Government backs Oxford & Cherwell Valley College bid for Science UTC in Didcot

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A new educational establishment in Oxfordshire could help the county to become a national centre of excellence in science research, engineering and enterprise. The Department for Education has approved a bid to develop a new University Technical College (UTC) in Didcot.

Sally Dicketts, Principal and Chief Executive of Oxford & Cherwell Valley College

“The vision of the UTC partnership is to create a regional and national centre of excellence in science research, engineering and enterprise and for its graduates to fuel the significant expansion of this recognised hot-spot for science and innovation."

Science Oxfordshire UTC, as it will be known, is one of a new wave of 13 UTCs which will open across the country over the next two years.

It is being led by Oxford & Cherwell Valley College together with academic and industry partners.

Based on the new Great Western Park development, the UTC will specialise in science and engineering and provide a high-quality statutory education option for 14 to 19 year olds interested in a future in science or engineering.

The UTC is being led by Oxford & Cherwell Valley College with support from academic and industry partners that include the University of Reading, Royal Holloway University of London and leading employers. The employer partners include Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Milton Park Innovation Centre, Oxford Instruments, JEOL UK Ltd, International Space Innovation Centre, BMW, Unipart Group, Simon Hegele Logistics and Services and MetalTech.

Sally Dicketts, Principal and Chief Executive of Oxford & Cherwell Valley College said: “Oxford is world renowned for science and learning and is home to leading global science-based and other high-tech industries. The vision of the UTC partnership is to create a regional and national centre of excellence in science research, engineering and enterprise and for its graduates to fuel the significant expansion of this national and internationally recognised hot-spot for science and innovation. The UTC will help to fulfil the demand for highly-skilled and qualified young people in the global science and engineering sectors.”

Students of the UTC will have the opportunity to develop sought-after specialist technical skills and knowledge while keeping broader options open. They will study a traditional curriculum, comprising core GCSEs, BTEC qualifications and A-levels, alongside their chosen specialism, providing them with a variety of progression routes into employment, higher level study and apprenticeships.

Local people have had the opportunity to comment on the development of the UTC as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s consultation into educational provision for Didcot.

Cllr Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Education, said: “It is wonderful news for Didcot that the Science University Technical College Oxfordshire partnership has got the green light from the Department for Education.

"The UTC for Didcot is an exciting project with much potential and it promises to play a part in the future delivery of education for some children in the town.

"The scheme doesn't provide all of the places that will be needed and the council is still keen to hear views from people as part of the current consultation into future educational provision for Didcot."

When operating at full capacity, the UTC will take up to 600 students on a non-selective basis from a catchment area that includes postcodes within an approximate 15 mile radius of Didcot. The UTC will open for its first intake in September 2015.        

Lynn Shepherd, Group Director of Communications at Oxford Instruments said: “As a leading supplier of high-tech, scientific instrumentation we rely on a strong pool of highly-qualified technical people to ensure the sustainability of our business. We are excited to be involved in this new educational venture which will help to provide the calibre of people needed to drive our business forward.”

David Martin, Head of Operations and Programme Delivery at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, said: “This is an exciting time for Oxfordshire in terms of addressing the skills issue. Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is working with its partners to increase its offering in apprenticeships and wider skills training. The UTC will be a key factor in accessing suitably qualified and motivated young people to train as the technicians who will keep Oxfordshire and Science Vale UK at the forefront of hi-tech industry in the future."

Professor Gavin Brooks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at University of Reading, said: “Science UTC Oxfordshire will harness some of the University of Reading’s renowned research strengths in the fields of space technology and biological sciences to raise the aspirations of 14-19 year olds in South Oxfordshire. Through academic support, planning and mentoring we will encourage pupils at Science UTC Oxfordshire to progress into further education, training and world-class higher education institutions such as the University of Reading.”

Erich Thanner, Human Resources Director at MINI Plant Oxford, part of BMW Group, said: “At MINI Plant Oxford, working with local partners to foster links between the plant and young people in the area is very important to us. We are very happy to support the proposed UTC and look forward to working in this partnership.”

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Jonathan Goode
Oxford & Cherwell Valley College
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