Skip to main content

Degree Apprenticeships

Systems Thinking Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship - 2023 entry

Final award: 

  • IfATE Level 7 Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship
  • MSc Systems Thinking in the Public Sector
  • Eligibility for SCiO Advanced Professional Qualification in Systems Practice
Duration 2 years
Entry point(s) January
Application deadline

Dependent on employer, see How to apply

Campus Streatham Campus, Exeter and Online Learning

Programme Director: Dr Maya Vachkova
Impact Partnership Development Officer: Jenny Rusk 


  • This course is for mid- to senior-level public sector staff engaged with addressing complex and cross-disciplinary challenges
  • Designed in collaboration with employers from across the public sphere, the course addresses real-world complex public challenges through applied systems-thinking approaches
  • Apprentices study a wide range of topics such as cross-disciplinary problem-solving, public sector leadership and ethics, and engaging stakeholders
  • A problem-orientated learning by-doing approach that trains the apprentice to address collaboratively complex and urgent challenges
  • Apprentices will develop their professional network and collaborate with other organisations to solve real-world challenges

View 2022 Entry

Enquire now

Download our employer brochure

Open days and visit us


Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Top 125 for Social Sciences

Times Higher Education World University Subject Rankings 2021

Home to major research projects which seek to push academic boundaries and influence policy

The Global Systems Institute’s aim is to be thought-leading in understanding global changes, solving global challenges, and helping to create a flourishing future world through transformative research, education, impact and engagement

Multi-disciplinary department to encourage the free movement of ideas


Upon successful completion of the programme apprentices will be eligible for the Advanced Professional Qualification in Systems Practice award.

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 undertake an application for the University. If successful, applicants will be offered a position. Their place will be confirmed by us, 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 public sphere is an increasingly complex and entangled space: departments and laboratories face challenges that transcend traditional organisational boundaries, and which can only be met by staff working across departments and intellectual disciplines. This programme offers a deep and broad immersion in interdisciplinarity and the challenges of contemporary public service.

Throughout the course apprentices will:

  • Gain skills in cross-disciplinary problem-solving; delivering services under complexity, risk and uncertainty; and public sector leadership and ethics
  • Receive instruction in the latest theory for systems approaches and methods across a variety of modules including ‘Interdisciplinarity in the Public Sphere’, ‘Systems Thinking in Theory and Practice’, ‘Leadership in Public Organisations’ and ‘Stakeholders in Systems Approaches’
  • Complement their learning in taught modules with two work-based practice modules, which give the apprentice the opportunity to put their new taught skills and learning into practice in addressing a problem or challenge area that would benefit from a systems approach and matters to their home organisation
  • Gain practical experiences of using key systems approaches in the public sphere, including the Soft Systems Methodology, Critical Systems Heuristics, Patterns of Strategy and others


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. No weekly day-release is required, mitigating disruption of their daily role and ensuring maximum flexibility.

The blended learning format incorporates:

  • Face-to-face masterclasses – approximately 12 intensive teaching days over 24 months
  • Weekly distance learning – comprising of online classes and workshops, interactive exercises and webinars
  • Two major work-based practice modules - these projects are agreed upon with the employer and can either be based solely within the apprentice's organisation or cross-organisational.
  • Apprentices are allocated a workplace mentor and an academic mentor to help ensure their successful completion of the programme.

Taught modules consist of three teaching days of up to five hours of taught content of individual and group remote learning, plus additional time given for reading and discussion.

Apprenticeship Standard 

Alongside working towards their professional qualification in Systems Practice awarded from the SCiO (Systems and Complexity in Organisation) and their level 7 apprenticeship; gained after completing the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours of the apprenticeship standard; apprentices will also be studying for an MSc Systems Thinking in the Public Sector.

This programme aligns with the Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship Standard.

Read more


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: cross-disciplinary problem solving; evidence-based practice; stakeholder analysis methods; stakeholder engagement, interventions, and management; and applied soft systems theory. 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.

Employer information

Do you have staff engaged with addressing complex and cross-disciplinary challenges across your organisation that you’re 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 the public sphere - including the Soft Systems Methodology, Critical Systems Heuristics, Patterns of Strategy and others. 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 both within your workplace.

Download our Systems Thinking Brochure‌.