What are University Technical Colleges?


You might have heard of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) but might be unsure of who they serve and how they are structured. 

Confusingly, University Technical Colleges are neither Universities or Technical Colleges! Rather they are secondary schools that have been sponsored by a University or a college.

UTCs operate as a type of academy in England. This means that they do not have to follow the national curriculum or employ teachers with qualified teacher status (apart from in certain circumstances such as Special Educational Needs Coordinators). UTCs are smaller than traditional secondary schools and are not academically selective.

As of 2021, 48 UTCs are open across England, educating c.16,000 students, and supported by more than 400 employers and universities.

School staff at University Technical Colleges can be supported by Edapt. ​​You can access high-quality employment advice and support for your role by subscribing today.

In this support article we look at the history of University Technical Colleges and examples of institutions and their curriculum offers.

What is the history of University Technical Colleges?

The House of Commons Library has a research briefing on UTCs. It explains UTCs are schools introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government, that work alongside employers and universities to deliver technical education and core curriculum subjects. 

Most students join UTCs aged 14, but it is expected that any new UTCs will run from 11 to 18. All UTCs are associated with the Baker Dearing Trust, which is a charity that was set up by Lord Baker in 2010. The charity “assists with the selection of potential UTCs for DfE approval and then [helps] each UTC prepare for opening… in particular by liaising between the sponsors and the DfE”. It charges UTCs a membership fee of £10,000.

UTCs are schools with a STEM focus. UTCs were established by companies and universities in areas of high demand for talent. In addition to a core curriculum of English, maths, and sciences, UTCs also offer sought-after technical qualifications, and benefit from industry-standard equipment and specialist staff to provide students with skills valued by employers.

The Public Accounts Committee in June 2020 said that “it is not clear what [the DfE’s] vision is for UTCs in the future” and it should prepare to close those which do not meet financial targets. The Committee also called upon the DfE to do more to increase occupancy, improve their financial sustainability and assess the value of the fee paid to the Baker-Dearing Trust (University Technical Colleges, 10 June 2020, pp 3,5). The Baker-Dearing Trust response to the Committee defended the role of the licence fee and called upon the Department for Education to assess the costs of a technical education. 

University Technical Colleges: examples 

UTC Warrington

UTC Warrington is a purpose built technical college for 14-19 year olds. The college opened in central Warrington in September 2016. Partner organisations such as Sellafield Ltd and Manchester Metropolitan University worked together to create the UTC. 

Students study academic and technical subjects through a range of GCSE and post-16 qualifications. 

Studying in Year 10 and Year 11 at UTC Warrington is different from a traditional secondary school. Learning is related to the world of work so that students can better understand the relevance of what they are learning.

At Key Stage, 4 students study a combination of core GCSE subjects – English Literature & Language, Maths, Science (Combined) or Separate Sciences (Triple Award), with PSHE and PE – alongside optional GCSE and technical qualifications for specialist pathways in:

  • Construction
  • Digital
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare

This unique combination of studies equips students for further study, apprenticeships and employment in the areas they are interested in.

Aldridge UTC Media City

Aldridge UTC@MediaCiyUK is a member of the Aldridge Education family of schools. Aldridge Education is a charitable Trust of entrepreneurial community schools and colleges. It is a 14-18 UTC, specialising in the creative and technical digital industry. 

It is based in the heart of MediaCityUK, and is a short walk from its sponsors at Salford University and The Lowry.

Combining core academic subjects with the opportunity to study and gain practical experience in TV & Film, Digital Publishing, or Interactive Media & Gaming, its curriculum ensures students will be learning skills for jobs at MediaCityUK and beyond.

Students will be engaged in developing real content using industry-standard equipment. The UTC benefits from strong links with partners such as ITV, BBC, and The Landing. Its goal is to produce the next generation of digital entrepreneurs.

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