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Senior Leader Apprenticeship

We are pausing the intake of new starters on The Open University’s Senior Leader Apprenticeship from May 2022. 

This is due to redesign work that we are undertaking on some elements of our Senior Leader Apprenticeship. It is our intention to reopen registrations for this programme as soon as possible.

These changes do not affect any current apprentices on the Senior Leader programme and service levels will remain unchanged.  We remain committed to providing a quality experience for all our apprentices in existing and future cohorts and to providing apprenticeship programmes which deliver real impacts for employers and apprentices alike.  

Please contact us if you have any questions or wish to discuss your requirements. 

The Open University Senior Leader Apprenticeship provides current and future leaders and senior managers with high-level leadership and management skills, core competencies and desired behaviours to become more effective leaders.

Our Senior Leader Apprenticeship develops inclusive leaders who are responsible for developing ethical, innovative and supportive cultures with the ability to deliver results, manage complexity and instigate change. Apprentices receive high-quality higher education learning from our triple-accredited Business School and can instantly apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills into their working environment.

It also provides employers with a useful tool to further develop and retain staff and build a pipeline for the future.


Why choose The Open University's Senior Leader Apprenticeship?

  • Delivered flexibly around the demands of your organisation. Requires minimal time away from the workplace, using our tutor-supported, rich-media online learning methods. 
  • Learning can be delivered simultaneously to various locations using our tried-and-trusted educational technology, providing a consistent programme for multiple staff.
  • Designed and delivered by the triple-accredited Open University Business School, which is ranked in the top 1% of business schools worldwide.
  • Apprentices can apply what they learn immediately into practice, for the positive benefit of the organisation.
  • Since 2016, The Open University (OU) has offered apprenticeships to help organisations grow their own talent. In England, The Open University offers higher and degree-level programmes in healthcare, policing, social work, digital and management.

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A strategic leader is someone who has senior management responsibility, which may include formal governance or director responsibilities. They are responsible for setting strategy, direction and vision, for providing a clear sense of purpose and driving strategic intent.

The apprenticeship is suitable for current and future senior leaders in organisations of all sizes in the private, public or third sectors. It is for new and existing employees who are responsible for, or looking to progress into, managing projects, tasks or people and who will be gaining new skills, knowledge and behaviours as part of the apprenticeship.

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Below is a summary of the eligibility criteria as set by the government for apprentices. For further information, see the Government funding rules.

To be eligible for government funding, at the start of the apprenticeship, apprentices must:

  • Be given from their employer off-the-job protected training time for study
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Have the right to live and work in England
  • Spend at least 50% of their working hours in England

In addition to the eligibility criteria above applicants also need to satisfy the following academic, work experience and language entry requirements.

Academic requirements

There are three ways to meet the academic requirements:

  1. Bachelors degree with honours awarded by a UK university or equivalent.
  2. Bachelors degree without honours awarded by a UK university or equivalent plus completion of either:
    • the discontinued OU module Managing 1: organisations and people (B628) or
    • three of our Business Management microcredentials* or
    • the GMAT examination and achieved a result of 640 or higher.
  3. No Bachelors degree - If applicants don’t hold a bachelors degree they’ll need to have completed either:
    • the OU Professional Certificate in Management (S01) or
    • six of our Business Management microcredentials*

* Any OU microcredential that includes "Business Management" at the start of the title. Further microcredentials are planned for this academic year. See the microcredentials page for further information.

Various higher education and professional qualifications are considered equivalent to an honours degree. Please contact us if a prospective apprentice holds a qualification that you believe is an equivalent level to a degree.

Work experience requirement

Applicants will need to have gained a minimum of three years’ work experience in a managerial, technical or professional role, so that they have a practical business base from which to build their postgraduate learning.

Language requirement

Applicants' spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not their first language, we recommend that they need a minimum score of 6.5 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please visit for details.

English and maths

It is a requirement of the government funding of apprenticeships that if applicants cannot evidence (copies of certificates) that they have achieved English and maths at Level 2 or equivalent they will need to undertake Functional Skills at Level 2 as part of the apprenticeship.

Acceptance onto the Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme

Applicants will be required to show how they meet these requirements. This will include their CV and proof of qualifications, including English translations and NARIC/ENIC conversion of non-UK degrees as stipulated in the apprenticeship application guidance. Evaluation of the evidence will take place before applicants are accepted onto the programme.

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The programme content and assessment strategy are mapped to the Senior Leader Apprenticeship standard. Find out more about the standard.

Modules in this programme include: 

  • Managing in a changing world.
  • Leadership in practice (work-based learning module).
  • Effective strategic management in business and the public sector.
  • Finance for strategic decision making.

The programme content is designed for professionals from a wide range of backgrounds who need to engage with the challenges of 21st-century management and leadership. The apprenticeship helps leaders to develop skills and knowledge of management frameworks, theories and tools, and to use these appropriately in order to make a real difference in their own leadership practice.

Key areas covered are: 

  • Leadership
  • Developing agile and collaborative cultures
  • Strategic management
  • Managing in an international/intercultural context
  • Managing people
  • Financial management
  • Marketing
  • Change management
  • Project management
  • Peer learning
  • Practice-based reflection
  • English skills with qualifications where required
  • Maths skills with qualifications where required

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Stage 1

Stage 2



Managing in a changing world.

Effective strategic management in business and the public sector.

Learning outcome assessment.

Knowledge, skills and behaviour assessment.

English and maths assessment.

End-point assessment (EPA).

Apprenticeship programme completed and Level 7 certification awarded.

Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Practice awarded.


Finance for strategic decision-making.

Leadership in practice

English and maths (functional skills) development*
   Theory modules
   Practice modules


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The apprenticeship is made up of the following seven components:

1 - The initial assessment

Carried out by an Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager (APDM) before an apprenticeship begins. During this process that involves also the employer, prior learning is assessed to established if the applicant has already covered parts of the knowledge and skills set out in the apprenticeship or what prior experience an individual has.

The Open University also establishes whether the apprenticeship is an appropriate training programme for them. This assessment considers the whole standard, not just English and maths, which however is an important part of it.

The Open University also assesses whether the minimum eligibility requirements for off-the-job training are met and will set the duration of the apprentice contract dependent on prior learning.

Visit the Short Guide for Apprentices for more details.

2 - Tutor-supported study modules

Apprentices build an understanding of the key theories, skills and competencies to take their leadership and management capabilities to a higher level. Associate Lecturers (academic tutors) will facilitate study, support learning and feedback, and mark module assessments. English and Maths Functional Skills tutors support the successful completion of these qualifications where an applicant is not able to provide evidence of prior attainment.

3 - The work-based learning module

Provides the framework for apprentices to gather, collate and present a portfolio of evidence that meets the Apprenticeship standard. It provides the stimulating link between academic study and practice, often involving apprentices critically reflecting on their learning and working practices. This module is facilitated by Practice Tutors, who support learning and feedback, as well as mark the module assessments.

4 - The summative portfolio

A record of evidence of apprentice’s application of knowledge, skills and behaviours in the workplace. The portfolio provides the means for demonstrating how apprentices have practically applied their newly acquired knowledge and skills in the workplace.

5 - The strategic business proposal

A substantive piece of work undertaken as part of the apprenticeship. It is an organisationally focused piece of work with real business benefits. The proposal will bring together elements of learning from different parts of the programme and enables apprentices to demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills learnt during their apprenticeship.

6 - The Postgraduate Diploma (Leadership Practice)

Awarded by The Open University.

7 - The End-point assessment (EPA)

Carried out by an Institute for Apprenticeships approved independent assessment organisation chosen by the employer. The EPA determines whether apprentices have successfully met the learning requirements of the Senior Leader Apprenticeship Standard.

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English and maths (functional skills)

Achieving English and maths is a mandatory requirement of all apprenticeships.

  • If the apprentice has provided evidence of level 2 in English and maths or equivalent (i.e. grade A*- C / 4 – 9 GCSE in English and maths or equivalent) they will be exempt from this requirement.
  • If an apprentice doesn’t have any evidence of level 2 in English and maths, they can achieve these qualifications during their apprenticeship. The OU has a team of very experienced English and maths tutors to support the apprentices in developing these functional skills and preparing for the exam(s).

Replacement exam certificate: For qualifications gained in the UK you can go to the government website to get a replacement exam certificate.

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The Open University has the experience and support in place to help apprentices succeed and make a positive impact on practice.

In addition to designated account management support, the OU will deploy expert staff to support your organisation and your apprentices. They will work collaboratively with the relevant roles in your organisation:

Practice Tutor (PT)

The PT is a key role and provides individual support to apprentices to progress and complete all the requirements of the apprenticeship or professional programme they have enrolled in. The support is tailored to the context of each learner’s professional duties and their workplace environment. Regular engagement with each learner’s line manager or work-based supervisor is a critical component of this role. In addition, the PT coaches the apprentice to integrate their academic learning with their professional work, guide them in the development of their portfolio and prepares them for their end-point assessment.

There are further roles and teams that support both apprentices and employers, and that work very closely with the PTs.

Academic Tutors

The role of the Academic Tutor is to support success by using, interpreting and building on the teaching resources produced by the OU and provided to apprentices. They monitor progression, mark assignments, provide personalised feedback and work in partnership to support the apprentices’ academic, personal and professional development. In addition, Academic Tutors provide pastoral support to apprentices. They are sometimes also referred to as Associate Lecturers or Module Tutors.

Apprenticeship Enrolment and Support Team (AEST)

The AEST supports apprentices throughout their Apprenticeship journey. This team of friendly Senior Advisors can offer advice and support for a range of queries apprentices may have whilst studying their modules, whether that be for advice on an upcoming assignment or exam, navigation around the OU online learning platforms or when they are experiencing difficult circumstances that are having an impact on their studies. This support team is able to reach out to a wide range of relevant teams within the University to help apprentices get back on track again.

English and Maths Support Team

This team is made up of English and/or maths specialist tutors and support staff. They work with apprentices who are required to achieve English and/or maths qualifications during their apprenticeship. These specialist tutors are able to provide one-to-one support in areas of challenge and to help prepare the apprentice for the formal qualification tests.

Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Managers (APDM)

This role supports employers to recruit and onboard applicants on to the chosen apprenticeship programme. APDMs provide information, advice and guidance and carry out an initial assessment to ensure the apprenticeship is the right one at the right level for the individual. APDMs provide quarterly management information reports to employers detailing learners progress and put interventions in place where an apprentice is in need of support. Employers will have a named APDM to be the primary contact for apprenticeship delivery throughout the programme.

Line Manager

This is a person in the workplace who supports the choice of apprenticeship programme for their employee or applicant and is involved in the onboarding process with their applicant. Line managers facilitate the apprentice to take off-the-job planned training time and they fully engage in 12-weekly progress review meetings with the Practice Tutor and apprentice. Line managers have regular one to one meetings with their apprentices to integrate the apprenticeship into performance and development. They are key to enabling a successful work-based project and completion of the apprentice’s end-point assessment.

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An apprenticeship requires a part of an apprentice’s working time for off-the-job protected training time to allow the apprentice to engage in the learning. The Open University’s tutor-supported online learning gives the employer and the apprentice the flexibility to pick the most suitable times around organisational and personal needs – minimising the impact on day-to-day productivity.

At present the face-to-face days on the programme are being delivered via online meeting rooms. It is a compulsory requirement for learners to attend these days. The Open University is currently reviewing the safe delivery of on-campus face-to-face days and the programme team will be guided by the university and the Statutory Health Profession Regulators in reviewing online and on-campus delivery. Employers and learners will be advised in advance of any changes to the delivery pattern.

Online delivery is both varied and interactive, using rich media formats that engage and enthuse apprentices on their journey. Learning can be accessed 24/7 on computers, tablets and mobile devices. Online forums and tutorials as well as email and telephone communication are used to support apprentices throughout the programme.

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Are you an employee interested in applying for an apprenticeship?

To apply you first need to gain approval from your employer. Please contact your organisation with an expression of interest. If your employer is happy to support your application, they will then contact us.

The process for employers to follow is:

  • The employer contacts the OU.
  • An account manager will contact the employer to discuss the requirements of the programme.
  • The employer chooses the OU as the training provider, confirms how they wish to procure the apprenticeship and signs the written agreement if applicable.
  • The employer selects prospective apprentices and sends their details to the OU.
  • The OU contacts the prospective apprentices and invites them to formally apply via the OU’s secure applicant portal.
  • Prospective apprentices gather evidence to demonstrate their eligibility and submit their application.
  • Apprentices take part in the on-boarding process where they are introduced to the apprenticeship and supported by an Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager (APDM).
  • Following successful registration, apprentices are recommended to engage with the pre-study material.

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Develop the relevant skills for your organisation, improve productivity and achieve higher staff morale.

Manager speaking to employees


Earn while you learn and develop the skills you need to gain access to sectors you want to work in.


We’re an Approved/Appointed Supplier on a large number of national frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems. See which frameworks are available to procure this programme through.

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Senior Leader Apprenticeship

Senior Leader Apprenticeship

Our Senior Leader Apprenticeship develops inclusive leaders who are responsible for developing ethical, innovative and supportive cultures with the ability to deliver results, manage complexity and instigate change.

Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship

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Graduates from the programme will be able to apply systems thinking in practice, creating leaders and managers capable of making strategy, managing change and co-designing systems interventions in your organisation.

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Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship

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Education & Skills Funding Agency European Union - European Social Fund Apprenticeships

Programme Summary

Location: England


  • Typically 2 years

Level and standard

Specific entry requirements

Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

End-point assessment (EPA)

  • Non-integrated

Qualifications achieved at the end of the programme

Apprentices who successfully complete the programme will gain:

  • Senior Leader Apprenticeship awarded by the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Practice, awarded by The Open University
  • Functional skills in English and maths at Level 2, if not previously achieved

Successful apprentices may also be eligible for membership of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) or ILM, depending on their management experience.

Additional information

Contact us

Disability support

For a more detailed look at our Senior Leader Apprenticeship, download our brochure.

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