Twelfth UTC closure confirmed

The 14-19 college has failed to recruit enough students to become financially viable

The 14-19 college has failed to recruit enough students to become financially viable

19 Jan 2022, 15:46

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A university technical college (UTC) in London has confirmed plans to close just four years after opening.

Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC, named after the former Conservative politician, announced last May that it would pause student recruitment to consider its future due to low student numbers.

Chair Andrew Christie told the college’s 20 staff this morning that he was “saddened” to confirm the college was no longer financially viable. It will close at the end of this academic year.

He said: “Over the coming months, we will be working tirelessly with our students to help them secure the very best outcomes as they complete their courses. We will also be supporting our valued staff as they prepare for new roles in September.”

The UTC opened in 2017 and specialises in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has capacity for 550 students aged 14 to 19 but only had 150 on roll last year. This number has since dropped to 75. The college is also yet to be inspected by Ofsted.

According to its financial statements, the UTC recorded an operating loss of £486,000 in 2019/20 and required extra financial support from the Department for Education to stay afloat for the past two years. The college has also received almost £2 million in capital grants since 2017.

Its building is set to be taken over by Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, which opened in 2016 and has been in search of a new home for a number of years. The Department for Education wrote off over £3.2 million on a failed research and development building project for the college, according to the DfE’s 2020/21 accounts.

Christie said he was “pleased that technical education will continue to be delivered” on the UTC’s site through Ada.

“Moving to a technical education provider offering a sixth form and digital degree apprenticeships is a sensible and pragmatic evolution and will ensure the needs and aspirations of the young people of Westminster and the surrounding boroughs will continue to be met,” he added.

Ada’s co-founder and chief executive, Mark Smith, said the campus “will allow us to provide courses to more students that end in a meaningful career in tech”.

More than 50 UTCs have opened since they were launched in 2010 by former education secretary Lord Baker. Many of the colleges have, however, faced difficulties recruiting students and staying afloat financially.

Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC will be the twelfth of its kind to close to date.

To mitigate low student numbers, a number of UTCs have begun recruiting students at age 13 or even 11, rather than their traditional starting age of 14. Many have also joined multi-academy trusts to ease financial troubles.

Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC had previously been in discussions to join Fulham Boys School multi-academy trust, but the move fell through in 2020.

Christie said the UTC has had “may positives” over the past four years.

“Hundreds of young people have been supported by our talented and dedicated staff. You only have to look at the impressive list of employers and organisations our students have joined after they have finished their courses with us to see that they are adding real value to the workplace and wider economy,” he added.

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  1. I sat next to Baker when I was asked to speak about how UTCs would work with schools. I said that they wouldn’t and I could not see how UTCs would embed at all. My contribution to the conference was as popular as a fart in a lift. BUT I was right, and I look back to that time, thinking that I was the one who knew what I was talking about. Don’t ask me about Diplomas, Academies, removing NC levels, and other such failures…….