More power to the RIBA

August 29, 1997

The poor performance of many architecture departments in last year's research assessment exercise is forcing the Royal Institute of British Architects to rethink the structure of architecture courses.

Bryan Lawson, head of the school of architecture at Sheffield University and chairman of RIBA's research committee, said only ten of 36 architecture schools' departments were rated 4 or 5 in the RAE. Sixteen schools achieved 1 or 2. To address this and other problems with architecture, Professor Lawson's research committee is drafting a new RIBA research policy.

Students embarking on the seven-year architecture course normally study for three years to achieve a Part I qualification, followed by a practical year. This is followed by a two-year course leading to a Part II qualification, finishing with another practical year which includes examinations.

"The problem is that universities are trying to teach five years at undergraduate funding levels," he said. "Because the upper part of the qualification is not postgraduate, the normal engine of postgraduate taught courses does not exist and this has led to a lack of specialisation and the absence of a strong research culture."

Professor Lawson would like the structure replaced with a broad-based undergraduate course followed by a more specialised post- graduate course that would allow more research.

For architects to be more powerful in setting the agenda for the built environment they must become significant players in the research field, he believes. "The alternative is further decline in the profession's influence."

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