Student Protection Plan 2021/22

What is a Student Protection Plan?

The Student Protection Plan has been developed to address potential risks to the continuation of study of apprentices on our apprenticeship programmes which result in UK higher education qualifications (Level 4 and degree apprenticeships). From here on, the terms “student” and “apprentice” are interchangeable and mean the same group.

This plan outlines the measures Multiverse has instituted to protect apprentices in the event that a risk to the continuation of their studies should crystallise. Specific events, risks and their mitigations are outlined below.

The Student Protection Plan has been submitted to our higher education regulators, the Office for Students, and will be made publicly available on our website. It will also be included as a link in the apprentice's commitment statement, a document which they and their manager must sign prior to the commencement of their apprenticeship.

The Student Protection Plan will be reviewed on an annual basis as part of an audit of all policies related to higher education provision and any suggested changes or improvements will be approved by the academic authority within Multiverse, the Academic Quality Council.

An assessment of the range of risks to the continuation of studies, and the likelihood those will crystallise

Multiverse provides training to individuals who are in work. As such, the cost of training and any associated fees are paid by the employer, not the apprentice. This means that all apprentices receive free training and no apprentices are on bursaries or other funding schemes. However, we do have apprentices from a diverse range of backgrounds and circumstances on our programmes and we evaluate risks against their needs.

Furthermore, as Multiverse is currently in a validated partnership with the New College of Humanities, there will be apprentices who will be in different scenarios:

  1. Apprentices who start a degree apprenticeship programme with Multiverse prior to September 2022 will continue ‘as is’ and will have their degrees awarded by the New College of Humanities. Risks pertaining to this scenario can be found in Section G.
  2. Any new cohorts after September 2022 will fall under the New Degree Awarding Powers provision of Multiverse (subject to approval). Risks pertaining to this scenario can be found in Section F.
  3. In the event DAPs are not in place by September 2022, Multiverse will discuss an extension of the existing agreement with NCH. Risks pertaining to this scenario can be found in Section G.

We consider, having reviewed the risk register and for reasons outlined below, the followingrisks are unlikely to crystallise.

A) Closure of Multiverse due to financial viability

The risk that Multiverse would cease its operations for reasons of financial viability is very unlikely. We have received $44 million in series B funding (approximately £32 million) and $130 million in series C funding (approximately £95.5 million). Furthermore, we are continuing to grow each quarter both in sales and apprentice numbers. As such, we believe that Multiverse will remain in a position to continue delivering apprenticeships.

B) Inadequate facilities

The risk of not having enough delivery space to house our growing number of apprentices is low. This is because Multiverse has a remote-first delivery approach with the overwhelming majority of teaching and learning occurring online.

Employers who wish to have in-person touch points are responsible for facilitating the space within their offices which Multiverse staff members will travel to. As such, there is low risk of inadequate facilities.In the event that an employer cannot host in-person touch points with apprentices, Multiverse has a five-story office building in Baker Street, London and would be able to host apprentices within the building for any training.

If apprentices are unable to access certain video conferencing platforms such as Zoom for training, alternative platforms such as Microsoft Teams are also made available. Software accessibility and other technical requirements are a part of the sales process at Multiverse, with clients receiving full visibility of the tools necessary to join the programme.

The risk of having inadequate academic facilities is also low. Multiverse has a contract with the online library Perlego to ensure adequate access to academic texts and books. We have chosen this provider because of their catalogue of up-to-date textbooks and materials which are aligned with our courses related to data science, computer science and digital transformation. Due to the fast-paced nature of these courses, we also benefit from open-source journals and software which informs our curriculum and is available online.

C) Apprentice cohorts not running

The risk of an apprentice cohort not running at least annually is low. All our programmes aim to launch at least one cohort per quarter, meaning we have at least four programme starts per year. In the event that a cohort does not run in a quarter, another cohort will likely run the following quarter. This means that apprentices normally do not have to wait more than three months to join a Multiverse apprenticeship programme.

D) Attracting apprentices to our programmes

The risk that we will not attract apprentices to our programmes is low. Over 70% of our apprentices are referred directly via their employer as part of their ongoing professional development. As part of establishing the relationship they have identified the strategic need within the business and supported us to run campaigns and information events to spark interest in the offering. This often comes with a mandate from senior leadership that this is a priority for the business. For the remaining 30%, we have a dedicated outreach team that supports filling our candidate funnel through partnerships, direct outreach at schools and colleges and other marketing strategies. We work with large brands such as Google, Facebook, KPMG and use these to leverage our own brand within the market. All of our programmes are subject to quarterly monitoring reviews which identify if there is a risk around commercial productivity. If so, this is escalated to the Product Roadmap Subcommittee and Academic Quality Council to establish and agree an action plan for improving performance.

In the event that apprentices are not recruited to join a cohort, Multiverse will delay the cohort launch until the following quarter and continue recruitment of apprentices. This is directly linked to section C which discusses the frequency of cohort launches at Multiverse.

E) Disruption of studies due to pandemic

The risk of disruption of studies due to COVID or other pandemics is low since all of Multiverse’s teaching and learning is done remotely. There are the options of two in-person touch points but those can be transferred online without risk of disruption to studies.

F) Deregistration, not gaining New Degree Awarding Powers, or loss of New Degree Awarding Powers

There is a possibility that Multiverse may be deregistered from the Office for Students, lose New Degree Awarding Powers, or not gain them in the first place. However, given that Multiverse was subject to intense scrutiny during the process to seek registration and there is subsequent monitoring of Multiverse to ensure it meets its ongoing conditions, this is unlikely. Our overall approach to gaining, then maintaining registration centres on governance backed up by formal processes and mechanisms for monitoring.

In the event Multiverse does not gain New Degree Awarding Powers, Multiverse would re-apply after implementing feedback provided by the QAA and the Office for Students to ensure that all conditions and criteria are met. During the re-application period, Multiverse would discuss with NCH an extension of the existing contract and continuation of NCH validated provision.

In the event that Multiverse is deregistered or loses its Degree Awarding Powers after gaining powers, it would likely occur on a phased basis meaning Multiverse will be able to teach out existing students on higher level accredited programmes. If this is not acceptable to the regulators, Multiverse will support apprentices to transfer to an alternate provider and ensure that full academic records, proof of credit accumulation, and workplace activity is available to the apprentice. (Multiverse will have conversations with its validating partner, NCH, to understand the scope of transferring apprentices to them as a trusted provider in the unlikely scenario that we lose our Degree Awarding Powers. This is to be confirmed). In the scenario that this does occur, Multiverse will place apprentices on a short break in learning to gather their information and facilitate a transfer between Multiverse and an alternative institution to ensure there is a plan to continue their studies.

G) Validated partnership is at risk

Currently we are working with the New College of Humanities to deliver our Advanced Data Fellowship Programme through a validated partnership agreement. We have identified two low risk scenarios which relate to this arrangement.

The first is that NCH loses its degree awarding powers prior to September 2022, which is when we are expecting to receive our probationary degree awarding powers. If this is the case, will place apprentices on programme on a break in learning until we are granted NDAPs then transfer apprentices on to our programme of study. One of our planned programmes maps to the NCH validated degree programme, so there will be a programme of sufficiently similar content and learning outcomes for apprentices to access.

If NCH loses its degree awarding powers after September 2022, we will transfer all apprentices onto our degree provision.

As mentioned above, this risk is very unlikely to crystallise since NCH has recently gone through the Degree Awarding Powers validation process with the QAA and OfS and was deemed to be a robust institution. They have also recently bolstered their financial position by being taken over by Northeastern University, a large, high-performing US based institution.

Validated partnership arrangements can be terminated by either party for different reasons. For instance, a provider may wish to stop delivering a specific degree / qualification / apprenticeship, and request to terminate their agreements. If the validated partnership arrangement with the New College of Humanities is terminated, we will work to find a suitable alternative elsewhere which will enable apprentices still enrolled at the point of closure to complete their award, and be awarded their apprenticeship upon completion. This could be at Multiverse if we have gained Degree Awarding Powers or at another institution if this is not the case. Multiverse will also work with NCH to ensure they provide a transcript of a students’ academic credits so that their learning is recognised and that they may if appropriate gain recognition for their learning at another institution (validated partnership university).

Multiverse considers that the following risks are moderate and more likely to occur. Detailon mitigating these risks will be outlined in section two

A) Lack of staff to deliver technical modules or assessment activity at degree level

The risk of having a lack of staff to deliver technical modules or assessment activity within our programmes is moderate since hiring staff can take up to 6 months.

B) Phasing out specific programmes

The risk that we will phase out specific programmes is moderate. This is because all our programmes go through an employer validation process to ensure they are commercially viable. However, since we are a commercial organisation responding to the changing nature of the labour market, there may be situations where our programmes are no longer relevant and we have encountered this in the past.

Measures we have put in place to mitigate “moderate” risks

There are two key risks identified as “moderate” which are more likely to crystallise than the other risks identified.

Risk One: Lack of sufficiently qualified staff to deliver specialist modules or assessment activity at degree level

As an institution we will be developing and delivering the most up-to-date industry curriculum relevant for our clients and apprentices. Although over 70% of staff on our data programmes currently hold a Masters or PhD qualification, there is a risk that as we grow we will struggle to keep up with the demand for those with specialist knowledge and skills to meet the academic requirements of higher education staff.

We have the following mitigations in place to deal with this:

  1. Programme Leads are responsible for overseeing the successful recruitment, retention and support of coaching and instructional staff across all programmes. They work with our in-house recruitment team to develop profiles of ideal candidates, engage with existing pools of internal talent to find gaps and run a rigorous recruitment process to ensure that we have the right candidates with the right skills to meet demand
  2. Our dedicated HE Coach and Instructor Development Lead is responsible for the effective pedagogical and scholarly development of staff where higher education credit is awarded. They will be responsible for developing an induction programme for staff to ensure they are familiar with programme agnostic academic policies and practices, supporting their achievement of the Fellowship of the HE Academy within their first 12 months in role and providing ongoing opportunities for development such as creating best practice working groups and creating partnerships with other higher education institutions to find ways for staff to see best practice in action elsewhere.
  3. Each programme will also have Technical Leads whose responsibility will be to train and upskill individuals in the subject specific knowledge and practices within their areas of curriculum expertise including supporting assessment and moderation practices. This may over time involve developing a specialist “Academy” which is a 90 day training programme we have launched for other programmes to identify those with subject adjacent knowledge and provide them with the space and professional development to teach on specialist programmes such as software engineering and data analytics.

If we are unable to find specialist staff members to hire full time to deliver programmes, we will seek specialist contractors on a short-term basis until the recruitment needs are fulfilled.

Multiverse also uses data from previous quarters and sales forecast data to predict our hiring needs. This data is used by the Delivery Operations team and the internal recruitment team to ensure that there is sufficient time to hire coaches and tutors with the requisite skills and knowledge. In the event that we do not have enough staff recruited, Multiverse would lessen the number of cohorts per year from at least four to two and have larger cohort sizes. If there was a cohort due to start without enough technical staff, the cohort would not launch until there were adequate coaches and tutors available to support the cohort - likely until the following quarter (three months after the original start time). If this did occur, Multiverse would work with the apprentices and their employers to ensure they were kept up to date with any changes being made, alongside updates on their new delivery plan and any materials they could begin to engage with prior to the cohort launch to prepare themselves.

Risk Two: The risk of phasing out programmes.

As mentioned, when developing our programmes we run an employer validation process which assesses the attractiveness of our programmes to potential clients and apprentices. As such, when launching a programme we are confident that it will be appropriate for our target audiences.

However, within the technical disciplines that we operate - specifically data science, software engineering and digital transformation - processes and technologies are evolving rapidly meaning that some of our curriculum may be out of date. Product Managers monitor the effectiveness of our programmes in meeting client needs. This includes gathering feedback via our clients on the return on investment and value that apprentices are adding to the business. If we identify a product that is underperforming or is getting consistent feedback from employers about its suitability and relevance, we will escalate this to the Product Roadmap Subcommittee with an action plan, either to change or improve the programme or to cease the programme. We do have a policy which outlines what we do when we decide to stop running a programme and how to create a teach out plan - a mechanism to ensure all apprentices on programme have an opportunity to finish learning before the programme is phased out.

In the case that a programme in its whole is no longer relevant for our apprentices and clients and needs to be discontinued, we have an established “teach out” plan which we have already employed once with one of our programmes. The “teach out” plan ensures that all apprentices who are already on programme have the opportunity to finish their learning and gain their award before the programme is discontinued.

In the event this risk crystallises, apprentices on the programme will be informed that it is to be discontinued alongside the “teach out” plan which would outline clearly that they are entitled to completing their apprenticeship programme. All apprentices will be supported to the completion of their apprenticeship and for those that did not want to continue, all exit awards and credits would be made available via a transcript for apprentices wishing to transfer. Apprentices would be supported by their coach throughout the continuation and completion of the programme with more tailored support as the programme comes to a close.

Information on the refund of tuition fees and other relevant costs to apprentices

As an apprenticeship provider, there are no fees passed on to our apprentices and all training costs are paid by the employers. However, we have measures in place to protect employers from fees if an apprentice of theirs discontinues or withdraws from the programme.

As per ESFA regulations, our clients pay us on a monthly basis for the training through a secure system - the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS). There are no up-front fees for our clients, rather we get paid a lump sum of 20% of the value of the apprenticeship upon completion. The remaining 80% is paid on a monthly basis during the duration of the apprenticeship.

All employers receive a contract upon agreeing to the terms of the apprenticeship which stipulate the above terms. This system ensures that only the cost of training received has been paid.

Information on how the Student Protection Plan will be communicated to apprentices

Our apprentice protection plan will be made visible to all our apprentices on our “Policies” page. During programme inductions, Multiverse coaches will direct apprentices to the policy pages for relevant and up-to-date information, including the protection plan. The information will also be linked to our Virtual Learning Environment and in the apprentice Commitment Statement.

In September 2022, Multiverse will engage in a consultation on our protection plan with apprentices through our apprentice champions within the Elevate Programme. The “Elevate” programme aims to increase apprentice engagement within Multiverse. In this programme, apprentices who apply and are selected choose a pathway. Apprentices within the “Champion” pathway act as the voices of the apprentice community, representing and advocating on behalf of their qualification group.

Our apprentices and employers will be informed about any material changes to their programme with at least 1 months notice. These changes will be communicated by the apprentice’s coach. Relevant information will also be provided to the apprentice’s employers who will receive information from their designated “Customer Success Manager”.