April 2013 issue

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A profession for real visionaries, there are a number of architecture courses worldwide that help students build the foundation for their careers. Claire Twyman reports.

Architecture is a popular career choice for creatives worldwide and as a vocation it comprises a broad range of disciplines including art, engineering and physics. As entry to most training courses worldwide requires the submission of a portfolio and good grades in physics and maths-related subjects prior to university, only serious students need apply.

At the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Canada, overseas students need all the above to enrol on architecture courses, and non-English speaking students also need an Ielts score of 6.5 or equivalent. With study options including a BTech degree in Architectural Science, a four-year programme, and an Architectural and Building Engineering Technology (ABET) two-year diploma programme, Marita Luk at the university says, “Application statistics for both programmes have been on a consistent high – ABET averages 2.5 applications to each seat.”

“[The ABET gives students] the option to ladder into the architectural science degree,” Luk continues, “It combines sound theoretical knowledge with practical skills and technical training to provide job-ready competencies.” Adding that employers often seek out graduates from the ABET programme, the degree programme, she says, is a bridge between pure design theory and construction practise and “broadens the knowledge and skills of the architectural technologist in areas of current interest to the building community... and improves graduate opportunities for career advancement”.

With students on both courses spending 50 per cent of their study time “engaged in hands-on learning and project-based assignments”, Luk reveals that architecture programmes are popular with Chinese and Indian markets. And at the University of Greenwich in the UK, Nic Clear says that architecture programmes are increasingly popular with Asian students. “However, one key area of growth has been the rise in interest shown by students from former Soviet Bloc countries such as Romania and Bulgaria,” he notes.

Architecture programmes are wide ranging at the university, and include a BSc Hons degree in Design and Construction Management, an MA top-up in Advanced Architectural Design and a PGCert in Landscape Design. “[Some programmes] are professionally accredited by the Royal Institute of British Architects,” Clear says, adding that the school is the base of Advanced Virtual and Technical Architectural Research (AVATAR). “What makes our programmes unique is the emphasis on advanced architectural design and its relationship with creating a more efficient and sustainable future,” he enthuses. “The programmes at the University of Greenwich are priced at half the cost of [our] competitors.”

Roger Fay at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Australia, where architecture programmes include a three-year Bachelor of Environmental Design (Architecture) and a two-year MA in Architecture, explains, “In general, the quality of architecture courses at all public Australian universities is uniformly high due to the stringent accreditation process that takes five years,” adding that international students comprise around one third of the student population at the institution’s School of Architecture and Design. “However, each school has its own areas of interest and strength.” Some of UTAS’s strengths include its “learning-by-making” approach that is internationally recognised, as well as high-tech facilities including laser cutters and 3D printers. “Because we also offer Bachelor of Environmental Design programmes in interior design, furniture design and landscape architecture, students are able to take specialised electives during their second and third years,” she adds.

Course fees at UTAS are around the AUS$18,000 (US$18,518) mark, although “degree programmes at the School of Architecture are included in the very generous Tasmanian scholarship programme which offers a 25 per cent reduction in registered tuition fees for the duration of a course”, says Fay. And in the UK, architecture programmes at the University of Plymouth in the UK are approximately £11,000 (US$17,237) per year, according to Bob Brown, Head of Architecture.

“The MA Architecture programme is aimed specifically at international students,” Brown explains, adding that 40 per cent of BA and MA architecture students are international and that students from the Caribbean Islands, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Eastern Europe are numerous. “International interest in certain architecture programmes has grown in recent years,” he says, highlighting project work organised with local primary and secondary schools was commended by The Royal Institute of British Architects during a recent visit. “The University of Plymouth Architecture and Design society...runs a highly successful bi-weekly lecture series in which they bring in noted architects,” he adds.

Also in the UK, Robert Gordon University offers architecture courses including a BSc Hons in Architectural Technology and a MArch in Architecture. “The master’s programme offers a mixture of studio and lecture/tutorial based education,” says Julie Deighton at the university, adding that modules include History and Cultural Context, Building Technology and a professional experience year in which students receive a salary.

In terms of recruitment, Deighton says, “We use a [worldwide] agent network – we review this once a year and occasionally add new agents provided they meet diligent checks.” Meanwhile, many institutions attend student recruitment fairs.

Viewpoint from Ellen Orchard, PGCert Landscape Design student from the University of Greenwich, UK

“My programme has been eye opening for me. Coming from a background in ecology, I have been thrown into a world of something completely new to me – art. The purpose of the first term was to get all classmates on the same level so that we could move forward with experience in design. For me this means learning the world of art and design and how it can work within a landscape. Most people on my programme are in similar shoes to me, amidst a career change and trying something completely new. I feel lucky to have experienced tutors that allow us to explore the field of design in our own terms. I applied to work on the design studio assistant team at the university and got the job! As an international student, I am only able to work 20 hours a week, so this job gives me the right amount of hours.” To read more about Ellen’s experience, visit http://ellen-greenwich.wordpress.com.

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