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Green light for Swindon’s University Technical College bid - UTC great news for Swindon

Swindon could once again produce some of the country’s finest engineers after the Department for Education accepted a bid to open a University Technical College in Swindon – The Swindon UTC, subject to a funding agreement with the Government. Joint sponsors Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Oxford Brookes University submitted a bid earlier this year to host the 14-19 college in Swindon and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Hill, gave his approval to the bid today, 29th May. The bid was fully supported by Swindon Borough Council and Swindon College, both of whom were involved in the detailed planning of the proposal. The Council has approved £500,000 worth of investment to help set the college up and Swindon College will continue to be directly involved in setting up the engineering studies.

Johnson Matthey and Oxford Brookes’ Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment will now design a college with an engineering focus, supported by business and enterprise, to meet the needs of local employers for technically skilled employees.

It will also place Swindon at the forefront of a leading edge development in technical education provision and give young people more chances to gain a higher education qualification or apprenticeship. Students will combine practice and theory to learn in a very practical way, integrating academic requirements with the technical and practical elements. The college ethos and curriculum is heavily influenced by local and national employers who will also provide support and work experience for students.

Cllr David Renard, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council and the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “I am really pleased the Government has backed the bid for a University Technical College as it will provide a real boost to our education provision here in Swindon.

“Some of the country’s finest engineers worked in the town’s railway works and I’m sure with the announcement of this successful bid, Swindon will produce many more.”

The UTC will receive expert backing from its two sponsors: Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, a world leader in the production of catalysed components for use in fuel cells – a technology for generating low carbon power- and Oxford Brookes’ Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, as well as from Swindon College which has a long history of delivering engineering courses.

Dr Jack Frost, Director of Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, said: “We are delighted to be the main employer sponsor with Oxford Brookes University and to support this unique engineering college.

“We are excited about its future and confident that the Swindon UTC will develop and provide high quality engineers to support local and national industry. This example of vocational balance in education will prepare students for work in industry and will produce better skilled engineers that are attractive to employers.”

Paul Inman, Pro Vice Chancellor at Oxford Brookes University, said: “Oxford Brookes University is delighted with the decision to create a UTC for Swindon. This will provide young people with a fantastic opportunity to gain highly desirable skills and raise aspirations in progressing to higher education or technically based jobs in the region. Engineering talent in the UK is amongst the best in the world, but we need to see many more young people making an active career choice in this field. We will continue working with our partners in developing the UTC which will be of significant benefit to young people, employers and the economy.”

Andrew Miller, Principal and Chief Executive of Swindon College, said: “As the main provider of vocational and technical education and training in Swindon, Swindon College sees significant benefits from a local UTC, in terms of skills and workforce qualifications for the engineering and manufacturing employers in the area. We look forward to working closely with the UTC and can see benefits for young people from close collaboration and progression opportunities at Swindon College.”

The proposal has been approved to move to the development stage for opening to 14 – 19 year old students in September 2014. Swindon Borough Council will provide the sponsors with resources for local project management to work with the Department for Education during this next phase. Priority areas of work will involve agreement on the premises, setting up the engineering curriculum with local employers, appointing a governing body and securing agreement on the admissions policy.