Starbucks extends education benefit to 5,000 UK employees


US-based coffee organisation Starbucks has extended its education benefit, offering to pay the tuition fees for online university degrees for its 5,000 UK employees.

The Starbucks Degree Achievement Plan (SDAP) will enable UK-based staff to undertake a university degree programme with Arizona State University (ASU) via an online portal, with Starbucks and ASU paying employees’ tuition fees.

Eligible staff members are able to choose from 40 degree programmes, to study for either a Bachelor of Science degree or a Bachelor of Arts degree. Potential subjects include Biochemistry, Business Data Analytics, Political Science, Software Engineering, Nutrition, Women and Gender Studies, Mass Communication and Media Studies and Global Studies.

Employees utilising the SDAP will also have access to an enrolment coach and an academic adviser.

Martin Brok, president at Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said: “Starbucks has always been [an organisation] that puts [its] people first. And, if we can remove the financial burden of the cost of a university degree, while helping our [employees] gain skills that will set them up for future success, we can’t think of a better investment.”

Starbucks initially launched the SDAP with ASU in America in 2014, to create opportunities for staff and boost retention. Since its launch, more than 18,000 American employees have enrolled in the programme, with 2,400 graduating so far.

Starbucks decided to roll out the education benefit to UK staff in part because an all-employee survey conducted in July 2017 found that learning and development was a theme for focused improvement. Employees also fed back that financial strains can hamper their ability to obtain a university degree.

Applications for the SDAP opened on 2 April 2019, with a final deadline of 30 June 2019 for staff to apply. Places will be allocated on 1 August 2019 and the term will officially begin on 16 October 2019. Starbucks is currently offering 100 places on the programme to test employee demand.

To qualify for the SDAP, employees must work at Starbucks in the UK and have three months of service at the point of submitting their application. Eligible employees must not already have a bachelor’s degree and must not already be participating in any other full-time education or training programmes, such as an apprenticeship. Employees are expected to study in their personal time and cover resource costs themselves.

Alongside the SDAP, Starbucks currently offers level two, level three and higher and degree level apprenticeships; the organisation has supported more than 1,500 apprenticeships to date.

Brok added: “For those who have ever considered earning their degree and haven’t had the opportunity, or those who’ve had to put their studies on hold, the Starbucks Degree Achievement Programme could be the chance they’ve been waiting for to earn their degree, with Starbucks here to pick up the bill.”

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Michael Crow, president at Arizona State University, said: “Nearly five years ago, Arizona State University and Starbucks began a partnership, offering 100% tuition coverage for US partners through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, with the shared vision of providing a quality education to all eligible Starbucks partners who seek their first bachelor’s degree.

“We are extending this successful endeavour to the UK, with the Starbucks Degree Achievement Plan. ASU’s ability to scale through innovation and technology allows us to reach learners across the globe, in the effort to provide an education to all who desire to learn. We are delighted to partner once again with Starbucks in this important step forward with the global expansion of our partnership.”