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Architecture schools hit by fees and Asian economies

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Universities are struggling with a big slump in applications for architecture courses, blaming the drop on student fees and the Asian financial crash.

Course applications are down by 6.5 per cent on last year, according to ucas, but the aj has found shortfalls of up to 12 per cent. The general trend for applications for all subjects is down, but only by 2.4 per cent.

Many schools are racing to fill places through clearing, with almost 80 courses needing students. Tutors fear the drop will result in fewer resources and staff numbers unless there is an upturn next year.

ucas figures last week showed pre-clearing applications at 15,491, compared with last years's figure of 16,574. Denis Carling, senior lecturer and admissions tutor at the University of Huddersfield, said: 'Applications are down by about 12 per cent from last year and very little is coming through in clearing. Fee charging may be the cause: six years of education is a long time. We are looking to take on 60 first-year students but I don't think we will make that.'

He warned that if the drop turned out to be a 'trend rather than a blip' there could be fewer resources, and staff might not be replaced when they changed jobs.

Meanwhile the Asian banking collapse has put a complete stop to the flow of Malaysian students to some schools. Jon Bush, Huddersfield's course leader, said that a consortium of universities that brings Asians to the north of England, ncuk, had suspended operation of its programme for architecture schools. However, he said, the university would not lower standards to beat the shortage.

Chris Cutbush, faculty clerk at ucl's Bartlett School, said there had been a drop in applications but not by as much as 6.5 per cent. 'We are concerned about the drop and will be worried if it continues. It will be interesting to see what will happen next year after everyone is used to the fees.'

Birmingham - which has waived the £1000 fee to protect student numbers - has not seen a drop in applications. School head Professor Peter Madden, said: 'I suspect the fee may be deterring students, but so may the high cost of living in places like London.'

Liverpool University, Kingston and Sheffield have also already filled their courses. Some, however, have still used the clearing system in case students drop out.

riba president David Rock said a downward trend in schools would have to last several years to hit hard. 'Architecture courses are over-subscribed by 500 per cent. A cut will not make an immediate impact.'

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