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If you already know what career you want at 14-years-old, then a University Technical College (UTC) enables you to experience and learn skills that are precisely for that job.

University Technical College (UTC) – what is it?

University Technical CollegeUTCs sit somewhere between school and the apprenticeship training programme. Set up in 2010 by the Baker Dearing Trust, a private foundation, UTCs are free, regionally-based and with enrolment catchment areas that are generally wider than normal.

The intent of UTCs is to educate and equip children with skills that prepare them for a career. So unlike school, learning can be applied directly to the workplace. In fact, the UTC curriculum is unique in that it is made up of the usual core academic curriculum plus technical study and practical learning.

Each UTC devises its partnership with their governing university and local industries, and they will concentrate on teaching skills that are needed by local industries and in short supply. Sometimes these skills are also linked to the UTC's governing bodies specialisms. Students are therefore trained to be employable by businesses within their home area. UTCs are governed by over 50 local universities, hence the name University Technical College.

Where do I do one?

Currently, there are over 35 UTCs open in England. With around 600 students aged between 14 and 19 years, they are smaller than other secondary schools. Being brand new, their buildings will look attractive to students as they can offer contemporary design and state of the art technology and machinery.

What do they involve?

Between the ages of 14 and 16, students spend 60 per cent of their time learning core academic subjects and 40 per cent of their time on technical skills. Between 16 and 19 this reverses and students focus 60 per cent of their time on technical learning and 40 per cent is spent on academic studies.

A UTC day is longer than one in a traditional school. The extra hours give the students and teaching staff more time to concentrate in depth on their learning, as well as allowing plenty of time to experience the practical side of the course. Homework is often done at school with time allotted during the day specifically for this to be achieved.

As with an apprenticeship scheme, students spend time actually working in one of the UTC's partners industries where they can put into practice the technical skills they learn at school in the workplace.

UTCs are keen supporters of schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh or Young Enterprise scheme, encouraging their students to volunteer, challenge themselves and try new experiences.  UTCs also have an award created especially for their students by a keen supporter of UTCs, The Duke of York.

Helping ensure students are also fit and healthy, many of the university sponsors have opened their sporting facilities to their UTC.

How are they assessed?

The award has three levels, and students are required to show they have learnt, completed work experience and have those all-important soft skills.

UTC specialisms include:

  • Engineering
  • Cyber Security
  • Health Sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Digital Technologies
  • Working in the built environment

Further information and reviews by the Good Schools Guide on UTCs will shortly be available here. 

Are there alternatives?

Academy schools are also often are created in partnership with local private schools or businesses and tend to specialise in a subject related to their sponsor’s industry. Being closely aligned with their sponsor and its industry helps students with work experience and mentoring opportunities. The City of London Academy, for example, focuses on business and enterprise, which is a perfect fit with their sponsor The City of London Corporation.

Academies are state-funded (central government not the local authority) but governed independently. Academies are allowed greater flexibility than local authority schools and, to a certain extent selective, admissions - provided ability is not one of the selection criteria (faith schools are the only schools that are allowed to give priority to children from their religion).

City Technical Schools are also state-funded and governed independently. Businesses sponsor a percentage of the cost of upkeep of a CTS. The curriculum is traditional, but they usually focus strongly on Maths, Science and Technology (three of the five STEAM subjects). Many CTS have now converted into academies.

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