A University Technical College (UTC) is a type of secondary school in England that is led by a sponsor university. The university supports the curriculum development of the UTC, provides professional development opportunities for teachers, and guides suitably qualified students to foundation and full degrees. The sponsor university appoints the majority of the UTC's governors and key members of staff.
UTCs are a type of Free School, and they were introduced as part of the Academies Programme. They are funded by the taxpayer, non-selective, free to attend and not controlled by a local authority. While this is also true of most academies and free schools, UTCs are collectively distinctive in a number of ways. UTCs all have a university as a lead sponsor. Further education colleges, charitable organisations and the private sector may co-sponsor a UTC, however they must also be led by a university. Like studio schools, University Technical Colleges are specifically designed to enroll students aged 14–19, whereas free schools and academies can choose the age range of their pupils. Existing schools cannot convert to become a UTC - all UTCs have to be newly founded schools with no direct transfer intake of pupils.
However, the most distinctive element of UTCs is that they have to offer technically oriented courses of study, combining National Curriculum requirements with technical and vocational elements. UTCs must specialise in subjects that require technical and modern equipment, but they also all teach business skills and the use of ICT. UTCs are also supposed to offer clear routes into higher education or further learning in work.
The establishment of University Technical Colleges has been criticised by some teaching unions, who claim they will cause further fragmentation of local provision of education for 16- to 19-year-olds. Others have argued that because they offer similar programmes of study, UTCs will divert funds away from further education colleges.
The age intake range of UTCs have also been criticised, with unions arguing that 14 is too early an age for most children to receive such a specialised education. It has also been suggested that the technical and vocational aspects of UTCs will create a two-tier education system, with UTCs being less well regarded than more academically orientated schools.