The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published The Evaluation of University Technical Colleges report, finding that project-based learning (PBL) and employer engagement had profound positive impacts on student’s school experience.
Project-based learning is a key focus for UTCs and demonstrates a different way of learning, often via industry-relevant projects developed in collaboration with local employers, ensuring that students develop skills that can help them access pathways into employment.
The report highlighted that PBL, which requires students to work to briefs and deadlines and use skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, appears to enhance their academic learning in subjects like English or history as well as technical subjects. Students interviewed also felt that attending the UTC had benefitted their confidence, motivation and engagement as the classroom-based and project-based learning was relevant to real world work situations. Local employers also valued the talent pipeline generated by working with local schools.
Phase one of the research, published in December 2017, showcased the range of approaches and employer awareness that UTCs were developing and highlighted findings that UTC staff and partners felt UTC students were being better prepared for the world of work.
The Edge Foundation Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, said: “This report from NFER draws out good practice from institutions that are focusing on work readiness.
"It identifies the common threads that make them successful in this area: developing links with industry; managing and nurturing the relationship with businesses; building this into the curriculum. Students are clearly benefitting from this experience and insight. There is much for all schools to learn from this approach.”
Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education, Royal Academy of Engineering, added: “University Technical Colleges put engineering on the map early on in the education system and provide students with meaningful connections with industry.
"This report shows how, when done well, UTCs can play a valuable role in technical education provision. They are challenged by a lack of an established place in the education landscape and need more support to spread this best practice.”
To read the full report visit www.edge.co.uk/research-policy/external-research