From nuclear engineering to health care: how to get an affordable degree in Wigan

Lorna Sowerbutts
Lorna Sowerbutts
Promoted by Wigan and Leigh College

With an average annual cost of more than £9,000 university tuition fees in England are among the highest in the world.

For some, this cost is enough to put them off pursuing their education dreams.

Adam Lever

Adam Lever

However, more and more people are opting for higher or degree apprenticeships to get a degree without the high price tag.

A degree or higher apprenticeship combines vocational training with higher academic study, without the burden of student loans, as employers and the government pick up the bill for tuition fees. Plus there’s the added bonus of earning a salary, gaining job satisfaction and learning from colleagues at work.

Innovative apprenticeships may combine a full honours degree, HNC/D or foundation degree with the practical skills gained in the workplace and the financial security of employment.

The University Centre Wigan & Leigh College delivers a range of degree and higher apprenticeships in employment sectors including the nuclear industry, science, leadership and management, construction management, IT and health and social care.

Apprenticeship schemes combine study and work for three to six years depending on the course level.

Lorna Sowerbutts, 20, from Clitheroe, is a higher level apprentice on a nuclear technician standard at Sellafield Ltd.

“I wasn’t keen on going to university full time but wanted to get into higher education,” she said. “Taking a higher level apprenticeship suits me because I can work and learn at an advanced level.”

Degree apprenticeships explained…

I’m already employed. Can I begin a degree apprenticeship with my current employer?

Yes you can, you need to start the initial discussions with your employer.

I don’t have an employer – how do I secure my degree apprenticeship?

You will need to visit the University Centre Wigan & Leigh College online to find current apprenticeship vacancies.

Do I need any qualifications?

Yes you do, but they depend on the apprenticeship you are applying for.

What if I don’t have the qualifications required to study on a degree apprenticeship?

Wigan & Leigh College offers a range of programmes which prepare you for degree and higher apprenticeships.

Apprentices are employed throughout the programme, and spend part of their time at university and the rest with their employer. This can be on a day-to-day basis or in blocks of time, depending on the programme and requirements of the employer.

Premier degree apprentice for international nuclear company

An 18-year-old University Centre Wigan & Leigh College student became the first degree apprentice at Warrington based International Nuclear Services (INS).

Adam Lever gained a Distinction in the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at the College, but decided he didn’t want to follow the traditional university path.

Principal Design Engineer at INS, Ian Grainey, said: “Taking on an apprentice gives the student the opportunity to learn from experienced engineers, but it also brings a fresh new mind to the team.”

Adam is studying the HND Mechanical Engineering as part of his higher apprenticeship in the nuclear sector.

Degree apprenticeships are co-designed by the University Centre, professional bodies and employers to make sure apprentices are equipped with the skills they need and to boost their employment prospects.

Find out more

The University Centre offers a range of qualifications for full and part-time students.

Course areas include business management, creative industries and new media, education, STEM subjects and health and social care.

With millions of pounds invested in new facilities, resources and equipment, now is the perfect time to take the next step in your higher education journey.

For more information visit the website or Higher Education Advice and Enrolment events on Thursday 15 August, and Tuesday 27 August, 2-7pm at Parsons Walk Centre, Wigan.