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Could fee rise push UK students abroad?

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With university fees set to increase to £9,000 a year, studying abroad could be the best option for many UK architect hopefuls

According to UCAS, applications to UK architecture schools have dropped for the first time in three years – a fall of 2.2 per cent this year compared to 2010.

The decline comes as overseas universities, such as Maastricht University in the Netherlands, have stepped up their efforts to recruit UK applicants, pitching their courses as a cheap alternative to home study.

Fears that increased annual student fees – which could be as high as £9,000 per year by 2012 – will intensify the numbers choosing to study abroad could be well-founded.

Robert Mull, architecture faculty dean at London Metropolitan University said: ‘UK students would be foolish not to consider studying abroad if they cannot or will not accept the level of debt being imposed on them.’

Mull admits architecture students choosing to study elsewhere would be a ‘great loss’ to the profession in this country.

But with fee hikes at top UK architecture schools threatening to triple domestic students’ study costs, architect hopefuls will undoubtedly be tempted by cheaper courses overseas.

A growing volume of RIBA accredited and English-taught courses has boosted UK students’ interest in overseas study, which was previously dogged by quality, language and academic entry requirement fears.

Stirling Prize-shortlisted Tony Fretton, who is professor of architectural design and interiors at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said that the ‘breadth and quality’ of US and European education would entice more UK students abroad. 

Nevertheless, Murray Fraser, professor of architecture at the University of Westminster, suggested accommodation abroad alone could cost a student nearly as much as the increased fees they would pay at home.

He said: ‘British students will increasingly tend to study while living at home, just as they do in high-fee cultures like the USA and Australia.’

He added: ‘The trend towards studying at the “local” university is worth considering.’

Under EU treaties UK students can study in Europe and pay only the fee level required by ‘home’ students of their chosen country. In Poland, Finland and Austria, university education is free, and in Malta students receive €80 a month to attend courses.

While tuition fees at the Architectural Association in London are £15,180 per year, at Swiss University ETH Zurich – where a bachelor’s degree in architecture lasts three years and is taught in German – the fee is CHF 580 per semester (roughly £770 a year).

However, in certain cases students who choose to study outside of Europe may need to pay up to £1,300 for a Part 3 exemption before they can join the ARB register. ( Visit the AARUK website for more information).

Winning permission to practice in the UK with overseas qualifications can be a complicated process which is currently more difficult due to the lack of a global or European ‘standard’ for architectural education.

Nevertheless, in 2009 close to 50 per cent of successful applications to join the register were European Union citizens who studied architecture abroad.

The RIBA, which has accredited over 60 foreign schools of architecture, declined to comment.

World map: Selected international architecture schools

World map: Selected international architecture schools

Key: Selected international architecture schools

Key: Selected international architecture schools





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