From education to employment

Supporting University Technical Colleges

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge

Edge has been a supporter of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDT) since 2008. I was delighted when the Government took a crucial step in supporting the concept earlier this month and announced thirteen more for development across the country. Five UTCs have already been approved – JCB in Staffordshire (operating), the Black Country (just opened), Aston in Birmingham (2012), Hackney (2012) and Greenwich (2013). This announcement increases the number of UTCs to eighteen. The Government has pledged to increase the number to 24.

Here is the clearest possible evidence that people in all parts of education and all parts of the country understand the importance of preparing young people for the opportunities of the future.

UTCs are a new concept in education. They are free standing colleges for 600 – 800 14 to 19 year old students, with a working day of 8:30am – 5:30pm. Technical and academic education is integrated and practical work is valued as highly as academic study. Each will provide at least one technical specialism alongside the key GCSEs in English, maths and science, as well as a foreign language, humanities, finance, business, entrepreneurial and employability skills.

All UTCs are supported by a University and very often an FE college. This unique approach opens up to students a high quality pathway to success, which can lead to apprenticeships, foundation and higher degrees.

Local employers both big and small have a major role. They help to shape the curriculum and relate it to future jobs that match the needs of the local economy. Students in turn acquire the skills and knowledge employers are looking for.

My objective as CEO of Edge is to champion technical, practical and vocational learning – to show how it leads to inventive, rewarding careers. Practical and technical education deserves its place alongside the very best academic learning. UTCs represent a huge step in the right direction.

University Technical Colleges announced:


Application Name


Proposed Opening Date*

Burnley Visions Learning Trust UTC

Engineering and Construction


Daventry New Technologies UTC

Sustainable and Related New Technologies


Newcastle Discovery UTC

Engineering, Information Technology & Science


Southwark UTC

Medical Engineering, Health Technologies

Construction & Property Management


Wigan UTC

Engineering, Green Energy, Manufacturing


Central Bedfordshire UTC

Design, Engineering, Manufacturing


North Liverpool Life Sciences UTC

Life Sciences (health)


Silverstone UTC

Motor Engineering


Bristol & South Gloucestershire UTC

Engineering and Environmental Technology


Buckinghamshire UTC

IT and Specialist Construction


Nottingham University Technical College

Engineering, Science and IT


Sheffield UTC

Advanced Engineering & Materials and Creative & Digital Industries


Plymouth University Technical College

Marine Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing


*Subject to feasibility stage

Following Alison Wolf’s report on vocational education earlier this year, Michael Gove is rightly committed to ensuring that young people aged 14 and upwards are offered only the best qualifications and pathways to success. The Department for Education recently invited views on qualifications for 14-16 year olds and how they should be counted in school performance tables.

Technical and vocational qualifications will count in school performance tables only if they pass a number of rigorous tests. They must stretch and challenge young people, offer clear paths to further learning and careers, and be valued by employers.

Edge and the Baker Dearing Educational Trust support these aims, which is why we commissioned the Royal Academy of Engineering to identify technical qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that would be respected by the STEM community. Our original aim was to help UTCs select the best qualifications. We now realise that the RAEng report will be of much wider value, not just in helping other schools to identify good quality STEM qualifications but also by providing a template for assessing the value of qualifications in other subjects.

In the short term, we are likely to see a fall in the number of young people enrolled for vocational qualifications whilst still at school because young people will no longer be steered towards qualifications which do not lead to further learning or stable employment. In the medium term, however, numbers will rise once more as a direct result of the government’s welcome commitment to quality and progression.

The approach developed by RAEng could easily be adapted to provide a rigorous framework for appraising vocational qualifications in other subjects and disciplines – a point made by Edge and Baker Dearing in our submission to the Department for Education.

The report is now published and is available on the Edge website. Click here for a copy of the report. 

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge, the independent education foundationd edicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning

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