THE dream of a University Technical College in Swindon is to become a reality after the bid was approved by the Government.
Swindon’s application was one of 15 chosen from the 27 submitted in the latest round of bidding in January, and the town will receive between £7m and £10m towards the project.
The UTC, which will specialise in engineering with business and enterprise and entrepreneurship, will be for 14 to 19-year-olds in the Swindon area who will access high-quality education and training, supported by a range of UTC partners including local companies.
The move has been seen as a return to Swindon’s industrial heritage, as the main focus of the UTC will be engineering.
The concept of establishing a university in the town has been mooted for well over a decade and the opening of a UTC is seen by many as the first step to achieving this.
Swindon Council has additionally allocated up to £500,000 towards the possible conversion of a former railway works building in the Railway Village – Workshop A -–which has been identified as the preferred site for the UTC.
Deputy council leader David Renard, who is also cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I’m really delighted. I had a great deal of confidence in the team that we put together to put forward the bid and to present the case.
“We were getting really positive feedback at all stages of the process so I was always incredibly hopeful we would be successful.
“Now I’ve heard I’m absolutely delighted and now we’ve got to move to the next phase of the programme which is working with the Government to agree a location and deliver the UTC.
“They will be working with us to look at that, they might want to look at other options, but I’m absolutely clear from the Swindon partners’ point of view that Workshop A is the preferred option.”
A UTC is a new concept, with the first – the JCB Academy – being set up in Staffordshire.
Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, an international hi-tech firm that has its headquarters at Lydiard Fields, is the main business sponsor and Oxford Brookes University is the university sponsor.
Coun Renard said: “It’s good for the young people so they can get qualifications in engineering and hopefully move on to work for some of Swindon’s top employers, and the employers will be getting local talents who have studied and had work experience with them.”
Paul Inman, the pro-vice chancellor at Oxford Brookes University, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement. I lived in Swindon for many years and it’s something Swindon desperately needs and it’s a really good thing for the future.”