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Degree Partnerships

Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship

Final award: 

  • IfATE Level 7 Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship
  • MSc Systems Thinking in the Public Sector
Duration 2 years, plus End Point Assessment (anticipated to take place within six months)
Entry point(s) September
Application deadline

Dependent on employer, see How to apply

Campus Streatham Campus, Exeter and Online Learning

Programme Director: Dr Maya Vachkova


This course is for:

  • People working in the public interest, who are facing complex challenges and who are keen to collaborate with their peers from other services and organisations. 
  • Employers who would benefit from improvements from within their organisation as the course was designed in collaboration with key public sector organisations. 
  • People who are keen on enhancing their professional development and who are open to learning new ways of thinking and doing. 
  • Mid to senior-level staff, however, the programme is inclusive of a number of job roles and levels of seniority. Please get in touch if you wish to discuss your eligibility for the course.  

View 2024 Entry

Enquire now

Download our employer brochure

Open days and visit us

Download our programme flyer


Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

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Entry requirements

Either a first degree in any subject and/or a minimum of three years’ work experience. Level 2 Maths and English will need to be evidenced prior to end-point assessment (EPA).

Individual employers may set additional selection criteria in discussion with the University.

The apprentice must have a valid and eligible residency status to gain entry onto the apprenticeship – please see the ESFA guidance for further information.

How to apply

Selection to this programme is made by employers; candidates will already hold a post with their employer and continue working for them throughout the duration of this apprenticeship. Candidates will need to speak to their HR department and/or their manager to gain sign off to undertake this apprenticeship.

Once the employer agrees for the candidate to go on the apprenticeship, the candidate will then be required to undertake an application for the University. If successful, applicants will be offered a position. Their place will be confirmed by the University of Exeter, and we will send further information about how to enrol as an apprentice.


Full programme cost: £18,000

This apprenticeship is entirely funded through an Employers’ Apprenticeship Levy. Your employer fully covers the cost of the apprenticeship, apprentices do not pay for any of the eligible training costs. As an apprentice you will be an employee of your organisation, gaining a University of Exeter award alongside working and earning a salary.

Employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy will pay for the apprenticeship fees directly through that contribution.  See further information on the Apprenticeship Levy funding.

Employers who do not pay the Levy will be able to claim 95 per cent of the cost of the apprenticeship from the Government. Up to 100 per cent Government contribution may be available if the employer has fewer than 50 employees and:

  • Recruits an apprentice aged 16-18
  • OR an apprentice aged 19-24 who has previously been in care or who has a local authority education, health and care plan

Employers must pay their apprentices a salary at least consistent with national legislation.

Funding eligibility criteria

Read more

Course content

The course content is currently being updated.

The public sphere is an increasingly complex and entangled space: departments and laboratories face challenges that transcend traditional organisational boundaries, which can only be met by staff working across departments and intellectual disciplines. This programme aims to equip people with the skills and tools to explore multiple perspectives, structures, power balances and interrelationships that make up public sector systems.  

Throughout the course you will: 

  • Gain theoretical and practical foundations in systems thinking. 
  • Receive instruction in cross-disciplinary problem-solving; delivering. services under complexity, risk, and uncertainty; and equality, diversity, and inclusive leadership in the public sector. 
  • Complement your learning in taught modules with two work-based. practice modules, which give you as an apprentice the opportunity to put your skills and learning into practice. 
  • Improve the understanding of problems and explore potential improvements within your organisation. 
  • Gain practical experience of using applied systemic approaches. 

To find out more please see the Systems Thinking Practitioner Programme Structure


Approximately 20 per cent of an apprentice's contractual working time will be given over to study. Our model is designed to be flexible around the needs of apprentices and workloads. 

The blended learning format incorporates:

  • Approximately 12 engaging online master classes days over 24 months.
  • Online learning activities.
  • Two major work-based practice modules - applying learning to real challenges.
  • Apprentices are allocated a workplace mentor within their organisation and an academic mentor to help ensure their successful completion of the programme.

Apprenticeship Standard 

The University of Exeter's MSc Systems Thinking in the Public Sector has been designed to deliver the Systems thinking practitioner standard from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. The apprenticeship standard is made up of knowledge, skills and behaviours that are demonstrated in a portfolio of evidence. The University will support you in completing your portfolio in partnership with your workplace. The modules will provide you with the skills and opportunities to apply systemic approaches and plan interventions at your home organisation. Upon completing your portfolio, you will attend the End Point Assessment which consists of a written component (a work-based report) and an oral component (a professional discussion).

Read more

Employer information

Do you have staff engaged with addressing complex and cross-disciplinary challenges across your organisation? Are you looking to develop their skills and knowledge? This programme has been designed to offer training in systems thinking methodologies, leadership and ethics, evidence-based practice, stakeholder analysis and ultimately the skills and experiences for delivering services under complexity, risk and uncertainty.

Apprentices will receive instruction in the latest theory for systems approaches and methods across a variety of modules including. They will gain practical experiences of using key systems approaches in terms of boundary analysis and design, system modelling, surfacing assumptions and negotiating improvement among diverse stakeholders.  These theory-led modules are combined with work-based projects where apprentices get to use the new skills and learning on practical real-world challenges within your workplace.

Download our Systems Thinking Brochure.


Addressing the needs of public sector employers

The Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship has been designed to focus on the needs of public employers for meeting complex systems challenges in the 21st Century.


By the end of the programme the apprentice will have developed their knowledge and skills in a variety of key areas, including organisational design and improvement, collaborative approaches to problem structuring, systems modelling, stakeholder engagement, intervention design, and management. Equipped with the tools of systems thinking, apprentices will be better able to tackle complex contemporary challenges and add lasting value to their organisation. 

The University’s Careers Service provides a range of support to help apprentices develop skills attractive to employers. Visit our careers service pages for more information.