University technical college

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, provide professional development opportunities for teachers, and guide suitably qualified students to industrial apprenticeships, foundation degrees or full degrees. 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 set up, they have not all been successful. Approximately ten have closed or converted to other arrangements since the programme was introduced.


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. 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]

The 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).[5] 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,[6] 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.[7] Many large companies have pledged to co-sponsor UTCs including Arup, British Airways, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Sony.[8]

In 2017, 48 colleges were open.[9]


The establishment of university technical colleges has been criticised by some teaching unions, who claim 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.[8]

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.[8] Parents may be unwilling to move their children at 12, then again at 14, particularly to a new and untested school.[10]

By February 2017, eight UTCs had closed or converted to other school types owing to low pupil numbers.[11][12] 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.[13]

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.[14][15] 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.[16]

In June and July 2018, three further UTC's were rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted – Derby Manufacturing UTC,[17] UTC@Harbourside[18] and Health Futures UTC.[19] UTC@Harbourside closed at the end of the academic year 2018–2019,[20] 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[21]. A previous Ofsted inspection that took place on February 2018 found the college to be inadequate. [22]

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.[23]

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]


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 produce worse results that equivalent secondary schools. 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 a UTC only 6% did.[24]


Despite the criticisms and problems noted above, some UTCs have been able to flourish. UTC Reading was the first UTC to be judged as "Outstanding" by Ofsted[25] (in June 2015) and to be awarded the World Class Schools Quality Mark[26] (in December 2017). UTC Reading was joined by Energy Coast UTC as Ofsted "Outstanding" in summer 2019.[27]

List of UTCs

Name Location Opened
Aston University Engineering Academy Birmingham 2012
BMAT STEM Academy Harlow, Essex 2014
Bolton UTC Bolton, Greater Manchester 2015
Bristol Technology and Engineering Academy Stoke Gifford, South Gloucestershire 2013
Buckinghamshire University Technical College Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire 2013
Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology Cambridge 2014
Crewe Engineering and Design UTC Crewe, Cheshire 2016
Derby Manufacturing UTC Derby 2015
Elstree University Technical College Borehamwood, Hertfordshire 2013
Elutec Dagenham, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham 2014
Energy Coast UTC Workington, Cumbria 2014
Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire 2015
Global Academy Hayes, London Borough of Hillingdon 2016
Greater Peterborough UTC Peterborough, Cambridgeshire 2016
Health Futures UTC West Bromwich, Sandwell, West Midlands 2015 [28]
Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC Northwood, London Borough of Hillingdon 2014
JCB Academy Rocester, Staffordshire 2010
Leigh UTC Dartford, Kent 2014
Lincoln UTC Lincoln 2014
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC Liverpool 2013
London Design and Engineering UTC Royal Docks, London Borough of Newham 2016[29]
Mulberry UTC Bow, London Borough of Tower Hamlets 2017
North East Futures UTC Newcastle upon Tyne 2018[30]
Ron Dearing UTC Hull 2017
Scarborough University Technical College Scarborough, North Yorkshire 2016
SGS Berkeley Green UTC Berkeley, South Gloucestershire 2017[31]
Silverstone University Technical College Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire 2013
Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC City of Westminster, London 2017
South Bank Engineering UTC Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth 2016
South Devon UTC Newton Abbot, Devon 2015
South Wiltshire UTC Salisbury, Wiltshire 2015[32]
The Watford UTC Watford, Hertfordshire 2014
University Technical College Norfolk Norwich 2014
University Technical College Leeds Hunslet, Leeds 2016
UTC Oxfordshire Didcot, Oxfordshire 2015[33]
UTC Plymouth Plymouth, Devon 2013
UTC Portsmouth Portsmouth 2017[34][35]
UTC Reading Reading, Berkshire 2013
UTC Sheffield Sheffield, South Yorkshire 2013
UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park Sheffield, South Yorkshire 2016
UTC South Durham Newton Aycliffe, County Durham 2016[36]
UTC Swindon Swindon 2014
UTC Warrington Warrington, Cheshire 2016[37]
UTC@MediaCityUK Salford, Greater Manchester 2015[38]
Waterfront UTC Chatham, Kent 2015 (as Medway UTC)[39]
West Midlands Construction UTC Wolverhampton 2015
WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Coventry Coventry 2014
WMG Academy for Young Engineers, Solihull Solihull 2016

Pending UTCs

  • Burton and South Derbyshire UTC: project on hold as of September 2016[40]
  • Doncaster UTC: opening September 2020[41]

Planned closures

  • South Wiltshire UTC (Salisbury) will close in August 2020 as the Department for Education deemed it "no longer financially viable".[42]

Closed UTCs

Name Location Opened Closed
Black Country UTC Walsall, West Midlands 2011 2015[43]
UTC Central Bedfordshire Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire 2012 2016[44]
Daventry University Technical College Daventry, Northamptonshire 2013 2017[45]
Greater Manchester University Technical College Oldham, Greater Manchester 2014 2017 [46]
Hackney University Technical College London Borough of Hackney 2012 2015[47]
UTC@Harbourside Newhaven, East Sussex 2015[48] 2019[49]
UTC Lancashire Burnley, Lancashire 2013 2017[47]
Tottenham University Technical College London Borough of Haringey 2014 2017[50]
University Technical College Wigan Wigan, Greater Manchester 2013 2019[51][3]

Converted away from UTC model

Name Location Opened Closed Fate
Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology Nottingham 2014 2018[52] Converted to 11–18 academy
Royal Greenwich UTC Royal Borough of Greenwich 2013 2016[53] Converted to 11–19 free school

See also


  1. "BBC News - Q&A: University technical colleges". 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  2. "Frequently Asked Questions". 1 June 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  3. Adams, Richard (13 July 2019). "'Vanity project': debts pile up for English free schools scheme". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  4. "Thesaurus Term - University technical colleges". Department for Education. January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  5. "What are university technical colleges". Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  6. "University Technical Colleges" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  7. "Sponsors". Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  8. Burns, Judith (2012-05-29). "BBC News - Jaguar Land Rover and British Airways back new colleges". Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  9. "About UTCs / Overview". Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  10. Weale, Sally (7 February 2017). "£9m Greater Manchester college closes after three years due to lack of pupils". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  11. Camden, Billy (28 April 2017). "UTC crisis deepens as learner numbers drop". FE Week. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  12. Gove, Michael (10 February 2017). "Dividing our children at 14 has not worked". The Times. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  13. Read, Peter. "Medway UTC: Abject Failure -OFSTED - Kent Independent Education Advice". Kent Independent Educational advice. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  14. George, Martin (4 May 2018). "A fifth of UTCs inspected by Ofsted are now in special measures Tes News". Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  15. Camden, Billy (2 May 2018). "UTC architect George Osborne says 14 start age 'hasn't worked'". FE Week. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  16. "Derby Manufacturing UTC: Full inspection report". Ofsted (PDF). 28 June 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  17. "UTC@Harbourside: Full inspection report". Ofsted (PDF). 4 July 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  18. "Health Futures UTC: Full inspection report". Ofsted (PDF). 3 July 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  19. "University Technical College in Newhaven to close next year". BBC News. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  20. "Salisbury UTC to Close". South Wilts UTC. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  21., Ofsted Communications Team (2018-12-28). "Find an inspection report and registered childcare". Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  22. "UTCs: are they delivering for young people?". Education Policy Institute. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  23. Syal, Rajeev (30 October 2019). "Technical schools lavished with Gove funding criticised by watchdog". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  27. "University technical colleges are transforming pupils' lives". The Independent. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  28. "London Design and Engineering UTC | London Design and Engineering University Technical College". Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  29. Ford, Coreena (27 September 2017). "City centre Newcastle school invites in parents as it prepares for 2018 opening". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  30. "College opens at former power station in Gloucestershire". BBC News. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  31. "Work begins on South Wiltshire UTC college". BBC News. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  32. "University Technical College Oxfordshire plans approved". BBC News. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  33. "Views wanted on bid to set up new technical school". Portsmouth News. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  34. "UTC Portsmouth breaks ground and announces Principal". Portsmouth City Council. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  35. Richardson, Andy. "Train factory is the catalyst for jobs revival (From The Northern Echo)". Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  36. Place North West
  37. "MediaCityUK UTC". The Aldridge Foundation. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  38. "University Technical College". Medway Council. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015.
  39. Hammond, Laura (17 March 2015). "Burton UTC opening delayed until next year due to lack of pupils". Burton Mail. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  40. "Digital and science engineering to be taught at new college". GOV.UK. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  41. "Salisbury's South Wiltshire UTC CLOSING". Spire FM. 2019-07-16. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  42. "Doomed Black Country UTC failed to promote vocational options, inspectors find". FE Week. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  43. Whittaker, Freddie (10 March 2016). "Struggling Central Bedfordshire UTC to close despite FE college's intervention". FE Week.
  44. "Daventry UTC To Close In 2017". Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  45. "Brand new £9m school to close after all of its pupils fail GCSEs". The Independent. 8 February 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  46. "UTC Lancashire to shut up shop after just three years". FE Week. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  47. "Utc@Harbourside Principal Appointed". Haven News. 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  48. "University Technical College in Newhaven to close next year". BBC News. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  49. Mansell, Warwick (10 January 2017). "Failing Spurs-sponsored school costs taxpayer £500,000 rent a year | Warwick Mansell". the Guardian.
  50. "Wigan UTC will close as low student numbers are unviable". Wigan Today. 4 April 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  51. "Statutory Information". NUAST. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  52. Camden, Billy (7 October 2016). "Fresh concerns over failing UTC model as one in 10 now shut". FE Week. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
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