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Monday, May 13, 2019, Issue 79

Education providers have ‘little financial incentive’ to deliver apprenticeships

The Institute for Apprenticeships has responded to a letter from the Society which expressed dismay about the funding band allocated to therapeutic and diagnostic radiographer and sonographer apprenticeships.

The current band means that education providers will receive £19,000 over three years compared with the £9250 a year plus teaching grant that they currently receive for the traditional BSc(Hons) pre-registration programme. It is believed the same will apply pro-rata for the two-year MSc apprenticeship.

The Heads of Radiography Education, the group for lead professional educators, has told the Society that the funding will mean there will be very limited interest in developing apprenticeship programmes.

“The shortfall puts the future of the imaging and radiotherapy workforce at risk,” said Charlotte Beardmore, the Society’s director of professional policy.

“We understand there is interest from employers in sponsoring apprenticeship posts, particularly in geographical areas where recruitment and retention of diagnostic radiographers and therapeutic radiographers is challenging. Plus, we have been receiving enquiries from potential apprentices for the past two years.

“The missing component is education providers to deliver the registerable qualifications. There is little incentive for them to do so,” Charlotte continued.

“We understand education providers are currently deciding whether to develop either diagnostic radiographer or therapeutic radiographer apprenticeship education programmes.”

The reply to the Society’s letter from Bhavena Patel, senior relationship manager at the Institute for Apprenticeships, said, “The Institute is developing the criteria and processes to support the review of funding bands. The primary method will be through route reviews where we look at standards, end point assessments and funding bands across a route.”

She continued, “In addition, we expect to introduce an exceptional process for reviewing funding bands for standards which have been in the market for some time. We expect to be able to share more information on how this will work in the summer. If a funding review takes place, the funding band may go up, go down or stay the same.”

In the letter to the IfA, the Society made the point that radiographer education programmes are expensive to develop and run. Traditional student numbers are limited by the work placements available and apprenticeship numbers were always expected to be low because apprentices will be trained in addition to students on traditional courses, not instead of them. Low numbers mean that the economies of scale associated with courses for larger professions such as physiotherapy and nursing do not apply.

If a university were to develop a programme within the current funding band, they could be forced to divert resources from other courses to fund the development and delivery of apprenticeships. The Society’s fear is that pressure would put post-registration programmes at risk - a devastating blow to both the current and future workforce. 

A 2017 report by management consultants KPMG and commissioned by the Office for Student’s predecessor, HEFCE, showed that each diagnostic and therapeutic radiography and sonography student are amongst the most expensive to deliver, costing £11,300 a year per student, compared to £9088 for nursing trainees.

Charlotte commented, “Many universities are risk adverse about small and specialist healthcare profession programmes, as evidenced by the recent closure of the therapeutic radiography course at Portsmouth and the at-risk status of several others. 

“Education providers have told us that their senior management consider it too risky to get tied into a procurement contract on the current funding band and this has contributed to the dearth of universities even expressing an interest in developing apprenticeship programmes.”

The Society has offered to work with the IfA to review funding.

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