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Demand for architecture courses increases despite top-up fees

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The widely predicted drop in the number of architecture students joining courses following the introduction of university top-up fees has failed to materialise.

According to figures obtained by the AJ, there was actually an increase in the number of school-leavers wanting to study architecture this year, which stood at 23,232, up 0.4 per cent from 2005.

The statistics will shock many observers who forecasted a drop in numbers as a result of the additional fees - which can mount up to an extra £3,000 a year for architecture students who want to take their Part 2 examinations.

Education experts also pointed to the number of places left last year at institutions such as the University of East London and Liverpool John Moores University as a possible early signal of a decline (AJ 25.08.05).

But one person not surprised by the news was Simon Allford, the RIBA's vice president for education, who says he believes the degree will remain popular - and not just with wannabe architects.

Allford said: 'Architecture is a great education, and not just for architects. The first degree should not be seen as purely vocational; it is a good general degree.'

However, the revelations that top-up fees have not made much of an impact on the numbers will only fuel criticism from some quarters that the five-year course is only financially viable for more well-off students.

Allford thinks this is missing the point. He said: 'My feeling is that [the students] might start out rich but they will end up poor, which is the real problem with our profession.

'There is an outdated view that commercial savvy, or indeed success, somehow compromises creative output.'

by Richard Waite

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