Seven new University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are to be established with the backing of major employers, the government announced today.
The new institutions will bring the total number of UTCs across England to 57 by 2016, with more than 35,000 pupils. The colleges offer a combination of academic and technical education to 14-19-year-olds, specialising in subjects where there is a shortage of skills, such as engineering, manufacturing and life sciences.
There are currently 17 UTCs open, with another 33 approved. There will be a further application round later this year, with a closing date of 10 October.
The seven colleges announced today will open in Bromley, Leeds, Scarborough, Sheffield, South Durham, Crewe and Solihull. They have the backing of more than 30 major employers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Unilever, Hitachi, Bosch, Kodak, McCain and Kings College Hospital.
Lord Baker, chairman of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which promotes UTCs, welcomed the news. “UTCs are now an established and growing part of the education system,” he said. "They have strong, cross-party support and more will be announced before the election.
“Developing and nurturing an ambitious and capable future workforce is vital to the success of our economy. UTCs make sense and work for employers, universities and, most importantly, young people.”
Philip Greenish, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “The UK needs many more people with skills in innovation, creativity and enterprise; skills that are fundamental to engineering and key to the UK’s competitive edge."
A recent Labour-led review said at least 100 more UTCs should be set up in the next six years to help tackle the skills gap.
The review, carried out by former education minister Lord Adonis, said UTCs should be a “priority” when building new schools to help increase opportunities for technical education.
The UTC programme suffered a blow last month when its flagship college in London, Hackney UTC, announced it was to close after receiving only 29 applications for September out of a target of 75.
However, a spokesman for the Department for Education told TES the closure had “no bearing” on the UTC programme as a whole, and said many other colleges were “thriving”.