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HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education and sixth form colleges should submit any proposals by noon on Tuesday 6 June 2017.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

DADF Phase 2: Invitation to submit proposals for funding to stimulate development of degree apprenticeships

1. This letter invites proposals for the second phase of the Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund (DADF). This funding will support the development of new degree apprenticeships to address the Government’s ambitions to enable a wider range of individuals to benefit from higher education through apprenticeships, to increase productivity, and to improve economic performance. Proposals should be submitted by noon on Tuesday 6 June 2017.

2. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 requires large employers to pay for apprenticeship training, generating a fund of £3 billion a year by 2019-20.

3. Degree apprenticeships are part of the Government’s approved English apprenticeships programme, funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. They involve programmes of learning in which an apprentice is employed while undertaking a Level 6 (degree equivalent) or Level 7 (masters degree, postgraduate certificate, or postgraduate diploma) qualification which is part of an approved standard leading to competence in a named occupation.

4. In this second phase, funding is available to increase capability and capacity in higher education providers, resulting in the provision of an increased number of degree apprenticeships for delivery from September 2018. Funding will be allocated in summer 2017, and must be spent by the end of March 2018.

5. This funding is available for the development of degree apprenticeships courses only. Degree apprenticeships developed in response to this call must comply with the requirements set out in the relevant Trailblazer standard (see and for further information) and its accompanying assessment plan. Institutions leading proposals must also ensure that they are on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) and have completed the necessary Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) processes before funding commences. Further detail of this is set out in paragraphs 18 to 21.

6. A total of £8 million was originally announced across the programme as a whole. We stated in HEFCE Circular letter 06/2016 that this funding would be allocated across two separate calls in order to include as many institutions as possible. In response to the volume of high-quality proposals received in the first call, the Department for Education increased the funding by £0.5 million and a total of £4.5 million was allocated in Phase 1. In this second call, we will allocate the majority of £4 million to HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education colleges but we will devote a maximum of 10 per cent of the funding towards facilitation for the whole sector to improve its readiness to deliver this new provision. We encourage alternative higher education providers to form part of a consortium bid and we will set aside funding in the facilitation strand specifically to support these providers.

7. Participants will be expected to share their learning from the project with other institutions, as well as with a HEFCE-appointed evaluator and a HEFCE project manager during the scheme.

8. Proposals for this second phase call should be submitted to by noon on Tuesday 6 June 2017. We encourage institutions to contact their HEFCE institutional teams to discuss ideas ahead of submission. Responses to this call must be submitted using the template at Annex A.

Purpose of this funding

9. Degree apprenticeships at Levels 6 and 7 are a key focus for higher education within the broader apprenticeship agenda. Government policy aims to produce the skilled workforce that employers need to increase productivity. A central aim is to ramp up and reform apprenticeships to achieve 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020, with degree apprenticeships contributing to this total. The development of new apprenticeship provision is intended to provide additional routes into skilled employment and to aid social mobility.

10. Trailblazers are employer-led groups that are developing the new apprenticeship standards. These describe what an apprentice will be doing and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of them in the job role. Each apprenticeship standard also has an approved assessment plan produced by the Trailblazer, ready for employers and training organisations to use. A list of apprenticeship standards developed by Trailblazers can be found at Approval of Trailblazers and standards is the responsibility of the Institute for Apprenticeships.

11. The Degree Apprenticeships Development Fund was established by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and has received continuing support from the Department of Education. Its aims are: to create partnerships which will strengthen degree apprenticeship growth; to create a stronger market for degree apprenticeships where we have evidence that demand is likely to be high but is not yet realised; to establish high-quality new degree apprenticeships; to establish capacity and expertise to deliver a high volume of degree apprenticeships; and to secure the necessary cultural and behavioural changes among HE providers to embed degree apprenticeships and make broader educational opportunities available to learners.

12. Proposals for this Phase 2 funding will therefore need to bring together employers and professional bodies with HE providers to design on- and off-the-job learning for degree apprenticeships in specific occupational areas where standards exist or are in the process of gaining approval. This can involve: the conversion of successful closed or sponsored degrees into degree apprenticeships; meeting the needs of employers through building provider capacity for high quality curriculum and assessment design and delivery; and working with employers to establish their future skills needs and learner demand to ensure that degree apprenticeship provision matches these requirements.

13. Through this call for proposals, we are also keen to support projects that more explicitly address the government’s social mobility goals and its evolving local growth priorities. With this in mind, institutions may wish to align their proposals with the work to be undertaken by the consortia established under the National Collaborative Outreach Programme. This may include bids that seek to support outreach work, for instance through using matched funding to promote degree apprenticeships in areas with low participation in higher education, or to under-represented groups.

14. We would also be interested in receiving bids that make connections between degree apprenticeships and local or national skills priorities. This could include developing provision that aligns with the objectives of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) or regional priorities, for example in the Midlands Engine, or Northern Powerhouse, or by working in Opportunity Areas. It could also include development activities to expand degree apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and as a vehicle for improving gender diversity in STEM sectors.

15. Proposals should include: evidence of demand from employers for proposed degree apprenticeship provision; and letters of support from all parties involved in the proposed partnerships (including, as relevant, employers, professional bodies, LEPs, and other higher education institutions). Letters should state what relevant activities partners are already involved in, and the level of commitment each partner is signed up to contribute.

Funding and eligibility

16. We will provide funding for this second-phase call on the following basis:

  1. We have established an indicative budget of £4 million. Maximum and minimum levels of £250,000 and £50,000 per proposal will be considered. Consortium bids that include a substantial contribution from more than one higher education institution may exceed the £250,000 maximum funding if there is a particularly strong case. The upper funding limit for such consortium bids is £500,000.
  2. The funding is not intended to be used for capital expenditure, but we will consider this possibility if a proposal gives a particularly strong reason to do so.
  3. We will accept no more than one individual bid per institution. Institutions may lead on either an individual bid or a consortium bid with higher education partners, but not both. Through membership of consortia, institutions may be involved in additional bids.
  4. This funding is intended to support new activity only. We do not expect to fund activities already under way, or those which would take place irrespective of this call for proposals. If proposals build on activities already planned in this area, they should make clear how the requested funding will provide genuine additionality to the planned activities. Funding in Phase 2 must not be used by institutions to support activities for which they previously received funding in Phase 1.
  5. The funding is intended to fund degree apprenticeship activities at Levels 6 and 7 only. In line with employer demand, degree apprenticeships can include postgraduate diplomas or postgraduate certificates.

17. We anticipate supporting a wide range of projects, in terms of types of institutions, industry sectors, modes of delivery, and locations. We expect to maintain contact with all projects to maximise the feedback on good practice to the sector, and to increase the evidence base to inform the future development of degree apprenticeships. An external evaluator is working with HEFCE to observe and evaluate the activity funded through the DADF, and funded institutions will be required to participate in this evaluation.

Preparing for delivery of a new degree apprenticeship developed with this funding

18. All organisations wishing to deliver an approved degree apprenticeship must hold a provider agreement with the ESFA before starting to deliver the apprenticeship. 

19. To hold a provider agreement with the ESFA, all organisations must successfully apply to the agency’s Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) and complete the required ESFA processes. For the purpose of this call, we require the lead bidding higher education institution to be registered on RoATP by the time funding commences, ie: Friday 1 September 2017. Institutions that do not expect to be on RoATP by that time may join proposals as partners in a consortium bid.  

20. To deliver to employers that do not pay the apprenticeship levy, organisations must be approved by the ESFA to do so by the date of their application to the DADF, ie: Tuesday 6 June.

21. To be notified of opportunities for applying to RoATP, register with the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Bravo Solutions e-tendering portal ( The support guide ( provides further details.

Assessment criteria

22. Applications for this second call will be assessed through judgement against the following criteria:

  1. The extent to which new degree apprenticeship starts will be achieved from September 2018.
  2. The extent to which the requested funding will address barriers and operational challenges associated with developing or delivering degree apprenticeships, to increase delivery capacity.
  3. The extent to which the project will support social mobility through new opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access higher education.
  4. The extent to which proposed activities identify and respond to evidenced employer demand, and thereby address local or national skills priorities, especially in occupations where there is a shortage of skills.
  5. The extent to which the proposed activities support the specific learning needs of the apprentices.
  6. The extent to which proposals demonstrate achievement of steps to market, including:
    1. Meeting ESFA and Institute for Apprenticeships RoATP and process requirements.
    2. Joining existing Trailblazer groups or bringing forward new Trailblazer standards. We may support the role of providers in bringing together interests to form Trailblazer groups, but once a Trailblazer group is formed there should be no use of DADF money to support a Trailblazer group – directly, in kind, or indirectly. Once the Trailblazer group is officially recognised, HE providers must take an advisory role only.
    3. Meeting evidenced employer needs.
    4. Recruiting learners.
  7. The extent to which the proposed activity is genuinely additional to that already planned. We expect that bids may include activities that are a normal part of developing provision, but do not expect development funding simply to displace other income streams. A clear statement of additionality will be necessary to secure funding. Any bids from institutions receiving funding in Phase 1 should clearly indicate how the activity adds to and differs from that funded previously.
  8. The extent to which value for public money can be derived from the proposed project. We will assess this on the basis of a project’s potential to influence and benefit other institutions across the sector, including providing evidence of good practice to inform government policy. We will also consider the level of investment relative to the number of degree apprenticeships projected to start.
  9. The extent to which the proposal will form part of a balanced portfolio of activities and institutions, and can thereby help to inform policy and practice. The panel will reflect on the range of projects funded in Phase 1 and proposed for funding in Phase 2, and the opportunities that may arise to broaden the impact of DADF funding across the two phases. Given the high volume of chartered management, and digital & technology, degree apprenticeships already available (including those funded through Phase 1 of the DADF) we do not intend to support activity featuring these standards in Phase 2 unless they provide uniquely innovative solutions.

23. Criteria a, b, and h will be given higher weighting.

Application process, selection and timescale

24. Institutions are invited to submit proposals for funding, and encouraged to speak to HEFCE institutional team contacts to discuss ideas before submission. Institutions wishing to apply for funding should complete the template at Annex A, and email it to by noon on Tuesday 6 June 2017. Late submissions will not be accepted. Submissions not using the template will be invalid and will not be assessed. Institutions will receive an automatic email confirming receipt of the documentation. Should this not be received, please contact HEFCE’s Subject and Skills Team on 0117 931 7452 without delay.

25. Proposals should not exceed the maximum lengths specified in the template. There should be no annexes except for the purpose of Freedom of Information requests (see paragraphs 33 to 35).

26. Proposals should include letters of support from all partner organisations, signed by the respective chief executives or accountable officers. These should be submitted as separate files, labelled with the lead institution’s name, the partner’s name and ‘Letter of Support’ in the title.

27. Following submission, bids will be assessed internally by HEFCE staff and then validated by an external panel, comprising relevant stakeholders, including representatives from industry, professional bodies, and higher education providers. The external panel will validate the internal assessment, agree a final ranking of proposals, and then confirm a final portfolio taking into account the balance of proposed degree apprenticeships.

28. Following assessment and validation, the HEFCE chief executive, acting on delegated authority from the HEFCE Board, will consider the recommendations of the external validation panel. This will take place in late July 2017. Institutions whose bids are successful will be informed within one week of the chief executive’s decision; this will include confirmation of the funding to be allocated.

29. The approximate timetable for this Phase 2 funding call is set out below.

Phase 2 date

Phase 2 event

6 June 2017

Deadline for submission of proposals

June and July 2017

Assessment of proposals

July 2017

External validation panel meeting and panel recommendations considered by HEFCE chief executive

Late July 2017

Outcomes shared with bidders

September 2017

First funding distributed

September 2017

Approved projects under way

End of March 2018

Deadline for spending HEFCE-distributed DADF Phase 2 funding

Summer 2018

Preliminary reports due

DADF workshop for all Phase 2 funded institutions (location and time to be confirmed)

Autumn 2018

Second DADF Phase 2 workshop (details to be confirmed)

Final reports due

Monitoring arrangements

30. Funded institutions will be expected to engage with a HEFCE-appointed evaluator as well as with other funded institutions. As set out in the table above, we also expect institutions to attend two workshops at which lessons learned can be shared appropriately with other institutions and fed into developing policy.

31. We will monitor the development over time of degree apprenticeships at institutions. This will be done through the Individualised Learner Record submitted to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. In addition, further data will be recorded in the returns from the Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey (for apprentices studying at higher education institutions) and the Higher Education in Further Education: Students survey (for apprentices studying at further education and sixth form colleges). Further information about data requirements will be provided in due course.

32. Additional terms, conditions and monitoring arrangements may be agreed and included in individual award letters.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

33. HEFCE is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gives a public right of access to information held by a public authority. This may mean that applications, communications between us and institutions, information arising from the work undertaken or its outputs become subject to disclosure if a valid request is made to us. We will comply with such requests in accordance with the legislation and our own policies.

34. Institutions can, if they wish, provide potentially sensitive information (such as information relating to commercial interests) in a separate annex attached to the application form. This will highlight to us that there are concerns over disclosure. With annexes, the proposal must not exceed the maximum length as stated in the application template. Where we consider it to be appropriate and practicable, we will seek the views of applicants before disclosing this information. The applicant acknowledges that information provided in the annex is of indicative value only and that HEFCE may nevertheless be obliged to disclose this information. Our assumption will be that all information in the main application documents can be disclosed on request.

35. Further information about the Freedom of Information Act can be found on the Information Commissioner’s website at

Further information

36. If you have queries, contact your HEFCE institutional teams. A searchable list of institutional contacts is available at

Yours sincerely

Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive


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Annex A: Template for applications for Phase 2 funding

Download the Annex A: Template for applications for Phase 2 funding as MS Word (91 KB) 

Annex B: Funding letter from the Department for Education

Download the Annex B: Funding letter from the Department for Education as PDF (360 KB)

Date: 12 April 2017

Ref: Circular letter 09/2017

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Degree apprenticeships, Technical and vocational education, Work placements and employability, Access and student success, Postgraduate education, Employer partnerships 

Enquiries should be directed to:

HEFCE contacts for institutions can be found at