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UCAS reports 17% drop in architecture applications

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University admission service UCAS has reported a 17 per cent drop in students wanting to study architecture compared to this time last year

It came as the total number of university applications dropped 9 per cent ahead of planned fee hikes to £9,000 a year in September.

Alex Scott-Whitby of Studio AR said the fall was ‘bad for students and bad for the profession’.

‘It will make it very difficult for a school to argue for more space for teaching.’

ORMS’ John McRae said there was concern architecture could become ‘elitist’.

Nigel Coates, RCA architecture professor emeritus suggested the ‘nosedive’ was a ‘response to universities treating education as a business, and a risk-free one at that.’

RIBA director of education David Gloster however played down concerns.

He said: ‘Architecture lies within a broad group of subjects that are down in applications compared with this time last year, so it isn’t in any way notable for its lower figure at this stage.’

Just 2,536 people had expressed an interest in ‘Architecture, Build & Plan’ courses in time for the 15 October deadline for applications to Cambridge.

The deadline for architecture at all other UK institutions is 15 January, when the complete picture will be known.

Further comment


Richard Rose-Casemore, director Design Engine

The figures are for the UCAS category of  ‘Architecture, Building and Planning’, so the apparent decrease in interest isn’t necessarily attributable to architecture alone.  However, it is perhaps no coincidence that the introduction of new tuition fee and living cost loans to one of the longest courses should show these results.

There has been much discussion over the length and nature of architectural training, and some Schools have been more experimental than others with their course programmes.  These new UCAS statistics would appear to force the issue of the debate on an appropriate balance of time spent in School and in Practice to complete an architectural training.

Another aspect of these results may lie in the perception of the health of the wider construction industry.  The loan repayment of 9 per cent of income over a £21,000 salary may appear manageable once that salary level is reached, but the current state of the industry is such that there is little job certainty in the first place.


Glenn Howells, director Glenn Howells Architects

What we seem to be experiencing is the combined effects of the hike in tuition fees coupled with increased uncertainty in the economy. The weakness of the economy makes it more difficult for families to commit to supporting students entering higher education.

At the same time the current difficulty for graduates to get a job after university is hardly an incentive to start an architecture course where the total cost could easily exceed £100,000.

This is underlined by the most pronounced drop off in applicants being in the Midlands and North of England, which are the areas most severely hit by the downturn.

Mark Power, director Mark Power Architect

Architecture is a long course to full qualification, and increasingly perceived as a chronically underpaid profession. Therefore architecture is unattractive to students who already are contemplating a delay to them joining the career and earning ladder and years of paying off their loans. 

This is bad news for schools struggling to resource their courses within a system that equates funding directly with student numbers. Architectural Design is best taught through the one to one tutorial method and this is becoming unfeasible in a climate that persistently gives priority to quantity over quality.

Superficially this appears to be good news for a profession which has in recent years seemed overcrowded – too many architects pursuing too few jobs – a condition which erodes potential earnings.

However the profession would not be overcrowded if it were more effective at seizing/ lobbying for a larger share of the construction industry’s design and project management roles - for which high level qualifications are absolutely essential. The profession needs those entering it to be high in knowledge and ability, not in number.

[We should aim to] detach the level of funding for Architecture courses from the numbers of students on them. Funding of courses should instead be geared to the quality of their taught content. 

The harder task is to foster in society as a whole the perception that long term value in our built environments is the result of imaginative, synthetic thinking and creative, sustainable design; that architects, whose education/ training at its best uniquely cultivates these abilities, ought to be much better placed within the construction industry than they currently are to lead and deliver this value, which can in the long term benefit us all in perpetuity through the continuing quality of our buildings and urban fabric that we are inclined to take for granted.



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Readers' comments (1)

  • Anyone considering a career in Architecture but daunted by tuition fees could give some thought to Architectural Technology as an alternative. Here at Southampton Solent we have a strong design emphasis as well as the technological side, and visiting Architects involved in realistic design briefing and critique.

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