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RIBA student reps blast architecture schools over ‘excessive’ costs

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A trio of RIBA student representatives has written to the heads of all the UK’s architecture schools demanding answers over the ‘excessive’ financial burden facing the next generation of architects

The group says students are being forced to pay out for an increasing number of compulsory ‘high-cost modules’, including field trips, large-scale models and ’unnecessary volumes of printing’.

The letter (see bottom), which urges schools to offer more generous subsidies and provide alternative ways of assessing students, has been put together by RIBA Council student representatives Abigail Patel and Simeon Shtebunaev and associate representative Selasi Setufe.

It reads: ‘It is our belief that architectural education should not be a cause for financial hardship. We will work to ensure that the practice of shifting the financial burden for study costs on the students is eradicated.’

The trio are wanting the schools to come clean on whether their modules been ’designed to keep student contributions to a necessary minimum’ and how much schools expect students at both Part I and Part II on top of their fees.

Shtebunaev said the letter was prompted after judging the RIBA hardship fund which had received more than 300 applications from students. He told the AJ: ’[In these applications] compulsory field trips, printing costs and large model costs were direct reason for the student incurring debt.

’In many cases the structure of the course and module design were oblivious to costs.’

Last year the AJ’s survey into architectural education painted a bleak picture of student life, with many struggling with crippling debt and mental health issues.

More than four in 10 (44 per cent) of the nearly 500 UK-based respondents said the financial burden of studying to become an architect was the biggest issue facing them and their peers. A similar percentage said they expected they would never to be able to pay back their debt.

Almost two fifths of those polled (39 per cent of all full-time students across the entire UK) said they would have accumulated between £30,000 and £50,000 of debt by the end of their courses.

Student survey 2017 student debt

Student survey 2017 student debt

Open letter sent to the Heads of Schools delivering RIBA Accredited Courses

Preventing Financial Hardship in Architectural Education

It is our belief that architectural education should not be a cause for financial hardship. It is our belief that schools providing architectural education have pastoral responsibility to ensure that their courses do not push students into financial hardship and to provide suitable provisions to support and prevent financial hardship. It is our belief that high-cost modules such as field trips as well as large-scale models and unnecessary volumes of printing should not be compulsory, should have an alternative assessment provided and/or be subsidised by the university.

Therefore:

  • We call on Heads of Schools to respond to our call and publish details outlining their arrangements for school field trips, large-scale models and cumulative printing in their course and module structure. We call on Heads of Schools to publish details about alternative assessment provisions and/or subsidised programmes.
  • We call on Heads of Schools to ensure that compulsory requirements within degrees of architectural education are fully costed and that there is no excessive financial burden places on students of architecture.

This letter presents our personal views as individuals and recent students/graduates. We hope that all Schools will respond to our call before the beginning of the next academic year (2018-2019). We will work to ensure that the practice of shifting the financial burden for study costs on the students is eradicated.

Signed:

Abigail Patel, Student Representative on RIBA Council, North West Regional Council
Selasi Setufe, Associate Representative on RIBA Council, co-VP Students and Associates
Simeon Shtebunaev, Student Representative on RIBA Council, co-VP Students and Associates

Earlier this month the AJ launched its 2018 student survey to find out what you think about your education. The results will form an important part of our research into the realities of student life.

Take the AJ student survey here

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Readers' comments (2)

  • A great drawing is a great drawing regardless of what paper it's printed on or what it's drawn with. The same goes for model making materials, reused cardboard beats most materials every time.

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  • Industry Professional

    We want to hear from students about such experiences. Contact us on, especially if you are working or studying in higher education: futurearchitectsnetwork@gmail.com

    Simeon Shtebunaev

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