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The university of life

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What is the difference between a pay packet and a grant and between employment and study time? Nothing, it seems

Rafael Viñoly Architects has just launched two in-house programmes: one a training course, the other a research fellowship. It all sounds like a dynamic academic engagement in the cross-fertilisation of educational, practical and theoretical bodies of architectural knowledge. Well done them, I thought. But on investigation, unfortunately, the academic element is. . . er, just academic.

My suspicions were raised when I read the telling words at the end of the architectural training blurb: 'Tuition is free. No academic credits will be awarded.' It goes on to say that the course is for those people 'who find a significant gap between the character of the formative instruction and the requirements of the professional field.' Didn't this used to be called Part 2?

Unpicking the idea that 'architectural know-how is a conveyable body of knowledge rather than an intuitive ability that only develops with experience' seems to suggest that this is not the normal type of work experience.

This is work experience that will instil the Viñoly world view on participants.

The research programme, though, takes the biscuit. Topics, runs the application, 'should have the potential to advance the craft of architecture and should be best pursued in the setting of a leading architectural office'.

No prizes for guessing where that might be: '? fellows are to be resident at Rafael Viñoly Architects in New York City.' Here, terms 'may last from three to 12 months'. So, this is actually a temporary contract for a job - with a three-month probation period!

Admittedly, the pay - or 'financial support' - is pretty good at $60,000 (£32,700) for the year, but the interviewee must submit a full proposal that will be judged on 'the benefit to the research being carried out within an architectural office'. Viñoly will provide space within the firm's New York office, the use of computers and software. Perhaps this is really a win-win situation for both sides, with some lucky person getting a good job and good experience, but it all seems a bit too much like vanity publishing.

In this rather twisted version of 'education', the course appears to have no purpose other than as a glorified Investors in People scheme. The course helps staff - or is it students? - build self-esteem, collect framed certificates, and feel part of a valued team.

Well, you'll be pleased to learn that the AJ can offer its own CPD which makes absolutely no pretensions to patronise your educational ambitions with rewards, prizes or employment.

Simply sit down with your colleagues, a copy of the AJ and work through the following past paper questions.

Surely, getting them right is reward enough - although we do include an incentive package at the end.

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