University technical college in Swindon plans approved

The government has approved plans for a university technical college (UTC) for 14-to-19 year-olds in Swindon.

It is one of 15 specialist colleges approved by the Department for Education to provide technical skills alongside academic qualifications.

Supported by Oxford Brookes University and local employers, Swindon's UTC will focus on engineering and enterprise.

But Darren Northcott, from teaching union NASUWT, fears the scheme could limit students' future options.

Swindon's UTC joins two that have already been opened, three due to open in September and 17 others still in the pipeline.

Sponsored by Oxford Brookes and chemicals company Johnson Matthey, the new college will offer work placements, guest speakers and a curriculum designed by experts in the field.

Paul Inman, pro vice-chancellor at Oxford Brookes, said the facility would "address some of the shortages of engineering skills - in the UK".

"This will offer the chance of high quality engineering education which is linked to business and entrepreneurship," he said.

Mr Northcott, head of education policy at teaching union NASUWT, fears the new colleges could limit students' options later in life.

"If one type of learning that you have dominates, then later on you can't decide to change track and go and do something else because you haven't got the basic qualifications you would need," he said.

The Swindon UTC, subject to a funding agreement with the government, has been approved to move to the development stage for opening in September 2014.

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