‘They don’t have the right skills for work,’ report warns

Architecture schools are failing to turn out students who are equipped with the right skills for the working world, according to a wide-ranging RIBA survey.

The 28 page Skills Survey report, carried out by RIBA Appointments, found that 74% of students and recent graduates and 81% of employers think architectural education puts theoretical knowledge ahead of practical ability.

In addition, an overwhelming majority of respondents from both groups (86% of employers and 82% of students and graduates) believe that architecture students and graduates lack the knowledge to build what they design.

Eighty per cent of employers said students and graduates lack the practical skills needed to practise architecture, a judgement that 73% of the latter shared.

In terms of skills, the survey laid bare a generation gap on attitudes to drawing. Only one third of students and graduates regarded hand drawing as a desirable skill compared to 70% of employers. However knowledge of 2D and 3D CAD was rated highly by both groups.

There was also agreement that courses are too expensive. Nearly three quarters (74%) of employers and 82% of students and graduate architects said fees were too high. Nearly half (48%) of students and graduates said courses should be shorter.

The survey, the second of its kind to be carried out by RIBA following an earlier exercise in 2011, also reveals a buoyant labour market for graduate architects. Of the firms surveyed, three quarters said they have recruited a student or recent graduate in the last 12 months while two-thirds had hired a Part II assistant.

Paul Chappell, manager at RIBA Appointments, said: “The skills survey highlights some areas for concern, with a widespread feeling that many architectural students and graduates are simply not being provided with the skills they need to work in practice.

“At the same time it is recognised that architecture is not just a technical skill and students do need to understand the development and meaning of architecture and its place in culture and values.”

Last year Patrik Schumacher warned that Britain’s global architectural dominance was at risk because students are studying the wrong subjects.

The German-born director at Zaha Hadid Architects said British architecture students’ failure to tackle a tougher scientific agenda was putting them at a competitive disadvantage with their peers around the world.

“We need a new skill base,” he said. “Twenty years ago you could just come in with an art degree and just let your pen flow but now, to have the next level of precision and complexity, that’s no longer sufficient. Britain compared to some other countries has a lack of analytical rigour and analytical learning and therefore [students] are not as competitive perhaps in helping us to conquer the world with new architecture.”

The survey’s findings will feed into a review of architectural education that the RIBA is currently undertaking.



79% of employers and 77% of students and graduates believe more time should be devoted to practice during training in order to ensure graduates are more ‘work ready’ when they enter practice

54% of employers and 62% of graduates think there should be alternative routes into architecture such as apprenticeships

Two thirds (65%) of employers surveyed said they often struggle to find staff with the right skills and experience

Nearly all (98%) of the students surveyed plan to take their Part 3 qualification

Part I students expect their salaries to be £500 higher than employers do