Earn-to-Learn Scheme

Creating sustainable skills for future graduates | Developing workforce capabilities with organisations | Fostering relevant curricula in HE | Relieving student debt  <<


Young people are finding it increasingly difficult to get onto the professional career ladder because training nurseries or entry level roles are going offshore with the talent pipe-lines or career paths to senior corporate roles in tow.

The Centre for Global Sourcing and Services at Loughborough University has developed an Earn-to-Learn (EtoL) scheme in partnership between Universities, organisations, student bodies, regional policy makers and Government’s UK Department for International Trade (formerly UKTI) to enable students to do quality part-time work in business process centres. The aim is to graduate ‘work-ready’ and with less debt.


The aims of EtoL are to enable:

  • students to access higher education programmes and engage in good quality, paid, work experience across their degree programmes;
  • employers to access a new skilled and flexible labour force, and
  • universities to improve social inclusion and create a sustainable supply of ‘work-ready’ and employable graduates.

Our research and consultations have culminated in a framework of options designed to create sustainable sourcing solutions for organisations and relevant work-based learning opportunities for students on, or near, a University campus as an alternative to relocating that work to cheaper, usually overseas locations.

Earn-to-Learn White Paper August 2017



Why now?

Research by the Centre for Global Sourcing and Services at Loughborough University has found that ‘white-collar’ middle-office, work in business support functions is being systematically reconfigured and re-engineered through internal Shared Service Centres (SSC) and external business process outsourcers (BPO).

As a consequence, professional work becomes deskilled and commoditised such that it can be moved to cheaper locations offshore.  Currently the UK is home to around five million of these middle-office jobs.

Deskilling and offshoring has three potential impacts on the UK economy:

  1. The hollowing out of middle level jobs creates an hourglass shaped economy with a mid-career bottleneck for individual workers;
  2. A skills/experience gap as entry-level training roles are moved offshore and away from the main business, preventing onshore individuals from getting a foot on the career ladder (Data from the Association of Graduate Recruiters indicate that graduate recruitment to top organisations fell 8% in 2016).
  3. Work is offshored for lack of a compelling reason to leave it in the UK
We have explored ways in which Universities can collaborate with enterprises to create business process roles which can employ students.


EtoL: An Overview

This project aims to form a consortium of Universities and stakeholders in conjunction with the Government’s UK Department for International Trade (UKTI) to develop a ‘Flexible Business Process Sourcing’ scheme that will:

  • Provide for the progressive development and practise of relevant professional skills.
  • Enable students to graduate without substantive debt, especially if linked to graduate apprenticeships.
  • Widen participation in Higher Education and help organisations to justify locating work in the UK.

The project will bring together organisations, consultants, outsource providers, policy makers, educationalists and UKTI to share alternative approaches that can encourage more sustainable labour policies in the UK.

Loughborough University is one of the leading universities in the UK and we believe we can play a leading role in creating innovative practice for collaboration between universities and enterprise partners to bring value to students, industries and the UK economy. We want to establish a model, which could be followed by the other institutions in Higher Education.

The proposition for EtoL has been developed over a number of years with the input of a number of experts from relevant areas such as organisations, professional bodies, government (particularly UKTI), academics and careers advisors.



Could you be part of EtoL?

We wish to raise awareness across a range of stakeholders about the emerging issue of graduate underemployment as result of the offshoring of the traditional training positions, and the subsequent mid-career skills gap. In the context of the new high levels of graduation debt this is as much an ethical issue as a commercial one.

We are continually seeking potential partner organisations that wish to explore how EtoL could be developed within their shared service or business processing centre model. This could involve a multi-disciplined approach to services or a focus on a specific sub-discipline such as accounting, HR, IT to name a few.

The scheme is tailored to the organisation and HE participating; it could involve just individual students up to larger, more structured programmes of work. Again, the principle is that the UK needs to find new ways of working so that young people not only get access to Higher Education but also get good quality work experience when those opportunities are otherwise being offshored or automated.

Please get in touch with Ian Herbert (I.P.Herbert@lboro.ac.uk) if you wish to discuss where your Institution may fit into this.


Benefits of Becoming Part of the EtoL Movement

EtoL is designed to benefit a number of stakeholders and endeavours to create advantages for all involved parties.  See below:


For employers, students can offer new flexible ways of working and, indeed, do some of the ‘offline’ tasks such as data cleansing and data analytics. There’s also the opportunity to make an innovative and pioneering movement in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility by supporting the work of our future generation.  There is strong motivation to widen access to Higher Education for those that might be deterred by significant student debt.  Organisations and Universities currently involved in the scheme tend to have a vested interest in ‘social inclusion’ policies and accessing a flexible workforce.

This is a summary version


Management and Governance of EtoL

On the ‘demand side’ the typical hard pressed SSC/BPO manager could be forgiven for being sceptical about the scheme because it involves supervising more people in the system with attendant risks around confidentiality and data. It is much easier to take the line of least resistance and employ permanent 9-5 staff. However, we know that the world of work is changing rapidly and offshore SSCs make much of their ability to work during UK evenings and weekends. In short, new thinking is required to realise the opportunities for blending a new, more flexible, workforce into existing operations as detailed above.


EtoL Media

Please click on the Title links to view the media.


Related Links/news articles linked to EtoL

Relevant News Stories

The debt-free alternative to University. BBC Online. Published 10 October 2016.
Jobs market shrinks for new graduates, survey suggests. BBC Online. Published 2 September, 2016.

Other Articles

Comprehensive information about higher and degree apprenticeships, delivery standards, employer and HEI benefits and responsibilities, eligibility and funding can be found at:

Understand more about the shared service centre model:
Shared Services: Achieve Operational Excellence by The Hackett Group (2015). 

An examination of debt for the students of today:
Degrees of debt: Funding and finance for undergraduates in Anglophone countries. By Kirby (2016), The Sutton Trust.