and 31 July.

Programme entry

Entry requirements

  1. The university must ensure that each proposed student completes registration / enrolment and provides appropriate evidence prior to starting the GA.
  2. The university will decide the formal entry requirements when developing the course. However, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and/or Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) processes must be used to offer flexibility to under-represented entrants with experience and/or other industry and professional body qualifications.
  3. The achievement of Foundation Apprenticeship programmes should be considered as part of formal entry requirements. In addition, universities should consider the achievement of Modern Apprenticeships and other vocational programmes, as RPL, where practicable.
  4. In determining eligible persons for recruitment to the GA programme, the university can apply additional and/or alternative eligibility criteria.

Entry and exit points

  1. GAs have flexible entry and exit points in the programme so that students can begin and end their study at the right point. The university should apply their RPL Policy to identify which year of entry to the GA is suitable for the individual. This may shorten the amount of time the GA learner is required to complete the course.
  2. Universities must be able to evidence their process for agreeing the GA entry requirements, course content and assessment methods with the employer.
  3. In determining eligible persons for recruitment to the GA programme, the university can apply additional and/or alternative eligibility criteria.

Employment and Employer Responsibilities

  1. The work-based learning component of a GA is a significant and central part of the award. Each GA student must be employed with an employer with a base in Scotland under a contract of employment relevant to the GA for a minimum of 21 hours per week. The student must spend the majority of their time working, including on the job learning, in Scotland.
  2. Universities must ensure that a collaborative tripartite agreement between the institution, the student and the employer is in place and states that the student’s academic learning hours are incorporated into their normal working hours.
  3. SFC may, in exceptional circumstances at their discretion, authorise continuation of any part of a student’s GA, in the event that the student’s employment status changes. Further advice and support can be received through the Skills and Coherent Provision Team at SFC.
  4. Students following a GA framework must be subject to the same policies and procedures as other employees of the organisation with which they are employed, and the university must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that each student is informed of this by their employer.
  5. Students must be provided with a job description which clearly defines their role and study arrangements. The job description must align to the GA framework. Universities must ensure that students have a reasonable amount of time to complete study and assessment related to their GA within their working hours. Universities should ensure that students are sufficiently remunerated, and the employers pay a salary commensurate with the job role and in adherence to National Minimum Wage legislation. This is applicable for the duration of the GA programme.
  6. Students must be assigned a workplace mentor to offer support throughout the GA.
  7. Students who are self-employed and wish to participate in the programme will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the university.


  1. If an individual is subject to an employment restriction and/or to a time limit on his/her stay in UK, they shall not be eligible to commence or continue (as applicable) the GA.

Change in employer

  1. The student must inform the university if they are considering changing employer whilst continuing their GA. Any new job role and employer would need to be assessed by the university to ensure alignment with the GA that the student is currently studying. This would include ensuring that any new employer is adequately supported and aware of their role in delivery and assessment.

To allow the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) team to provide support to the GA learner following redundancy, universities should notify the SFC Skills and Coherent Provision team at the earliest opportunity if a student is made redundant.

Accessibility and additional support

  1. Universities must ensure that all GA programmes are designed to ensure equality of opportunity for all, with no unnecessary barriers to learning or assessment. Annex A sets out considerations for programme design, development and delivery.
  2. Should a student require additional specialist equipment or support to undertake their GA, then the university shall advise and support the proposed student to apply to the Access for Work funds (or equivalent). The level of funding/support will depend on the size of the employer. The university can advise whether there are any other grant/bursaries available to the student. Students will not be entitled to any SAAS funding for additional support needs. If the student is not able or entitled to any funding from other sources, the university shall meet the costs of additional specialist equipment or support to enable the student to undertake their GA.

Funding and provision

  1. GAs are embedded in non-controlled funded places in AY 2023-24, and the expectation is that the sector will continue to deliver 1,378 new GA opportunities. University GA targets will be informed by past performance and capacity of universities to deliver GA activity and underpinned by the annual demand statement process.
  2. Universities should comply with SFC’s Early Statistics and Early Access Returns guidance on eligibility for funding.
  3. Universities can use non-controlled funded student places across their GA activity, including between institutional approved frameworks. Universities should notify SFC of any changes to framework delivery.
  4. If demand is greater than the agreed GA target, universities can deliver additional GA places. Any university wishing to do so should discuss this with their Outcome Agreement Manager in the first instance.

SAAS funding – tuition fees only

  1. Eligibility for a place on a GA remains at the advice and discretion of the university. The university will advise employers if their employee/candidate meets their entry criteria, is eligible to participate and what they need to do next to apply for tuition fees from SAAS.
  2. GAs starting their course in AY 2023-24 need to apply for SAAS funding. SAAS will check that the preferred candidate meets the residency requirements by being domiciled in Scotland for the duration of their GA programme. Once eligibility is confirmed, SAAS will pay the tuition fee directly to the university.

Monitoring and Reporting

  1. In developing a joint delivery model for AY 2023-24, the ambition of both SFC and SDS was to streamline, simplify and reduce the administrative burden for universities in the delivery and reporting of GAs.
  2. To meet this ambition, it has been agreed that in AY 2023-24 there is no requirement for universities to enter data into the FIPS system. Instead, GA reporting will mirror requirements in place for other undergraduate programmes through university reporting, early stats returns, and HESA returns. The requirements for reporting through HESA can be found in the HESA Guidance for AY 2023-24.
  3. In addition, SFC’s Skills and Coherent Provision team and the Assurance and Outcomes team will meet with universities to discuss GA progress and delivery and determine provision for the subsequent academic year.
  4. The indicative timeline for SFC / Institutional engagement is set out below:
  • November-December 2023 engagement to discuss progress to date, delivery against agreed targets and any operational challenges.
  • Engagement with universities regarding capacity to deliver target –
    March-April 2024.
  • Final funding allocation and target number of GAs confirmed – May 2024.
  • Start of the Academic Year (AY) – further engagement on GA target – August 2024.
  1. We require that you make outcome evidence available to SFC for performance management purposes. The purpose of the evidence is to provide the necessary assurance that you have delivered the GA Programme in accordance with the terms of this guidance.
  2. Universities must provide data returns requested by SFC to the deadlines and standards specified.
  3. SFC is committed to processing any personal data fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law. SFC’s privacy notice is available on our website. SFC will use the information submitted by universities to provide regular updates to the Scottish Government on the current uptake and use of funding. (The Scottish Government’s privacy notice is available on their website.)

Quality management

  1. SFC expects universities to have in place processes for assuring and enhancing academic standards and the quality of the student experience. This includes an expectation that institutions operate systems of annual monitoring and periodic Institution Led Review across the full range of their provision, including GAs. Outcomes of these activities should include identifying areas of both improvement and good practice, and actions to deliver enhancement for consideration at institutional level.
  2. The Quality Standards that apply to GA Providers can be accessed in the SDS Learning Provider area of and on SFC Quality in Scotland’s universities web page.
  3. The Quality Standards assess the extent to which each provider maintains capacity and capability to successfully deliver quality provider services throughout the period of delivery.
  4. SFC expects institutions to utilise these Quality Standards, combined with existing quality assurance and enhancement arrangements, to ensure a high-quality experience for GA students.

Marketing and communications requirements

  1. In promoting GAs, the university should take appropriate positive action in marketing with a view to improving representation where there is clear imbalance in provision, targeting gender, disability, ethnicity and people who have been in care.
  2. In acknowledgement of SFC’s funding contribution, our logo must be displayed on any publicity material relating to GAs (signage, posters, website, etc.). You will also be required to display other logos in recognition of GA delivery – full details are contained within the marketing toolkit on

Further information

  1. To complement the above guidance, here are links to the Graduate Apprenticeship Delivery Toolkit and Frequently Asked Questions.
  2. Any queries/requests for further information should be directed to Sharon Drysdale, Deputy Director, Skills and Coherent Provision, email:

Dr. Jacqui Brasted

Interim Director, Access, Learning and Outcomes

Annex A

Programme design, development and delivery

  • Universities must ensure that SFC and SDS are involved in the approval process of all new GA programmes. The formal outcome of any approval process should be reported by SFC through your Outcome Agreement Manager (OAM).
  • Universities must consult employers in the design and development of all GA programmes.
  • Universities should seek to ensure that GA programmes are based on industry needs and have been co-designed with employers to deliver business requirements.
  • Universities should seek to gain professional body accreditation of all GA programmes prior to programme start date (where a relevant body exists).
  • Universities must ensure that students and employers know what is expected of them in the delivery of the GA programme. Universities must provide the student and employer with a learning and assessment timetable before the course start date, covering on-campus and work-based learning.
  • Universities must ensure that both the student and employer are offered an induction process to the GA programme.

Approval of GA programmes

  • For new GA programmes, each university will undertake a programme validation, whereby all new programmes are subject to formal consideration and approval prior to implementation.
  • The format of any validation event will depend on a university’s own internal processes. However, as a minimum, a panel should be convened that includes SDS and SFC representation to examine the quality and standards of the proposed programme and ensure they align to the published GA Framework requirements.
  • Universities should provide documentation to SFC and SDS at least 10 days in advance of a validation event. This documentation should, as a minimum, include a programme specification document (that includes the rationale for the development of the GA programme, evidence of employer demand and how the programme fits with your institutions strategic planning for work based learning); a programme mapping exercise that clearly demonstrates that the learning outcomes meet the requirements of the associated GA Framework; and detailed module descriptors that include how each module will be taught and assessed.
  • The purpose of a validation event is to take a decision on the approval (or validation) of the GA programme subject to your university’s regular quality review processes.

Review and re-approval of GA programmes

  • Subject to the university’s own Institution-Led Subject Review (ILSR) processes, each GA programme will be required to undergo a formal review process. This is normally every 6 years (including the course re-approval element of it).  When the university prepares for their ILSR a year in advance, this will involve engagement with relevant stakeholders, including SDS and SFC, learners and employers.
  • If there are significant changes being proposed as part of the ILSR, this will require a re-validation event with a validation Panel and should follow the validation process as above (Approval of GA Programmes).
  • Where there are no significant changes required to a programme, or a programme has recently been validated ahead of the ILSR, these should be re-approved internally. However, course teams will still be required to liaise with SDS and SFC to obtain written confirmation that any changes, particularly relating to learning outcomes or assessment, remain aligned to the requirements set out within the published GA Framework.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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