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University Technical Colleges

Volume 523: debated on Monday 7 February 2011

5. What qualifications he expects to be required for pupils to gain entry to university technical colleges. (38222)

University technical colleges will be 14-to-19 institutions, with 14 being the normal age of entry. We do not expect pupils to be required to have any qualifications to gain entry to a university technical college.

I share the hope that university technical colleges will indeed bring poverty-busting structural change, and I look forward to the establishment of one in Houghton Regis in my constituency. I hope my hon. Friend can reassure me that university technical colleges will not seek to exclude those who are not predicted to get brilliant GCSEs, who may well have just the right attitude to shine in a university technical college.

I am happy to provide that reassurance, and to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his active support for the central Bedfordshire UTC proposals. UTCs will be required to adopt fair and open admission arrangements. They will give priority to the same statutory groups as maintained schools, children with a statement of special educational needs and children in care, and they will not be able to require that children have reached certain levels of attainment or that they have specific qualifications in order to qualify for admission. UTCs are for young people of all abilities.

I welcome the proposal, because we have in this country almost a contempt for technical qualifications and for engineering. Turning that around will require giving orders to the professional organisations and increasing the role and status of people coming out of those courses. Perhaps we might have one or two members of the Cabinet who are thus qualified, even if their only engineering qualification is engineering their financial blind trust to hide where their money is.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to support this development. We intend to have 12 UTCs up and running by the end of the spending review period. He is also right to emphasise the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths, which the Government are committed to.

I share my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for UTCs, but is he confident that the English baccalaureate will not have a cramping impact on the power of innovation in institutions such as UTCs, so that we can ensure the most appropriate education for all their pupils?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. The English baccalaureate is designed to leave ample time in the curriculum for other subjects, including vocational subjects. In the countries around the world that have the best technical education systems, core academic subjects are taught alongside, not instead of, technical or vocational subjects until their students reach the age of 15 or 16. Subjects such as modern languages are critical for the technical and vocational success of young people.