The highest ever number of women have applied to study architecture and related subjects at university in 2019, while applications from men have fallen
Official data from admissions body UCAS showed 18,090 women had met last month’s deadline for applications to full-time architecture, building and planning undergraduate degrees starting in September 2019.
This was up 5 per cent from last year (17,170) and represents a huge 38 per cent hike since 2013.
Meanwhile the number of men applying to study the same subjects dropped marginally from 23,560 in 2018 to 23,290 this year.
This means that 44 per cent of people looking to enter the profession through this route are now women.
Harriet Harriss, reader in architectural education at the Royal College of Art, said the rise in female applications was ‘extremely encouraging’.
But she added that numbers tended to drop off drastically at each step of the career path. ’Fewer women complete Part 2 courses and fewer still opt for Part 3 professional registration,’ she said.
Meanwhile the number of people from other parts of the EU applying to study architecture and related subjects in the UK fell by 3 per cent in 2019 to 3,560.
A 6 per cent rise was noted in the number of applications from outside the EU, to 7,110.
Applications from England were up 2 per cent to 24,660. Six in 10 applicants looking to study the subjects at UK universities are now from England.
Numbers applying from Wales fell 2 per cent to 860. Those from Northern Ireland rose 2 per cent to 2,310.
Scottish interest was down 8 per cent to just 2,890 applications.
Scottish architect Alan Dunlop said: ’Students in Scotland almost stumble into studying architecture by accident. Due to cost pressures on councils, the emphasis is on rote and science-based learning and computer skills.
‘Scotland may have an architecture policy, but that is not reflected in what is being built. Procurement, poor building standards, building failures and criticism in the newspaper and broadcast media of the profession in Scotland is making it less attractive to prospective students, combined with the worry of whether they’ll earn enough when they qualify.’
Overall there was a 2 per cent hike in applications to study architecture, building and planning in 2019.
Harriet Harriss, reader in architectural education at the Royal College of Art
’The number of women architects practising in the UK has hovered between a fifth and a quarter of the profession for more than 20 years. There are several factors that are influencing the lack of retention and progression.
’First, the architectural press has – quite rightly – become more proactive about reporting on the issue of gender inequality. But it has been very slow to report on BAME, LGBTQ and disability discrimination, despite the fact that the few statistics that exist reveal the extent of the problem is just as concerning. Students reading these reports in architecture journals, regardless of their gender identity – and we should be making more efforts to discuss issues of gender beyond the binary of male-female – are likely to question whether they want to work within our field as a consequence.
’Second, schools of architecture have been slow to de-colonise their curriculum, meaning that their reading lists, pedagogies and design briefs do not reflect the diversity within today’s student cohort and perpetuate – often unconsciously – biases towards a particular kind of student learner.
’Third, in both architectural education faculties and across architecture practices, poor representation at senior level indicates to BAME, LGBTQ and women students that their chances of professional advancement may be limited within our industry.
’In summary, we should avoid being overly optimistic about undergraduate statistics when both pedagogy and the profession are damaging female, BAME and LGBTQ progression and retention.
’What we need are institutional and professional policies that commit schools and practices to address these inequalities – not as a matter of choice, but as a professional obligation.’
Lucy Carmichael, RIBA director of practice
While it is great to see the continuing rise of female applicants to architecture courses, we need to make greater progress in retaining them. In addition to setting requirements on employment, equality, diversity and inclusion for our Chartered Practices, the RIBA already has a range of initiatives in place to attract, celebrate and progress talented female architects. For example, our role models projects shines a line on exemplar practices, we hold annual mentoring events for future leaders and small practitioners, and a nationwide mentor training and support scheme. We are also currently developing detailed guidance for practices to address the issues which cause gender inequality, and help close the gender pay gap.
There is work to do to ensure talented women stay in the profession and progress to senior levels in practice, and the RIBA is committed to driving the change needed.