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Exploring students' experiences of technical and vocational learning in University Technical Colleges during the pandemic

Deepthi, Divya and Exley, Sonia (2023) Exploring students' experiences of technical and vocational learning in University Technical Colleges during the pandemic. British Educational Research Journal, 49 (3). pp. 575-592. ISSN 0141-1926

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Identification Number: 10.1002/berj.3857


University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are newly established (since 2010–11) technical and vocational secondary schools in England, catering for young people aged 14–19. The schools focus strongly on delivering vocational, alongside Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-focused academic, qualifications. The colleges have been introduced as a new means of improving technical and vocational education and training—a sector which in England has faced problems of low quality and low esteem—and in a wider international context of STEM-trained worker shortages. University Technical Colleges have been advertised as offering state-of-the-art vocational learning, involving access for students to the latest equipment and technologies in key industrial sectors, alongside extensive project-based learning in partnership with employers. However, how have UTC students fared in these respects since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns in 2020? In this paper we report on results from a survey of 252 students across two UTCs in England, exploring the technical and vocational learning experiences of these students during the exceptional 2019–20 academic year. Findings from the survey reveal lost learning and training opportunities during the pandemic, particularly where courses with practical elements relied on specific equipment and facilities that became inaccessible during lockdown. The survey also highlights disruptions to apprenticeship arrangements, work experience plans and other engagement with employers. Students in some instances have been effectively forced to stay on in education owing to reduced apprenticeship and employment opportunities for school-leavers. We find evidence of students adapting their aspirations and career goals to the new economic circumstances.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2023 13:06
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2024 00:30

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