Evaluation of University Technical Colleges

By NFER (published February 2019)

Evaluation of University Technical Colleges

This new report is the final phase of a two-phase project by National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) examining the project-based learning (PBL) and employer engagement aspects of University Technical Colleges’ (UTCs) curriculum development and delivery. The Buck Institute for Education defines PBL as a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate a complex question, problem or challenge, usually with links to real-world practices. The authors for this report selected three UTCs that provided examples of differing employer engagement and PBL approaches, interviewing three senior leaders, five heads of department, two teachers and three employers. In addition, five focus groups were conducted, as well as 200 completed questionnaires were received from Year 11 and 13 students. Pupils characteristics data, attainment data and Key Stage 2 average point scores were used to produce background data.

As reported in phase 1, students interviewed in phase 2 felt that attending the UTC had benefited their confidence, motivation and engagement. Students across both year groups felt that their classroom and project-based learning supported one another. They welcomed the increased freedom from curriculum guidelines and opportunity to develop transferable ‘work-ready’ skills. 60% of the employers surveyed valued problem-solving, alongside resilience and communication as one of the three most significant considerations when recruiting school/college leavers. Higher performing UTCs engaged with employers to utilise their recruitment and sector-specific knowledge to input into curriculum design and delivery. The three-case study UTCs recommended that successful employer-informed PBL requires targeting the right employers, training staff to embrace employer input, employ key staff with industry backgrounds and make employer contributions clear and easy to understand.

Download the NFER report here.