The first ever standalone university technical college (UTC) to be hit with a financial improvement notice must draw up a recovery plan and explain how it will increase student numbers.

The notice to Daventry UTC was sent to trust chair Professor Nick Petford on April 14, but was only officially published by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) on May 6.

The EFA issued the notice “as a consequence of the trust failing to balance its budget” and because the UTC was forced to seek “additional financial support”.

Daventry, a 14-to-19 vocational institution, was ordered to provide a “robust deficit recovery plan” based on “realistic pupil numbers” and to outline how it intends to attract sufficient pupils to “ensure future viability during the recovery period and beyond”.

Figures obtained by FE Week through Freedom of Information requests made earlier this year show that Daventry has been running at 25 per cent capacity this academic year.

It had just 151 students enrolled in 2015/16, down from 169 in 2014/15 — despite a capacity of 600.

Reflecting on the notice to improve, the principal of Daventry UTC, David Edmondson, told FE Week: “Lower student numbers than anticipated has impacted upon the income stream during our establishment.”

But he added: “A robust plan is in place to address this.”

This news comes after a separate academy trust, which administers one UTC, was handed a financial notice to improve in March, as reported by our sister paper FE Week.

Bright Futures Educational Trust, which runs nine schools in the north-west, including Wigan UTC, was told it must improve its “weak financial position and financial management” or face closure.

The trust was ordered to repay an advance of funds it received from the EFA to plug finances at Wigan UTC and another of its schools, and achieve a balanced budget by 2017/18.

Publication of the Daventry UTC notice came days after UTC Lancashire became the fourth college of its kind to announce it would be closing its doors due to low student numbers.

It said in a statement on May 3 it would close for good at the end of this term — just three years after it opened — due to difficulties in enrolling enough students “to secure future financial viability”.

Central Bedfordshire UTC announced in March that it would close in August, after admitting it had not been able to attract sufficient pupils.

Hackney UTC closed in July 2014 after problems attracting learners, and Black Country UTC closed its doors in August 2015 after a “disappointing” Ofsted inspection and low student numbers.

Charles Parker, chief executive of the Baker Dearing Trust, which promotes UTCs, said: “It is still early days for many UTCs and recruiting students aged 14, which requires them to change schools, remains a challenge in some areas.”

He added: “Over time most UTCs are becoming an established part of the local community, with high enrolment rates.”

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment

  1. Gerry

    I am surprised at the general lack of information in the media concerning the UTC initiative.
    I followed the UTC that started in Newhaven in Sept 2015, and was surprised to find the Principal had already departed, and there was an Acting P in place. This could mean that when a new appointment is made the UTC will have had 3 Principals in a year.
    The current intake is approx 80, capacity 600, 55 doing GCSE level work and 25 doing A level standard work.
    How this will ever be an effective and efficient use of resources will be a major challenge, and many millions has already been invested in the buildings etc.
    It appears several other UTCs across the country are also finding life difficult.
    The idea may sound good but I am not confident the sponsors, promoters, and legacy building individuals have the knowledge and experience to make this work.
    There are so many initiatives, in both institutions and curriculum I doubt that students, parents, employers all know what is going on out there.
    A pity as investing resources in the young people of today could not be more important.
    Why is this not being discussed more openly in the media?
    People have a right to know where and how their money is being spent.