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Imagining Radical Inclusivity in Work & Learning Keynote Speakers

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Keynote Speakers

Mandy Crawford-Lee, Chief Executive, UVAC


Keynote: The Creative Disruption of Degree Apprenticeships or Realising the Potential of Higher and Degree Apprenticeship in Supporting Social Mobility and the Levelling Up Agenda

I will be exploring how UVAC rejects a blinkered approach that focuses on social mobility measures in isolation. Instead, we argue that recommendations for supporting social mobility and levelling up must be determined in the context of the role and purpose of Apprenticeship in increasing productivity, supporting diversity in the workforce and enabling our public sector employers to recruit and train the nurses, police constables and social workers they need.

The role of Apprenticeship in the Levelling Up Agenda should also be supported nationally and developed locally in this context. UVAC has called on Government to adopt an ambitious approach. Instead of seeing Apprenticeship as a programme primarily for young people to enter lower level jobs, we argue that Apprenticeship should be an aspirational all age programme that supports individuals from all backgrounds to gain the high productivity craft, technical and professional jobs the economy needs.

Crucially, this means substantially more has to be done to support individuals from more disadvantaged backgrounds to access higher level Apprenticeships. Among other measures, UVAC proposes ensuring Apprenticeships at all levels form part of a skills ladder and that apprentices unambiguously gain the knowledge and skills required to progress in their careers.


Mandy has 30 years’ experience of leading and negotiating skills policy, strategic planning and performance management in economic development, vocational education and training reform. She is a sound and respected resource for those involved in the development and delivery of apprenticeships at the higher level having led national policy, managed the Coalition Government’s successful Higher Apprenticeship Fund and revised the Specification of Apprenticeship Standard in England (SASE) leading to the opening up of pathways in higher level learning for apprentices beyond Level 3 and into a work-based route through to professional, senior technical and managerial occupations and, where appropriate, professional accreditation.

Having worked extensively with government departments, providers in further education, higher education institutions, awarding organisations, professional bodies and public and private sector employers, Mandy has developed effective business and commercial partnerships. Mandy specialises in research, leadership of strategic projects and in skills policy advice, development & implementation including advocacy and lobbying. Higher and degree apprenticeships and higher technical, professional education and skills are Mandy’s fields of interest.

Having worked with the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) since 2012, both inside and outside of Government, Mandy became its director of policy and operations in 2017 and, in October 2022, its first female chief executive. UVAC on behalf of its 80+ university members, has been championing Degree Apprenticeships since their introduction, and the value of vocational education for over twenty years and is regarded as the most authoritative voice on all strategic and operational aspects of higher and degree apprenticeships in England.

Prof Anita Walsh, Birkbeck University of London



The requirements outlined for RPL, in particular in the context of apprenticeships, can lead colleagues to consider it an administrative process – a tick box exercise.

This is to overlook the role of academic judgement which takes place throughout, and which can be used to include or exclude consideration of valid learning depending on the perspective taken.




Anita Walsh joined Birkbeck in September 2005. She joined as a Senior Lecturer in Work-Based Learning, and has recently become a Professor of Work-Based Learning.  

Previously Anita was a Senior Lecturer at Kingston University, where she was a member of the University's Academic Development Centre with responsibility for the areas of work-based learning and experiential learning.  She was also the Associate Director of the Learning from Experience Trust for a number of years while she has been at Birkbeck.

Anita is an expert in designing academic programmes which are based on the experiential learning gained through activities in the workplace. In 2009 she was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for her work in this area.  Her main research interest is in the role of experience in learning and in the development of professional expertise, and the pedagogy required to support such learning.  Her work is internationally recognised and she has published widely on the need to integrate appropriate learning from outside the academy into the higher education curriculum, basing her arguments on the validity of informal experiential learning and epistemologies of practice.  Anita uses her publications and conference papers to encourage more active consideration of the pedagogic and epistemological issues related to a wider recognition of such learning.

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