University technical college

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Offices in Wigan, the home of UTC Wigan from 2013 to 2019 Rushton Building Wigan - - 922186.jpg
Offices in Wigan, the home of UTC Wigan from 2013 to 2019

A university technical college (UTC) is a type of secondary school in England that is led by a sponsor university [1] and has close ties to local business and industry. These university and industry partners support the curriculum development of the UTC, can provide professional development opportunities for teachers, and guide suitably qualified students on to industrial apprenticeships or tertiary education. The sponsor university appoints the majority of the UTC's governors and key members of staff. [2] Pupils transfer to a UTC at the age of 14, part-way through their secondary education. [3] The first UTCs were established in 2010.


Although there are examples of UTCs achieving the outcomes for which they were intended, such as UTC Reading,[ citation needed ] they have not all been successful. Approximately ten have closed or converted to other arrangements since the programme was introduced.


A University technical college is not a university. It is not a university college and not a technical college. It is one of 50 or so secondary schools that has been sponsored by a college with university status. It is a free schools funded directly by the Department for education [4] - and outside the control of the local education authority. Capital costs came from a government grant and revenue is dependent on pupil numbers. Each pays a five-figure licensing fee to the Baker Dearing Trust. [5]

UTCs were introduced in 2010 by the coalition government under the free schools programme. [4] They are funded by the taxpayer, non-selective, free to attend and not controlled by a local authority. Michael Gove was the minister, though more recently he has explained he opposed the idea, but was forced to introduce them by George Osborne and David Cameron who had been lobbied by Lord Baker. [6] While this is also true of most academies and free schools, UTCs are collectively distinctive in a number of ways. UTCs all have a university as a lead sponsor. Further education colleges, charitable organisations and the private sector may co-sponsor a UTC, however they must be led by a university. [2] Like studio schools, University Technical Colleges enroll students aged 14–19, [1] whereas free schools and academies can choose the age range of their pupils. Existing schools cannot convert to become a UTC; all UTCs have to be newly founded schools with no direct transfer intake of pupils. [2]

When operating, UTCs receive the same per capita funding, as other schools in the local authority, calculated by the same formula, and £87 extra to cover UTC specific administration. [7] This would be £5150 per head in Cheshire in 2021 for an non-disadvantaged child. [8] UTCs pay an annual licence fee to the Baker Dearing Educational Trust. [5] This was £10,000 in 2019. [5]

A distinctive element of UTCs is that they offer technically oriented courses of study, combining National Curriculum requirements with technical and vocational elements. UTCs must specialise in subjects that require technical and modern equipment, but they also all teach business skills and the use of information and communications technology (ICT). [9] UTCs are also supposed to offer clear routes into higher education or further learning in work. [1]

The university technical college programme as a whole is sponsored by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, [10] established by Lord Baker. Baker Dearing's promotion of UTCs is supported by the Edge Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation. [11] Many large companies have pledged to co-sponsor UTCs including Arup, British Airways, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Sony. [12]

In 2017, 48 colleges were open. [13]

In May 2021, 50 UTCs had been opened of which 11 had closed, and Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC about to become the twelfth. [14]

The government minister Berridge told MPs on 29 April 2021 that the government hopes to have a “strong sustainable group of UTCs” by the autumn. She said more could be created only “if there is a bid with a clear vision for the involvement of employers and particularly with the support of the local authority”. [14]


The establishment of university technical colleges was criticised by some teaching unions, who claimed they will cause further fragmentation of local provision of education for 16- to 19-year-olds. Others have argued that because they offer similar programmes of study, UTCs will divert funds away from further education colleges. [12]

The age intake range of UTCs have also been criticised, with unions arguing that 14 is too early an age for most children to receive such a specialised education. It has also been suggested that the technical and vocational aspects of UTCs will create a two-tier education system, with UTCs being less well regarded than more academically orientated schools. [12] Parents may be unwilling to move their children at 12, then again at 14, particularly to a new and untested school. [3]

By February 2017, eight UTCs had closed or converted to other school types owing to low pupil numbers. [15] [16] Michael Gove, who as Education minister was a driving force behind the UTC policy, wrote in 2017 that it "had not worked", owing to lack of academic rigour. [17]

With the publication of the report on the Medway UTC, in May 2018, five of the 26 UTCs inspected by Ofsted had been placed in special measures. [18] [19] George Osborne told a hearing of the Education Select Committee on 2 May 2018 that the model of seeking to move children at the age of 14 has not worked. [20]

In June and July 2018, three further UTC's were rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted – Derby Manufacturing UTC, [21] UTC@Harbourside [22] and Health Futures UTC. [23] UTC@Harbourside closed at the end of the academic year 2018–2019, [24] which made it the ninth UTC to close.

In July 2019, in a statement on their website, South Wiltshire UTC announced it would not be accepting new students in September 2019, but would be supporting Year 11 & 13 students to finish their 2-year courses as intended before closing in August 2020. [25] A previous Ofsted inspection that took place in February 2018 found the college to be inadequate. [26]

A 2018 report by the Education Policy Institute found that more than half of enrolled students left after two years, and academic results lagged other state-funded schools. [27]

By 2019, 31 of the 40 UTCs with published accounts owed money to the Education and Skills Funding Agency, having failed to attract sufficient pupils to make them financially viable. For example, Burnley UTC was built for 800 students but only enrolled 113 in the first three years. Ten UTCs owed £4.7m in general loans to cover running costs and three had working capital loans adding up to £1m. Research by accountancy firm Price Bailey found "UTCs with tight cashflow could be seriously affected by these clawbacks. After salaries, which often make up 70%-80% of the budget, there isn’t a lot left. £350,000 per school is the equivalent to seven or eight teachers, so in some cases cuts to staff numbers may be necessary, which could impact educational standards". [3] [28]


The National Audit Office assessed the effectiveness of the 58 UTCs in October 2019. It found that the UTC programme had cost £792m since it was launched in 2010 and that the colleges were operating at less than half capacity on average, and often producing worse results than equivalent secondary schools. [29] There were 4,863 students attending UTCs that were considered to be inadequate, and while 37% of equivalent school students took the English Baccalaureate, at UTCs only 6% did. [30]


Despite the criticisms and problems noted above, two UTCs have been able to flourish. UTC Reading was the first UTC to be judged as "Outstanding" by Ofsted [31] (in June 2015) and to be awarded the World Class Schools Quality Mark [32] (in December 2017). UTC Reading was joined by Energy Coast UTC as Ofsted "Outstanding" in summer 2019. [33]

List of UTCs

Aston University Engineering Academy Birmingham2012
BMAT STEM Academy Harlow, Essex2014
Bristol Technology and Engineering Academy Stoke Gifford, South Gloucestershire2013
Buckinghamshire University Technical College Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire2013
Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology Cambridge2014
Crewe Engineering and Design UTC Crewe, Cheshire2016
Derby Manufacturing UTC Derby2015
Doncaster UTC Doncaster2020
Elstree University Technical College Borehamwood, Hertfordshire2013
Elutec Dagenham, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham2014
Energy Coast UTC Workington, Cumbria2014
Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire2015
Global Academy Hayes, London Borough of Hillingdon2016
Greater Peterborough UTC Peterborough, Cambridgeshire2016
Health Futures UTC West Bromwich, Sandwell, West Midlands2015 [34]
Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC Northwood, London Borough of Hillingdon2014
JCB Academy Rocester, Staffordshire2010
The Leigh UTC Dartford, Kent2014
Lincoln UTC Lincoln2014
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC Liverpool2013
London Design and Engineering UTC Royal Docks, London Borough of Newham2016 [35]
Mulberry UTC Bow, London Borough of Tower Hamlets2017
North East Futures UTC Newcastle upon Tyne2018 [36]
Ron Dearing UTC Hull2017
Scarborough University Technical College Scarborough, North Yorkshire2016
SGS Berkeley Green UTC Berkeley, South Gloucestershire2017 [37]
Silverstone University Technical College Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire2013
Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC City of Westminster, London2017
South Bank Engineering UTC Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth2016
South Devon UTC Newton Abbot, Devon2015
South Wiltshire UTC Salisbury, Wiltshire2015 [38]
Thomas Telford University Technical College Wolverhampton2015 (as West Midlands Construction UTC)
University Technical College Norfolk Norwich2014
University Technical College Leeds Hunslet, Leeds2017
UTC Oxfordshire Didcot, Oxfordshire2015 [39]
UTC Plymouth Plymouth, Devon2013
UTC Portsmouth Portsmouth2017 [40] [41]
UTC Reading Reading, Berkshire2013
UTC Sheffield City Centre Sheffield, South Yorkshire2013
UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Sheffield, South Yorkshire2016
UTC South Durham Newton Aycliffe, County Durham2016 [42]
UTC Swindon Swindon2014
UTC Warrington Warrington, Cheshire2016 [43]
UTC@MediaCityUK Salford, Greater Manchester2015 [44]
Waterfront UTC Chatham, Kent2015 (as Medway UTC) [45]
The Watford UTC Watford, Hertfordshire2014
West Midlands Construction UTC Wolverhampton2015
WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Coventry Coventry2014
WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Solihull Solihull2016

Closed UTCs

Black Country UTC Walsall, West Midlands20112015 [46]
UTC Central Bedfordshire Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire20122016 [47]
Daventry University Technical College Daventry, Northamptonshire20132017 [48]
Greater Manchester University Technical College Oldham, Greater Manchester20142017 [49]
Hackney University Technical College London Borough of Hackney20122015 [50]
UTC@Harbourside Newhaven, East Sussex2015 [51] 2019 [52]
UTC Lancashire Burnley, Lancashire20132017 [50]
South Wiltshire UTC Salisbury20152020 [53]
Tottenham University Technical College London Borough of Haringey20142017 [54]
University Technical College Wigan Wigan, Greater Manchester20132019 [55] [3]

Converted away from UTC model

NameLocationOpenedConvertedNew status
Bolton UTC Bolton, Greater Manchester20152020 [56] 11–19 free school
Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology Nottingham20142018 [57] 11–18 free school
Royal Greenwich UTC Royal Borough of Greenwich20132016 [58] 11–19 free school

Rebrokered and reopened within UTC model

NameLocationOpenedConvertedNew branding
Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC Hillingdon, Greater London20142018 [5] 11–19 UTC Heathrow

See also

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