The architectural teaching profession is facing a recruitment 'crisis' because the profiles of university departments are ageing more quickly than they attract young academics, according to a new report published last week.
The Association of University Teachers report said that for every young academic under 35 working in a university department of planning or architecture there are currently two colleagues aged over 50. Too few younger staff are being recruited to take over from those who are 'due soon to retire', it said, and association general secretary David Triesman said universities are in 'a precarious state.'
Drawing on statistical data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the association revealed that, in total, 16 per cent of academic staff were under 35 in 1997-98, compared to 30 per cent over the age of 50. It calculated a ratio of 1.9 for this relationship, and across ten groups of subjects only two showed a higher proportion of 'old' to 'young'.
The situation was worst in the education sector, with a ratio of 4.0 and just 9 per cent of staff under 35 compared with 36 per cent over 50. Conversely, the area with least cause for concern in terms of attracting young academics was medicine, dentistry and health with a ratio of 0.9, and 23 per cent being under 35. However, the ratio is low because the numbers sticking with the health professions after the age of 50 is also relatively low - 20 per cent.
Association spokeswoman Monica Hicks said: 'We've got nothing at all against older people and experience is extremely valuable but we have to be concerned if the profession is not attracting the best graduates who'll teach the 10 year-olds of today.'
She conceded that the age profile may be in part due to the long course of architectural training and the fact that many architects come to teaching after having established a practice but still branded it an area of concern. 'It has to be made an attractive option for inspirational budding young architects but on current salary levels and career prospects it's not going to happen,' she said.
But 57 year old Peter Jacob, who is one of the country's longest serving architecture school heads at Kingston University, questioned the findings. 'I think the statistics are suspect only because I know anecdotally that the 36 schools vary enormously and the universities have difficulty collating part-time staff members.'
Jacob added that another possible reason for the skew was that few of his staff are aut members. Jacob's department has 10 full-time staff 'in their 40s and 50s' teaching 450 students, but 30 'young and energetic' part-time tutors.
On 18 May The Architects' Journal will publish a special issue on tomorrow's buildings to coincide with this year's Interbuild. We invite readers to submit projects which are either on site or on the drawing board. Please send:
A4 drawings, or discs (EPS or DXF files, plus hard copies)
photographs of models
project value (if known)
a brief description (150 words maximum)
list of chief consultants
All material should be marked 'Tomorrow's buildings' and sent to The Architects' Journal, 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4GB by 20 April.