Why is the UK hell-bent on pushing out students so fast?
What a joy to wake up to a man on the radio talking about the importance of creative uncertainty, doubt and mystery. He was discussing these qualities in relationship to education, but to me, as I lay in my bed, I was more fascinated by the reference of the words to life in general and architecture in particular.
We know that over a significant number of years we have been creeping towards the opposite of all of these qualities. Society has, wherever possible, tried to eliminate all of them as the unknown is interpreted as risk, and risk is undesirable. In the gentleman's speech, he was referring to the words in an almost spiritual manner, which suggested that university courses should focus on allowing the student to become curious about life and its qualities.
He argues that the three-year period is of paramount importance as an opportunity to allow our students to become better people, and perhaps veer away from the materialistic, cut-throat and stressful world that we have allowed to evolve. Students are allowed to wonder and make mistakes.
I have always held the view that my students of architecture in Vienna can afford to spend all their time up to the age of 30 dipping into education, working a little, travelling and generally gathering experience and, more importantly, a point of view.
After all, there is no significant career mover for a young architect until they are at least 30. I fail to understand why the UK is hell-bent on its youth obtaining their qualification, often at the tender age of 21 or 22.
These people know nothing and have a terrible tendency to simply apply received values which tend to overdose on political correctness. Some of these people become politicians and become responsible for the formation of policy. Thank God for the gap year, which at least delays this dangerous trait for 12 months.
Architecture needs the benefits of wonderment. We see all round us the tedious nature of work done with no art, idea or exploration. Its contribution to society is worse than nothing as it leads to slothfulness, conformity and ill health - which, ultimately, can cost the economy a fortune.
The level of creativity in our country at the moment is at a very low ebb. The ability to be flexible and think round issues, and the will to take risks, are all qualities that we lack, and they all come from taking the time to properly consider this curious place we briefly inhabit.
My students from Vienna usually turn out very well. Having now held my professorship for seven years, I am in a position to evaluate the people we produce. They are diligent, responsible, obliging, curious, keen and creative. All are eminently employable if they want to be, and those that do not make it as architects go off to do some other interesting work or study.
None of the students required any entry qualification; all were welcome. We have the attitude that everyone has the right to explore what they wish. Very often those who would not be allowed to study architecture in a UK university turn out to be the most interesting and have the most to offer. Quality of life or trust is a prime requirement.