Questions of structural integrity

January 29, 1999

You quote a Higher Education Funding Council for England official as saying that "a change from a five-year to a three-year undergraduate programme plus a two-year postgraduate programme would not change the block grant funding allocated to an institution".

In the early 1990s, the RIBA had to defeat the secretary of state at the then Department of Education and Science in the High Court to prevent his altering (and reducing) the funding basis for architecture courses by designating the final two years of the five as postgraduate in level. I hope that this latest assurance will be confirmed in writing by the secretary of state for education.

But a vital question was not addressed: what effect would the mooted change have on the costs to students? In architecture they already bear five years' fees and maintenance at undergraduate level, coupled with the heavier direct costs of materials for project work, field trips and such.

If structural changes were to add to these financial commitments, fewer recruits might soon produce an effect on block grants. Any review of architectural education must give priority to mitigating the costs of becoming qualified.

Peter Gibbs-Kennet Director, 1980-95, education and practice standards, RIBA, Gloucestershire

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