University Technical Colleges (UTCs): Beneath the Headlines: NFER Contextual Analysis
22 June 2017
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) have increasingly become part of the schools landscape during the past five years. There has been significant public criticism of them since their introduction. Despite these adverse reports, little research has been undertaken to understand UTCs.
To address this gap, NFER has conducted research which examines the emerging data to assess what is really going on with UTCs. Our analysis reviews how successful UTCs have been in recruiting students, examines the characteristics of their students, and assesses their performance compared to their peers.
- While many UTCs have struggled to recruit students in sufficient numbers, new schools often have difficulties establishing themselves. Also UTCs are trying to recruit students at 14, which is a non-traditional age to move school. Against this backdrop, some UTCs are doing quite well.
- In Year 7, absence rates for future UTC students were similar to their peers but by Year 9, a significant difference emerged, suggesting some students had challenges with engagement when they joined their UTC.
- On average, UTC students perform worse than their peers in their previous schools when judged using the headline Key Stage 4 accountability measures, but…
- ...Our analysis suggests that at least some of this lower performance may be because the headline accountability measures do not recognise the composition or breadth of curriculum offered by UTCs. In addition, UTCs are only responsible for students in two of the five years that they spend in secondary education, but are held to account for all five years.