Frequently asked questions about Graduate Apprenticeships

What qualification(s) can a Graduate Apprentice gain?

GAs are currently available from SCQF level 8 (Dip HE) through to SCQF level 11 (master’s degree Level). The qualification an apprentice receives at the end is the same as the one they would get upon completion of a conventional learning programme with a further or higher education institute.

For example, if a Graduate Level Apprentice completes the IT Software Development course at SCQF level 10 they will receive a BSc degree from their university, as well as a Graduate Apprenticeship award.

How long does it take to complete a GA?

A GA at SCQF level 10 (honours degree level) will take up to 4 years to complete and a GA at SCQF level 8 (Dip HE level) will take up to 2 years to complete. Some individuals may complete the GA in a shorter period of time because the working year is longer than the university year meaning the overall time may be reduced.

What if my preferred delivery partner doesn’t offer a GA course I am interested in?

We would advise you to let your preferred delivery partner know that you want to take on a GA apprentice and the courses you would be interested in. Receiving expressions of interests will help delivery partners decide the GA courses they may want to offer in the future.

How will the learning element of the GA work in practice?

Graduate Apprentices are first and foremost employees. It is anticipated that apprentices will spend around 80% of their time in work and 20% of time with a university or college.

However the exact split between work and learning will be agreed by the employer with their delivery partner. For example, some employers may agree to have their apprentices attend university or college 1 day a week, whilst others may opt for more online learning or block release learning for several weeks at a time throughout the year.


Where relevant, are GAs accredited by professional bodies?

In most cases, the GA courses have been mapped to professional body standards so apprentices will be able to apply for membership to any professional body relevant to their industry at the conclusion of their programme.

Who can apply for a GA?

To apply to become a GA the employee should be a minimum of 16 years of age. There is no maximum age set on who can become a Graduate Apprentice.

The employee must be resident in Scotland for the duration of the Graduate Apprenticeship. In addition to this, their employers working premises must also be located in Scotland. When applying to become a Graduate Apprentice the individual will be required to satisfy the employer that they have the right to live and work in Scotland.

If someone has an existing educational qualification, are they still eligible for funding?

Yes. If, for example, someone has already completed a degree in Business but they want to get a job in Software Development, they can still apply for a Graduate Apprenticeship. This applies even if the degree and apprenticeship are in the same subject.

Can a small or medium-sized business take on a GA?

There is no restriction on the size of organisation that can employ a GA. However, a smaller organisation would need to be able to provide their Apprentice with the following:

  • employee’s wage

  • time required away from work for learning

  • mentoring support

  • benefits package (pension and other normal benefits open to other staff)

  • a consistent workload that would allow progression and breadth of opportunity and assessment of day-to-day practice

What qualifications are required to apply for a GA?

Every applicant should be assessed not just on formal qualifications but also existing experience, during recruitment. The GA is designed so that previous learning will not be repeated.

Universities can offer flexibility to non-traditional entrants with experience. So if you have taken on a Foundation or Modern Apprentice and want to retain them in your workforce they can progress to a GA in the same subject area.

It is up to the employer and the delivery partner to ensure that the apprentice joins the programme at the right level, recognising any prior learning that may have taken place.

Do GAs have flexible “entry and exit points”?

Yes. Graduate Apprenticeships have flexible entry and exit points in the programme so that apprentices begin and end their study, at the right point. As the delivery partner you will take into consideration what a GA apprentice has previously studied along with any relevant industry experience and agree their current stage with their employer.

For example, an apprentice who has already attained a relevant qualification at SCQF level 8, prior to enrolling on a GA at SCQF level 10, may be able to have a percentage of their GA qualification recognised as being achieved already. This may shorten the amount of time they require to complete the course.

However, if an apprentice doing a GA at SCQF level 10 (honours degree level) exits before completing the course, they may be able to leave with a GA at SCQF level 8 (Dip HE level) providing they have met the required level.

How often do apprentices have to apply to Student Awards Agency Scotland?

Employees who are new entrants to the Graduate Apprenticeship programme will have to apply to Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) from academic year 2021/22 for their initial SAAS funding.

This needs to be followed with an annual application to SAAS until the learner has completed their Graduate Apprenticeship. Applying to SAAS is a straightforward process. The learning provider will be able to provide support if required.

Which learners does Student Awards Agency Scotland funding apply to?

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) funding only applies to learners starting their Graduate Apprenticeship from the 2021/22 academic year onwards. These learners will generally commence from August 2021 onwards.

SAAS funding applications are not required for current learners on a Graduate Apprenticeship who will be returning next academic year into year 2, 3 or 4 of their programme.

How does the Student Awards Agency Scotland funding application affect the employer recruitment process?

Employers should continue to apply their standard Graduate Apprenticeship recruitment process. However, from 2021 the employee must apply for funding from Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for tuition fees. The employer should build in some extra time for this step.

The decision on learner eligibility for a GA will continue to be taken by the learning provider, not by SAAS. The provider will advise the apprentice and employer on next steps when applying for SAAS funding.

Find further guidance on our apprentice funding page

How much should GA apprentices be paid?

As GA apprentices are employees their employer will be expected to pay their salary. This salary is not set by SDS but we do encourage all employers to pay the Living Wage. The employer will be expected to employ the apprentice full-time with full access to the employer’s facilities and benefits.

Does an employer receive any payment from SDS for taking on a GA apprentice?

SDS will pay the full fees of those apprentices starting in 2017 and 2018 but employers will not receive any direct payments for taking on a Graduate Apprentice.

How and when are GA apprentices recruited?

The normal steps to recruit a GA are as follows:

  1. the employer will contact the university/college delivering the course they are interested in

  2. the employer and university/college will discuss entry requirements, timescales for recruitment, course content and assessment methods

  3. the employer will create the job description (including entry requirements and a closing date)

  4. the employer will advertise the GA vacancy on There is no cost to the employer for this service, and an account can be set up here.

  5. the employer will be sent all job applications received

  6. the employer will liaise with the delivery partner throughout recruitment process, with support provided at interview stages

These steps can be varied in agreement with the delivery partner.

GAs are not bound by traditional university timetables so courses can potentially start at any point throughout the year. However, there will usually be some alignment with academic semesters with most start dates occurring between January and September. This would be agreed between the employers recruiting GAs and the universities/colleges providing the GA.

What is expected of GA employers?

Typically, the following would be expected:

  • meet with the delivery partner (university/college) to agree the structure of the GA programme – this will include assessment methods, time spent at university, and projects that will need to be supported in the workplace

  • attend quarterly meetings with the delivery partner and the GA apprentice (employee)

  • mentor the GA apprentice and involvement in training and assessment elements as agreed with the delivery partner

The role of the employer will depend on the individual partnership between the employer and the university and/or college. You can find a list of all the partners we are currently working with and the GAs they are offering at

What happens if an apprentice must suspend their studies due to extenuating circumstances?

If an apprentice must suspend their studies but wishes to resume at later date the  learning provider will need to re-register the apprentice as part of a new cohort. The apprentice may be eligible for accelerated entry into the programme based on the level of prior learning achieved. In any scenario the apprentice must still be in employment and their employer must be in agreement to support them through the remainder of the GA programme.

Will there be any cost implications for an employer if an apprentice leaves their employment before completing their GA?

No. Skills Development Scotland will not reclaim any of the individuals learning costs.

How are GAs developed?

GAs are developed through ongoing consultation with employers, universities, professional bodies and qualifications authorities in the form of technical expert groups (TEGs). The TEGs act as an advisory group on behalf of the sector and are based on the premise that industry provides the expertise to identify the skills and knowledge they need for a competent graduate workforce. The academic representatives develop the programme, quality standards and alignment to professional accreditation required for delivery of the award. This process normally takes 6 months.

As an employer can I request the development of a new GA?

Skills Development Scotland will develop national frameworks which will be aligned to current demand and growth sectors across Scotland. Whilst notes of interest will be taken into consideration when looking at demand, individual employers can not commission the development of a GA framework.

Still got a question?

Fill out the form and a member of our team will get back to you.

All fields are mandatory

Any information you provide will be held in confidence, and in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998). Your details will not be shared with any third parties. For a description of how we use your personal data, please read our privacy notice.