UK government approves new University Technical Colleges

The government has approved a further 15 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) to open across the country over the next two years, bringing the total number of UTCs to 34.

For the past four years, the Baker Dearing Educational Trust has been working with the Department for Education, local employers, universities and further education colleges to develop a national network of UTCs.

UTCs, open to 14–19 year olds, are sponsored by a university and local employers with the latter helping to shape the curriculum. Designed to meet the shortfall of engineers and technicians, UTCs are expected to offer students a high-quality, technical education, which can lead to apprenticeships, foundation and higher degrees.

Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive officer Jaguar Land Rover, supporting the WMG Academy for Young Engineers at Warwick University, said: ‘The UTC will help to address very important issues at the beginning of the educational cycle, namely exciting young people about careers in engineering, and developing the pool of talent that we can all rely upon for future generations to come.’

The JCB Academy and Black Country UTC are already operating with three more in Birmingham, Hackney and Houghton Regis due to open in September this year.

UTCs working towards opening dates in 2013 and 2014 are in Aylesbury, Bristol, Burnley, Daventry, Greenwich, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield, Silverstone, Southwark and Wigan.

Colleges approved today include MediaCityUK UTC in Salford, Liverpool Low Carbon and SuperPort UTC, and Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Stephanie Fernandes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology said: ‘We hope that the expansion of UTCs will fill the hole created by the government’s decision to downgrade the value of the successful Engineering Diploma.

‘UTCs will be at the heart of achieving improvements to the economy and supporting a pipeline of future apprentices, technicians and engineers. However, this expansion must be speeded up to ensure the pipeline doesn’t dry up.’

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: ‘In the institution’s recent poll of 1,000 manufacturers 76 per cent said that their companies are recruiting, but only 47 per cent of these are finding people with the right skills. 

‘Initiatives such as these will hopefully help plug these gaps and train the engineers and technicians of tomorrow. The great missed opportunity is that the colleges are set up to teach the engineering diploma that this government has now downgraded.’