Are Top-flight Architecture Schools Worth It? 2

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Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
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A new list of leading architecture schools shows that the best training and education branding in the world doesn’t come cheap.

A list of the world’s best architecture schools indicates that obtaining top flight training in the discipline comes at a highly exorbitant cost.

The latest list of the world’s best architecture faculties released by career and education consultancy QS puts the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in first place, with an overall score of 96.5 based on a raft of indices including academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio and citations per faculty.

MIT is followed by University College London and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, with scores of 96.2 and 91.2 respectively.

The University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University round out the top five, with scores of 88.1 and 87.6 respectively.

According to the QS list the tertiary institutions with the best architecture schools in Australia are the University of Sydney, which took 17th place overall with a score of 77.6, the UNSW, which came in 22nd place with a score of 75.0, and RMIT, at 33rd place with a score of 71.9.

Few of the degrees from these prestige schools come cheap, particularly compared to the plethora of online training courses and education resources that are currently available over the Internet, and can be accessed for minimal cost, or even free should the goal of a student be disinterested learning without obtaining a qualification.

The cost of nine months’ tuition at the world top architecture school was USD$43,720 for the 2014 – 2015 school year, with undergraduate board and room expenses estimate to be within the vicinity of USD$13,224, and books and personal expenses around USD$2,790.

Here in Australia the architecture remains one of the more expensive degrees that an undergraduate can pursue, with a year of full time study costing around AUD$27,560 for domestic students, as compared to roughly AUD$22,000 for a degree in economics or the social sciences.

While top-flight architecture training from a marquee-brand school isn’t cheap, it confers an immense advantage upon graduates once they hit the job market. The imprimatur of a prestige alma mater as well as the powerful networks they can provide virtually guarantees choice employment opportunities for recent graduates.

Whether or not the immense premium charged by top-flight architecture school is worth it over either the short or long-term remains uncertain, however.

According to figures from Graduate Careers Australia the average salary for architecture graduates at all degree levels in Australia is $46,000 while in full-time employment.

This is a very humble sum given the tuition fees and opportunity costs incurred by taking up a degree in the profession, and less than the expense of a single year of training at the world’s top university for architecture, MIT.

Other sources cite a significantly higher figure for the average salary of design architects, with compensation information company PayScale estimating it to be AUD$59,752 in Australia, with total pay edging towards AUD$97,700 at the upper end.

Should architects eventually manage to climb to better-remunerated positions within the profession, then the higher tuition fees would appear to be well justified over the long run in purely economic terms.

Some sources point out that once a professional is five or ten years deep into his or her career their alma mater becomes an issue of less relevance, with their last work post serving as the chief deciding factor for prospective employers.

A prestige university nonetheless plays a vital role in opening the doors to those highly critical opening jobs, that enable budding design professionals to embark upon the chain of CV building needed to secure the long-term success of their careers.

 

 

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  1. Good points, Gordon. In addition, the profession was savaged during the Great Recession, with some large firms laying off one-quarter or more of their staff.

  2. Roger Johnson

    One of the issues this does raise revolves around the cost of studying and the equity of opportunities for those from lower income backgrounds.

    I'm not really uptodate with current university funding arrangements, but the important thing is that all payments should be able to be deferred so that graduates pay for their education only when they have sufficient means to be able to do so.

    Not to make education realistically affordable to all would be inequitable and unjust. It would also rob professions not just in architecture but across the board of much needed future talent.