Research Output
Identity and belonging for graduate apprenticeships in computing: the experience of first cohort degree apprentices in Scotland
  In September 2017, our university’s first graduate apprentices began degrees in Software Development, Cybersecurity, and Information Technology Management for Business. This study explores how apprentices experience their association with the university and identities as students, but also employees. In Scotland, Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) are undergraduate degrees in which the students are in full-time employment, while completing degree modules over four years, as for a traditional full-time degree. The curriculum follows a skills framework designed by employers so that graduates have the professional and technical attributes required by the industry. The degrees parallel Degree Apprenticeships in England, though there are national differences in implementation.
Themes of identity and belonging are central to current investigations of the experience of STEM students, especially computing students, as fewer students choose STEM courses, and many transfer out of their subjects or do not complete their degrees. The research hypothesis is that the apprentices’ employment will provide a strong IT professional identity supports their progress at university.
Semi-structured interviews with apprentices in the first computing cohorts explored their situated perspectives. Responses were identified which concerned the apprentices’ identity as students or employees, including themes around belonging. Thematic analysis of these responses revealed that apprentices defined themselves in opposition to traditional student identities and did draw strength from their identity as employees. They experienced belonging specifically within their GA cohort—the first of its kind in the university. A better understanding of identity and belonging can be used by universities to address the challenges of retention.

  • Date:

    02 July 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Library of Congress:

    QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    000 Computer science, information & general works

  • Funders:

    SDS Skills Development Scotland


Taylor-Smith, E., Smith, S., & Smith, C. (2019). Identity and belonging for graduate apprenticeships in computing: the experience of first cohort degree apprentices in Scotland. In Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference on Innovation & Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE’19) (2-8).



Graduate apprenticeship, degree apprenticeship, work-based learning, identity, belonging

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    Identity and Belonging for Graduate Apprenticeships in Computing


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    ITiCSE '19, July 15–
    7, 2019, Aberdeen, Scotland UK
    © 2019 Association for Computing Machinery.

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