Architectural Education in Australia

The Sun Shines on Architectural Education in Australia

Architectural education in Australia is underpinned by a very successful and internationally respected architectural profession. Indeed, over recent years Australian architects have received many major international awards. Glen Murcutt was recipient of the prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal in Finland, Harry Seidler was recipient of the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and Gregory Burgess was recipient of the Robert Matthew Award from the Commonwealth Association of Architects.

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Large Australian architectural practices continue to wield their influence across the world – Denton Corker Marshall has been short-listed for the Scottish parliament project in Edinburgh, and has offices in Asia and Eastern Europe; other leading practices such as Philip Cox, Mitchell Giugola and Peddle Thorp continue to win major projects; and smaller practices with Australian architects contribute to the leading edge of world architecture – such as Koenig and Eisenberg in California, Bolles-Wilson in Germany, Kerry Hill in Asia.

Architecture within Australia is also vibrant and exciting and has received growing media attention particularly in Europe and North America. The upcoming 2000 Sydney Olympics will see a host of exciting new projects exercising a ‘green’ agenda for the 21st century.

All of this derives from a rich and diverse architectural education sector that is also internationally respected. All the fifteen accredited Architecture Schools in Australia are located in Government funded Universities. These schools are accredited by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Boards of Architects in each State under the co-ordination of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia. All courses are also accredited by the Commonwealth Association of Architects and recognised by the RIBA. The Royal Australian Institute of Architects is affiliated with the world body for architecture, the UIA or International Union of Architects. So Australian architectural degrees are recognised in most countries for admission to the profession of architecture.

In all Australian Universities the principal professional degree for architects is the ‘Bachelor of Architecture’ (BArch) which is based on a five year full-time academic program. In some schools there is a two degree structure offering a first degree such as ‘Bachelor of Science Architecture’ or ‘Bachelor of Environmental Design’ after three years, followed by two years to the ‘BArch’ degree. These first degrees are not sufficient for admission to registration as an architect, but they are recognised by prospective employers for employment as an ‘Architectural Assistant’. Most Universities offer advanced standing for students arriving from overseas with prior tertiary qualifications such as Polytechnic Diplomas or preliminary architectural studies.

The Australian ‘BArch’ degree is of a comparable standard and content to the ‘MArch’ degrees now being offered in Singapore and Hong Kong. Australian architecture courses are similar to the British structure and are, in most cases, specifically focused on the subject ‘Architecture’, unlike many US courses where there are many variations and options, some derived from non-architecture based first degrees followed by a professional degree. The simple Australian structure leading to the uniform ‘Bachelor of Architecture’ is clearly understood and recognised by professional institutes and employers internationally.

The current currency exchange situation in SE Asia has seen the Australian dollar falling in value against the US dollar and British pound thus improving Australia’s international competitiveness against both these countries as an education destination. In addition to the traditional catchment of SE Asia, from where thousands of architecture students have gone to Australia over several decades, there is a growing presence in Australia of European, African and North American students who perceive Australia as an attractive and cost effective base for their tertiary study. In general, personal security is excellent across Australia, the weather is beautiful and there are splendid cities, landscapes and natural amenities.

Although uniformly accredited within Australia, the fifteen recognised courses vary widely in their individual structure and educational methodologies. It pays to inquire into the characteristics of each program and the facilities available. Some have an emphasis on scholarship and research; others are ‘avant garde’ and have a theoretical emphasis; others have a pragmatic or practical emphasis focused on the education of future practising professionals. If students are interested in immediate employment within the profession upon graduation, then this question needs to be asked in selecting the most suitable course. It is also worth inquiring if studio space is provided by the University or if this has to be rented off-campus in addition to fees. Some Universities provide a studio work space and equipment with 24 hour access. Fees for international students in Australia are of the order of A$ 14,000 per year. (US$ 8,500, UK£5,150)

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