Vocational diversification and influences of social class and gender in educational decision-making: the case of university technical colleges in England

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


University Technical Colleges (UTCs), introduced in 2010, represent a
new form of vocational education for young people in England. They
contribute to an increasingly complex landscape of education and
training, promoted as a creative means of meeting the diverse
educational needs of young people (Fuller and Unwin, Lond Rev Educ
9(2):191–204, 2011). UTCs respond in particular to national and
international policy agendas that seek to promote participation in STEM
subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths). They have been
championed by the UK’s Edge Foundation as providing a “highly
regarded” course of study “with clear progression routes into higher
education or further learning in work,” especially careers in technician
and degree level engineering.
However, there is very limited research evidence to show whether
young people and their parents understand the different options
available, how decisions to attend a UTC are made, nor whether the
education offered in these new institutions enhances or conversely limits
the opportunities of students who attend them.
This chapter draws on data from a project that carried out detailed case
studies in two UTCs in England during 2014. The project addressed the
following core question:
What impact does vocational diversification in the form of UTCs have on the
decision- making and experience of boys and girls from different class
The research used a holistic approach focusing on the whole institution
in relation to the introduction and development of new educational
policies. This encompassed analysis of “the situated, material,
professional and external dimensions” (Braun et al., Discourse 32
(4):585–596, 2011, p. 585) of the schools, recognizing the schools’
origins (and that of their communities), their ethos and culture, their
physical environment and resources, and their staff, students, and families as well as external influences. The chapter offers an analysis of
policy enactments (Ball et al., How schools do policy: policy enactments
in secondary schools. Routledge, 2011) in the two case study institutions
and considers how these enactments may reinforce or challenge historical
patterns of gender and class divisions in vocational education in England.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Vocational Education and Training
Subtitle of host publicationDevelopments in the Changing World of Work
EditorsSimon McGrath
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2019