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Profession and schools unite to fight ‘detrimental’ fees hike

The RIBA and architecture schools body SCHOSA have launched a bid to persuade the government that architecture’s Part 2 diploma should be exempt from the full impact of the tuition fee overhaul

The last-ditch attempt to sway Whitehall policy follows protests in London, which saw students vandalise the Conservative Party’s Millbank Tower headquarters in response to proposals to hike annual tuition fees up to £9,000.

The government is set to raise the university tuition fees and withdraw ‘block grant’ funding to a raft of courses, including architecture, in line with controversial recommendations in the Browne Report. Only STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine – courses will retain some central funding.

Now the organisations are lobbying policy makers and talking up architecture’s role, in particular how architects are tackling climate change and Big Society policies, in the hope that the government will align the discipline with ‘nationally important’ STEM subjects and agree to retain its funding.

RIBA president Ruth Reed said the proposed reforms would be ‘detrimental’ to schools’ international standing and raised ‘serious concerns’ for courses.

Reed said: ‘Architecture will receive no block funding, and unless individual universities cross-fund, course delivery costs will have to be found from fee income alone. The consequence of increased fees will be significant for all students, and although the impact will be felt across the disciplines, for students on longer courses such as architecture it will be considerably greater.’

Gordon Murray, head of the school of architecture at the University of Strathclyde, is leading the Standing Conference of Heads of Schools of Architecture’s bid. He said: ‘Architectural education is a culturally significant activity, embedded in both art and science, and has demonstrated a worth that has long-awaited full acknowledgement.’

If successful, the bid could reduce Part 2 students’ fees and help keep open the UK’s 42 RIBA-accredited schools. A top-level source says rocketing fees would cause some to close and the number of architect graduates to decrease to an elite few.

Last week a UCL Bartlett School of Architecture student protester said the fee increase, which could leave Part 2 students facing debts of more than £60,000, would make architecture even more ‘the preserve of the rich’ and justified direct action.

Caine Crawford of student group Archaos added: ‘The architectural profession, through the Architects Act, is recognised by government as an important contributor to our society. It is only right and proper that the way our education is funded is better supported.’

 

Further comment

 

Jeremy Till, dean of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster

[The] main issue for architectural education is the funding of Part 2, which is going to be extremely vulnerable with the extra length of the course and no extra funding from the government. At present SCHOSA are working with RIBA to make the case for Part 2 funding, but in any case, my hunch is that Universities will begin to offer shorter Part 2 courses, probably with some element of accredited work-based learning. 

Yes, of course I think that protest against broken promises is legitimate, and I suspect it will go on. It was not just students marching last week, it was staff too. The two tier system is not applicable just to architects - it will be across higher education, but the length of the architecture course will exacerbate it, and potentially limit the number of people from poorer and non-standard academically groups.

 

Alan Dunlop, visiting professor at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment

Speaking as both an architect in practice and professor running a MArch unit, I absolutely recognise the importance of proper funding for Part [2] students. The Masters degree is an intensive and exhaustive course which demands total commitment from the student and combines both theoretical and design work with professional practice and how to build.

It must be properly funded otherwise we run the risk of producing second rate architects in the UK with neither the knowledge base nor confidence to succeed in a difficult world.

 

Paul McGrath, founder ofThe Association of Part Two Architects

The Association of Part Two Architects [is] campaigning for fair recognition of the Part 2 qualification in architecture. Since The Browne Report was published we are led to believe it will now cost upwards of £40,000 to achieve Part 2 status. As only 50 [per cent] of those starting Part 2 will ever make it onto the UK register of architects, formal recognition of Part 2 in its own right is long overdue.

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • I understand the funding of sience and medicine as these disciplines have always been a research base funded, but to withdraw architectural based funding and retain funding to technology and engineering seems to debase architecture as a lesser discipline.

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