Greenwich leads the way with new midwifery degree apprenticeship programme


The University of Greenwich is one of only three universities in England to offer midwifery degree apprenticeships, an innovative new programme aimed at increasing the number of trained midwives.

The number of midwifery applicants in England has dropped significantly since 2013 and the university, working with eight trusts in London and Kent, is leading the way by offering an alternative route for people to train as midwives.

The pilot scheme, which will start in January 2020 and is supported by Health Education England, will enable people already employed as NHS maternity support workers, or other healthcare workers, to train as midwives under a four-year apprenticeship programme at Greenwich.

Heather Bower, Lead Midwife for Education at the university, said: "The introduction of this exciting new programme will offer an alternative route to obtaining an undergraduate degree in midwifery for people already working for an NHS trust. The content of the course will be the same as the three-year Midwifery BSc degree, only the delivery will be different. NHS trusts will pay the university course fees from their apprenticeship levy and the apprentice will undertake paid work as a maternity support worker for the trust for the equivalent of one year throughout the four-year programme.

"This scheme will provide an important incentive for maternity support workers to train to become qualified midwives. Not only will the apprentice be earning a wage, they will also be exempt from paying the course fees. We are proud to be leading the way by developing and piloting these trailblazing apprenticeships, with trusts across the country interested in participating in the future to increase the number of trained midwives in England." 

In April 2018, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) reported that there had been a 35 per cent drop in the number of applications for midwifery courses in England since 2013, and that the biggest drop was in applicants aged 21 or older – mature students. The RCM raised concerns about the decline in midwifery applications, especially since August 2017, when the NHS bursary was abolished, and tuition fees were introduced. 

Talking about the development of the new scheme, Bower said: "After seeing a fall in the number of applicants for the midwifery degree, I had the idea of introducing an apprenticeship programme. I then worked with my colleagues here at the university, and local NHS trusts to develop the idea, and in June 2018 the University of Greenwich held the first Midwifery Degree Apprenticeship meeting."

Attended by representatives from the Royal College of Midwives, Health Education England, Skills for Health and the Institute for Apprenticeships, the meeting led to the creation of a Trailblazing Group to develop the Midwifery Degree Apprenticeship standards. These were approved in December 2018.

The University of West London will also be piloting a three-year programme and the University of Bedford are approved to run a shortened midwifery apprenticeship scheme.

The pilot scheme at the University of Greenwich, which is subject to final approval from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), will initially train a minimum of 18 midwives and if successful, will be rolled out across the country.

For more information about the midwifery degree apprenticeship programme, email