Manchester Metropolitan University staff member receives MBE for services to education and skills

  • Liz Gorb recieves nomination for New Years Honours for pioneering higher education in the UK and abroad
  • Manchester Metropolitan University fronts world-leading approach to degree apprenticeships
  • 188,000 people have undertaken degree apprenticeships since their invention in 2015, improving opportunity and social mobility

An MBE has been awarded to Manchester Metropolitan University’s apprenticeships director for services to education and skills in New Year’s honours list. 

Liz Gorb is nationally recognised for her groundbreaking approach to higher education. 

In 2015 she was part of the team that pioneered degree apprenticeships, after some employers who went to Downing Street were concerned with higher skill level shortages, especially in digital, engineering, health and science. 

Manchester Metropolitan University now has over 2700 apprentices from all different levels including degree and masters level. According to the ‘Force For Change’ report from 2021, 40% of these apprentices are the first generation in their family to go to university and  36% of students have come from the most deprived areas. 

Liz Gorb Photo: Olivia Morris

Degree apprenticeships at Man Met

In 2015, the first cohort of degree apprenticeships at Manchester Metropolitan University managed to recruit 60 people from 22 companies including Lloyd’s, Barclays and AstraZeneca.

Liz said: “Well, what about degree apprenticeships, or higher level apprenticeships? We started that and were one of the first universities to get that underway.”

Liz now works with a team of over 100 people to support people with degree apprenticeships at the university.

“I’ve got some great, very clever people around me, my senior team, who have really pushed forward on this,” she said.

“And this has set the standard. Last year, we got the outstanding from Ofsted. And for five years running, we’ve been the highest University on RateMyApprenticeship. The apprentices themselves voted for the university.” Around 80 apprentices have also won individual awards in different sectors. 

“And it’s wonderful working with such passionate people. I think the thing about my team and the apprenticeships unit is that we all really believe in this. And we believe it’s a really great thing. And it’s due, and we can see that it’s really good for individuals, you know, to be able to break through and have this opportunity.”

Liz explained that some students have had a rough start, but were now excelling in their careers. 

The courses are primarily employer-led helping design the curriculum through focus groups of employers. This means that the degree apprenticeships are cutting-edge, tailoring the skills of the future to the employers needs. 

Apprentices also spend roughly 20% of their time learning. They have a skills coach who works personally with them to assess their progress, sitting in on reviews every three months between employer and manager in order to get them to transfer knowledge in the workplace.  

The impact of degree apprenticeships

In the UK, degree apprenticeships are at the forefront of Robert Halfon’s manifesto for success, calling for ‘opportunity and social justice’.  In the education system.  According to Halfon in 2023, More than 188,000 people have undertaken degree apprenticeships across the country since their introduction in 2015. 

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education highlights the importance of degree apprenticeships in Parliament in 2023

International Impact

Working with Professor Jane Goodyer, similar degree apprenticeship structures have been constructed internationally, aided by Liz. 

At Massey University in New Zealand, degree apprenticeships have been set up in asset management and they are currently in the process of setting one up in occupational therapy, working with people from Maori communities.  Further foundations for degree apprenticeships, including Canada’s first ‘Integrated Programs’, have been launched at York University in Toronto. 

MBE celebrations

Liz Gorb was awarded an MBE ‘for services to education and skills’. An MBE, or Member of the British Empire, is awarded to those who have made significant contributions to their specific areas of activity. 

Liz learned about the MBE through a letter she received in the post from ‘His Majesty’s Service’ in November.

She said: “People I haven’t seen or spoken to for many years, people from all around the world have contacted me. It’s been fantastic. Colleagues, alumni, employers, all kinds of people. To be honest, so far. It’s been lovely. Amazing.”

Honours, including MBE’s, are typically awarded by the King, The Prince of Wales or The Princess Royal at either Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The 2024 New Year Honor’s list also included MBE’s for England goalkeeper Mary Earps and actress Emilia Clarke. King George V originally created the Orders of the British Empire to reward services to the war effort to civilians at home or service personnel in support positions.