A photo of the Berrill Building at The Open University's Walton Hall campus

OU tops list of employer-sponsored degree providers

The Open University has topped a table of providers of employer-sponsored degrees in a new report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

The report – Making a Success of Employer Education – was written by the Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University (LSBU), Professor David Phoenix, and looks at the benefit of employer-sponsored education to students, employers, society and the UK economy.

Professor Phoenix used the publication of the report to look at the role of employer-sponsored degrees alongside other government initiatives. He said: “The Government’s new Degree Apprenticeships are a welcome addition to professional and technical education. I enthusiastically support them. But Ministers must ensure they complement rather than disrupt existing employer sponsored degrees.”

'A win for everyone'

More than 70 per cent of OU students combine their studies with some kind of work and 86 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have sponsored employees through study with The Open University.

Figures included in the new HEPI report highlight the OU’s position as the leading provider of such degrees, welcoming more than twice as many employer-sponsored students in 2013/14 than its nearest competitor.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, said:

Ensuring our country’s workforce has the right skills is vital to our national productivity, and we welcome the spotlight this report shines on the importance of employers sponsoring their staff through higher education. Employer-sponsored degrees are a win for everyone – the student, the employer, the university sector and society at large. As this report highlights, such qualifications also offer a significant return to the treasury, so it is vital that the government recognises the value of lifelong learning as way of developing our workforce, supporting the national economy and driving social mobility.

In addition to exploring the benefits of employer-sponsored education, the report also makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Funding parity between apprenticeships and employer-sponsored degrees, with apprenticeship levy funds being used to help support both forms of training.
  • Further consultation by government on simplification of funding and regulatory regimes to breakdown barriers between FE and HE.
  • Government should investigate a Higher Education salary sacrifice scheme to support students in employment.