Blog: Heriot-Watt University Professor explains the new Graduate Apprenticeship in Financial Services

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are introducing new honours degree programmes for financial services in 2018. Professor Joe Byrne, Head of Accountancy, Economics and Finance, explains why the Graduate Apprenticeships are a revolution in financial services education.

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is very pleased to announce the introduction of new honours degree programmes for Financial Services in 2018. This ground-breaking initiative is designed both for people entering, or already in employment.  The University will work in partnership with firms looking to grow their talent from within their existing workforce. For centuries, Scotland has had a highly skilled labour force, and our new Graduate Apprenticeship programmes shall equip the workforce for the challenges of the twenty-first century. These degree programmes present several advantages in terms of higher graduate employability, degree affordability and employer flexibility. Places on the GA Financial Services are fully funded (from the apprenticeship levy) so no programme fees are paid for the whole of the programme, either by employers or apprentices.

A Revolution in Financial Services Education

This year sees Heriot-Watt embarking upon a revolution in delivery and design of undergraduate education.  The University is fully engaged with Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government in providing skills to enhance the Scottish workforce, in particular our financial sector. To that end we are introducing the Graduate Apprenticeship Honours Degree Programmes in Business Management: Financial Services.

Our new GA degree programmes have many positive features. Employers have the opportunity to broaden and deepen their workforce’s skills in a leading Scottish university, and employers benefit immediately because staff continue working for them throughout the Graduate Apprenticeship. Given enrolled students shall be in paid employment, they shall not have some of the financial challenges of full-time students nor accumulated debt once they graduate. Firms have an excellent opportunity to exploit the full potential of their existing workforce

Employers have the capacity to influence curriculum design, through our external advisors and with student focused Individual Learning Agreements (ILA). Relevant work-based learning shall be taken into consideration, ensuring the degree programme is more personalised and flexible than it otherwise would be.  

What’s required of a Graduate Apprentice?

The programme comprises a suite of work-based courses that are undertaking by attending the university campus for about two-days per month. Although each course has specific learning objectives, the learning and work-based project work associated with each course is tailored to meet each GA student’s individual work context. Broadly students shall spend 80% of their time in work and 20% of their time in education

The programmes are structured to develop knowledge, understanding and skills related to the principles and practices of management in contemporary financial services organisations. GA degrees introduce and extend problem-solving, critical thinking and business analysis and modelling skills suited to a wide range of management roles, with a specialism on the financial services sector. The GA programme provides a foundation of financial, accounting, economics as well as management and business knowledge, to increase the apprentice confidence and skills when stepping into an management role. The degree programmes in the first year are directed to give students a broad grounding in Finance and related subjects, before specialising in later years.

Our Financial Services degree programme shall enhance students’ specific knowledge of Financial Technology (FinTech), Financial Regulation and Client Management. FinTech is of central importance to the future of financial services, and we shall consider its relevance for the commercial banking sector, with regards to block-chain and crypto currencies, equity crowd-funding and peer to peer lending. Financial Regulation interacts specifically with FinTech and more broadly with risk management, banking supervision and financial market failure. Financial Service firms give a central role to client management, and we shall review market leading approaches that your businesses model can exploit.

Heriot-Watt University’s Strengths

Our degree programmes in the Department of Accountancy, Economics and Finance are highly ranked across the United Kingdom, for example in the recent Guardian University Guide. In Economics and Finance we are ranked within the top 20% of Universities in the United Kingdom. We already rank highly for graduate employability, degree value added and student satisfaction. Our Department has strengths in Financial Technology (FinTech) and Financial Services more broadly. We have excellent proximity to the Financial Services Sector in Edinburgh. There is no restriction on the size of organisation, industry or location which can participate in the programme.

This is not Heriot-Watt’s first graduate apprenticeship programme.  World leading designers and manufacturers of Chlorine Dioxide systems Scotmas Group joined another Heriot-Watt Graduate Apprenticeship scheme last year. The benefits graduate apprentices can bring to the business are discussed by Alistair Cameron, Managing Director for Scotmas.

Place are still available for the September 2018 intake

We still have a few places available for the GA in Business Management: Financial Services available for the September 2018 start date, and these will be offered on a first come first basis. Talk to us about the MA(Hons) Programme in Business Management: Financial Services with the address ga@hw.ac.uk or visit our webpage: https://www.hw.ac.uk/business/information-for-employers.htm

Professor Joe Byrne, Head of Accountancy, Economics and Finance, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Robbie Mochrie, Head of Economics, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University