UTC scuppered by college and university dispute

A college principal which helped create the University Technical College (UTC) model has been forced to postpone her own bid.

Stella Mbubaegbu, principal of Highbury College, has been unable to finalise a UTC proposal because of a leadership dispute with the University of Portsmouth.

Paul Whittle, who worked on the UTC bid for Highbury College, told The News, Portsmouth’s local newspaper: “Stella was involved in the concept of the UTC before it was a public idea.

“She was there as part of the genesis – not about being an outstanding college that felt it had to lead.”

Highbury College and the University of Portsmouth have drafted two separate bids in an attempt to take charge of the project.

The college wanted to build the UTC using a site at The City of Portsmouth Boys’ School, a smaller than average comprehensive school with rising pupil attainment.

Mike Smith, Headteacher at The City of Portsmouth Boys’ School, said: “The original proposal was for City Boys to become a UTC It was proposed by Highbury College and supported by the local authority, but we were not initially consulted.

“Once we knew of the proposal we did not support it because we did not believe that children would or should change school at 14.”

The UTC bid from Highbury College was specifically for students aged 14-19, but needed the financial support from a higher education institution.

The University of Portsmouth disagree with the college’s bid and instead believe that an 11-19 institution would be better for the city.

“The University of Portsmouth has been exploring the possibilities for contributing to improvements in the provision of secondary education in the city through the formation of UTC/Academies,” a spokesperson for the university said.

“Our strong view, and that of the school which would convert into the new format, has been that an 11-19 institution is much preferable to a 14-19 institution.”

Highbury College has since approached other higher education institutions to try and find an alternative source of funding.

“Highbury doesn’t sit still,” Mr Whittle told The News. “We are developing other proposals.”

The University of Portsmouth developed its own bid for an 11-19 technical academy worth £10 million on The City of Portsmouth Boys’ School site.

“The University commissioned a consultancy to establish the capital expenditure needed for the proposal (£8-10 million) and an educational consultant to help move us towards a bid,” a spokesperson for the University said.

Mr Smith says The City of Portsmouth Boys’ School was in favour of the University’s bid, despite having some concerns around staff contracts.

“The idea of an 11-19 Technical Academy with the University of Portsmouth came in April, we were fully involved in the planning and it was of interest to our Governors,” Mr Smith said.

He added: “There were likely to be some concerns including staff contracts.

The University of Portsmouth was forced to withdraw the bid when they were told there was no government funding available for anything other than a UTC covering 14 to 19 year-olds.

“The University has now been made aware that the 11-19 model is not included, and that a previously known example had been turned down,” the University spokesperson added.

“The University, therefore, sees no prospect of promoting a bid.”