New Labour is scrapping funding for the fifth year of architectural education. Instead, it wants private sector employers to award bursaries to students. The shock announcement, given in a written answer by junior minister Kim Howells on 20 January, marks a success for department officials who were successfully challenged in court by the riba over a similar move under the last government.
Scottish Nationalist mp Andrew Welsh had asked Howells why medical and dental students would receive five-year funding, but vets and architects would not. The minister said the health secretary dealt with the former group. As to the latter: 'The Government cannot take responsibility for the supply of those professionals such as vets and architects who are employed predominantly in the private sector. This is a matter for their employers, who will be free to introduce bursary schemes for tuition fees or other arrangements to support students, if they wish.' Howells added that the majority of costs of courses would continue via the Higher Education Funding Council.
The announcement will act as a sad epitaph for the education directorship of Chris Colbourne, who leaves the riba shortly. Several months ago he told the Times Higher Education Supplement that, in effect, he supported four-year funding, even though riba Council had made no such decision and was indeed reviewing the whole of architectural education. Now the decision has been made for it, apparently with the backing of education minister Baroness Blackstone, a former trustee of the Architecture Foundation.