You are here

  1. Home
  2. Apprenticeships
  3. Programmes in England
  4. Senior Leader Apprenticeship

Senior Leader Apprenticeship

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. The triple accreditation recognises the quality of our courses and teaching that is offered across the programme. Each of the awarding bodies, AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS exist to drive the highest possible standard across business education in the US, UK and Europe. This puts the OU amongst an elite 1% of business schools to have achieved this ‘triple crown’ status, reflecting the high standards of the course delivery; something that is recognised by employers internationally. 

By supporting staff onto the SLA employers are provided with an opportunity to further  develop and retain staff aligned to their future organisational learning and development needs 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.
  • A scalable programme which provides a consistent experience for staff across multiple locations. 
  • Designed and delivered by the triple-accredited Open University Business School, one of the elite group of 1% of business schools to have achieved this status 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 OU offers higher and degree-level apprenticeships in healthcare, policing, social work, digital, systems thinking and management. 

Back to top

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 Senior Leader 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 meet the funding requirements and 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.

Back to top

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 employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week
  • Have a seprate identifiable line manager to undertake the role of 'employer'
  • Be given from their employer off-the-job training time for study
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Not currently on another apprenticeship
  • 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. Bachelor's degree with honours awarded by a UK university or equivalent.
  2. Bachelor's 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 Bachelor's degree - If applicants do not hold a bachelor's 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. 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.

Back to top

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 to make a real difference to 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

Back to top

Senior Leader programme overview

Back to top

The apprenticeship is made up of the following eight components:

1 - The initial assessment

This initial assessment includes a skills scan, a mandatory systematic review of an apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours against the standard. This will be completed jointly by the apprentice and the line manager to establish the apprentice’s baseline against the standard and how much new learning is needed. It is used to develop the Training Plan part 2, a tailored individual learning plan, to help apprentices make the most of the apprenticeship.

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.

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 knowledge, skills and behaviours requirements of 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 portfolio of evidence

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 to improve and extend their professional practice. 

Line managers will have regular one-to-one meetings with their apprentices to ensure that the learning from the apprenticeship is fully integrated into their performance and development in the workplace. This is to ensure that the apprentice can create evidence against the requirements of the standard for the portfolio of evidence required for Gateway. 

5 - Strategic business proposal scoping document

A 500-word document identifying a strategic objective/activity to be carried out by the senior leader.  In this document they will identify its scope, rationale, stakeholders and timescales, including finance, and it requires formal approval from the apprentice’s line manager. 

6 - Gateway

Gateway takes place before the EPA period can start. The employer and training provider will review their apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours to see if they have met the minimum requirements of the apprenticeship set out in the apprenticeship standard and are ready to take the assessment. 

7 - The End-point assessment (EPA)

The EPA determines whether apprentices have successfully met the learning requirements of the Senior Leader Apprenticeship Standard.  

The EPA is carried out by an Institute for Apprenticeships approved independent assessment organisation and consists of a strategic business proposal, presentation with Q&A, portfolio and professional discussion. 

8 - Completion

Every successful apprentice will: 

  • Be awarded an Open University Postgraduate diploma (Leadership Practice) 
  • Be awarded an industry-designed apprenticeship 
  • Be eligible to register with a Professional Body 
  • Have the option to progress onto the discounted top-up onto the OU’s triple accredited MBA. 

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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 or Apprentice Supervisor

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 or Apprentice Supervisors facilitate the apprentice to take off-the-job planned hours and they fully engage in quarterly 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 fundamental in enabling apprentices to successfully produce their strategic business proposal and complete their end-point assessment. 

Back to top

Using The Open University’s tried-and-trusted educational technology, our programmes are delivered flexibly around apprentices’ personal lives and the demands of your organisation.

The tutor-supported online learning is both varied and interactive, with multiple rich media formats that engage and enthuse apprentices on their journey. Learning can be accessed 24/7 on computers, tablets and mobile devices, so apprentices can study at home, work and on the move. Online tutorials, forums and discussion groups allow apprentices to learn from different industries and backgrounds.

An apprenticeship is a job with a formal programme of training which meets the requirements of the Apprenticeship Standard (in England), Framework (in Wales). The time that employers must allocate to this training can vary between programmes. The planned training hours will be detailed in the Training Plan. Note that in England and Wales, this time is called 'off-the-job training' in England and in Scotland, it is called 'protected time'. This is time for the apprentice to engage in the learning with the OU during their contracted working hours.

For full guidance visit:

The Open University’s flexible, blended learning approach makes it a lot easier for employers to effectively manage off-the-job training, while minimising the impact on productivity in the workplace.

Back to top

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.

Contact us

Back to top

Team in a meeting


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.

Female apprentice talking to colleague

Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship

The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship provides apprentices with higher level leadership and management skills, core competencies and desired behaviours to become a more effective manager.

Apprentice using a computer

Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship

The Open University’s Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship programme develops the higher-level skills and behaviours required to create confident and capable digital and technology professionals.

Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship

Nursing Associate Higher Apprenticeship

The Nursing Associate is a highly trained generic support role within the field of Nursing which acts as a ‘bridge’ between unregulated Healthcare Assistants (HCA) and Registered Nurses.

Health Assistant helping elderly man

Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship

The Open University’s Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship supports employers to develop their healthcare support workers (HCSWs) towards registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, as either Adult, Children and Young People, Learning Disabilities or Mental Health Nurses.

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

Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship

Our Social Worker Degree Apprenticeship is a practice-based learning programme that combines theory and practice-based learning and development, delivered flexibly around the demands of your workplace.

Systems Thinking Practitioner Apprenticeship

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.

Police Community Support Officer Apprenticeship

Police Community Support Officer Apprenticeship

Our Police Community Support Officer Apprenticeship programme mixes on-the-job training with off-the-job learning and provides the skills and knowledge needed for a policing career.

Police Constable

Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship

The Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship is delivered through the Police Educational Qualification Framework (PEQF) and led by The Open University Policing Organisation Practice (POP) Team, and provides a mixture of interdisciplinary academic and professional police experience and expertise.


Education & Skills Funding Agency 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 for 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.

Download brochure

Not on our mailing list?

Sign up to receive regular emails that are full of advice and resources to support staff development in your organisation.

Sign up to our emails