To train and prepare the architects of the future, today’s architectural education must be the best. A study of architectural education, presented at the end of the year by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA), examined both the current state of architectural education as well as any challenges facing students pursuing this education.
On the positive side, architectural educators report a high level of employment satisfaction. And the majority of architecture pupils are content with their field of study. Academics and practitioners agree about which skills should be taught. And with women comprising 51 percent and 45 percent of architecture graduates in New Zealand and Australia respectively, the profession promises to boast a healthy balance of gender diversity.
Regarding post-grad results, the 2018 Graduate Outcomes survey funded by the Department of Education and Training discovered that eight in ten architecture and built environment masters graduates were applying their learned skills through attained jobs, while three quarters of architectural pupils find architecture jobs within three months of graduation.
Yet, as with everything, challenges exist. A sharp increase in the number of students studying architecture, has not been accommodated by a similar spike in scholarly staff: since 2016, the quotient of architecture students in Australia has increased by 35 percent; permanent academic teaching staff populations have gone up by 14 percent during that time period. Despite heightened levels of satisfaction overall, school staff is experiencing competing pressures to fulfill instructional, administration and research requirements. Students face time-related and financial challenges when pursuing a trying course of study. Sessional staff face pressure to provide architectural education (in Australia and New Zealand, 77 percent and 68 percent of the architecture instructional workforce is sessional). Dwindling resources pose challenges in terms of time restrictions, funds, staff and facilities. Indigenous pupils are not sufficiently represented in architecture classes. The design studio mode of instruction is being challenged by intensified centralisation of space allocations, timetables and financial management. In the curriculum, practitioners desire a sharper focus on practical issues like construction, project and practice management. While topics like technological development, ethical and social responsibility are regarded as valuable drivers of tomorrow’s curriculum development, about one quarter of practitioner respondents would prefer to consolidate basics before expanding into new areas.
Lastly, the study exposed problems in architectural profession data. We currently have no timely info regarding typical timeframes between graduation and registration, no info regarding grad destinations and career paths, no dependable data regarding the number of firms in Australia or their size/practice model or kinds of work completed, no detail on the percentage of students employed in architecture design practices and very little data regarding the diversity of pupils and the architectural workforce.
All of this poses questions about the overall quality of architecture education—and what may have to change.
AACA chief executive officer Kate Doyle proclaims Australia’s standards of architecture to be high. She references graduate outcomes, and the percentage of international students studying architecture in Australia and the success of mutual recognition arrangements with other nations. Australia’s registered architects share mutual recognition with counterparts in New Zealand and 30 states in the United States under the US/Australia/NZ Mutual Recognition Arrangement and with their counterparts in Japan, Canada and Singapore, as per agreements accomplished through the APEC Architect framework. An UK agreement is being negotiated. All of this, in Doyle’s mind, demonstrates the top quality of our architectural education.
Doyle also points out that women comprise 45 percent of architecture students in Australia, but also maintain nearly half of lecturing positions.
And the more these students study abroad, the more exposure they receive to industry best practices.
Nonetheless, Doyle acknowledges that the growth in student population is not being matched by the size of available teaching staff. And sessional teachers must keep up to date in their teachable knowledge.
Doyle said that mentorships and registration programs are a possible solution, along with AACA graduate support programs.
She also says that the National Standard of Competency for Architects observes and respects the current climate in which architects work. Competency requirements must change with the times.
To this end, the AACA is reviewing its standards to guarantee that it reflects the current role of architects in varying modes of practice, and is seeking feedback regarding the current NSCA.
Professor Martyn Hook, Dean of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT University and President of ADBED, the Australian Deans of the Built Environment and Design, says that the report delivers a sound summary of the current state of architecture education.
He also states that topics like centralisation and competing resource demands must be comprehended as general constraints applied throughout the university spectrum.
Hook says that Australian schools must focus, not only on producing quality graduates, but leaders in terms of future practice. He advises that the accreditation of architectural programs and courses must be motivated by competency as opposed to compliance. Schools, he says, must offer specialty education in subjects like design, construction technology, timber, or subtropical architecture. Then students could choose the school that focuses on their specialty. And they must facilitate practical, hands on, work-centered class projects to prepare grads for the real world. He said that, for architects, learning must be a lifelong experience.
Ultimately, Hook says that schools should produce grads ready to work in the office—and toward the improvement of the Australian built environment.