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Vacancies add to fees fear

Fears that the introduction of university top-up fees will slash the number of architecture students have not been eased in the aftermath of this year's A level results.

The AJ has learnt that there are still plenty of places available for would-be architects, despite reports that students of other disciplines have had to battle for courses.

At the time of going to press the University of East London, the Robert Gordon University, Liverpool John Moores University and others were offering courses through the UCAS clearing system.

The Kent Institute of Art and Design, which has been beset by problems, and the University of Central England, which saw a record number of students fail their degrees

last year, also had places.

Concern is growing that the number of applicants could plummet once the new top-up fee policy is introduced in 2006.

David Dunster, Roscoe professor of architecture at the University of Liverpool, said: 'The future isn't rosy. I wouldn't be at all surprised if top-up fees become really quite a serious issue for schools of architecture. Even within the term of the current government, I can see one school of architecture going to the wall every year.'

With students having to pay an extra £3,000 a year in fees, architecture students who want to take their Part 2 examinations will undoubtedly find the cost of university life increasingly punishing.

The RIBA's acting head of education, Chris Ellis, has already voiced his concerns to the Secretary of State and a report on this feedback, entitled Gateways to the Professions, is due out in a few weeks.

Ellis said: 'This is a major issue. The whole thing is going to get worse from 2006.

'The level of debt may well deter those wanting to stay on for Part 2 and it is likely the number of those falling by the wayside will increase.'

His fears are echoed in research released by the training organisation City & Guilds last week, which claims architecture will be hit by 'severe skills shortages' by 2020.

Jeremy Till, the director of architecture with the University of Sheffield, said: 'Top-up fees will have a profound impact. We are already finding a majority of students take two years out before starting Part 2. We had one year when only a third of students returned.'

by Richard Waite

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