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Architecture Takes Heavy Toll on Students

Monday, August 15, 2016

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Mental health issues among students studying architecture are widespread in the United Kingdom, a new study suggests.

There, more than a quarter of architecture students report they are currently seeking or have sought help for mental health issues related to architecture school. Another 25 percent anticipate seeking help in the future.

Those are the findings of a recent student survey conducted by Architects’ Journal, a British publication. The survey polled 450 U.K.-based students.

architecture study
© / mediaphotos

Students surveyed expressed fears over the debt accruing over the seven-year course, heavy workloads, long hours and discrimination, according to the Architects' Journal.

Overall, 52 percent of the students expressed concern about their mental health in some way.

The survey figures prompted Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor at the University of Buckingham, to call the situation “a near epidemic of mental-health problems.”

Students surveyed expressed fears over the debt accruing over the seven-year course, heavy workloads, long hours and discrimination, according to the Architects' Journal.

Details of the study are here. A few highlights are below.

Study Highlights Stress

The study found more female students (29 percent) have sought care or advice for mental health than their male counterparts (23 percent).

“A culture of working into the night, the survey confirms, remains endemic in architecture schools,” according to the Journal. Ninety-one percent of the respondents said they had to work through the night to complete their studies at at least one point.

Further, 29 percent of those surveyed admitted to working through the night regularly.

One student commented, “Every architecture student has to do all-nighters, no matter how much you time manage and work hard,” the Journal reported.

Nearly 40 percent of the respondents said they will have accumulated a debt of £30,000 to £50,000 ($39,679 to $66,127) by the end of their course. Despite this, around 30 percent of students in the survey said they had been asked by firms to work for free.

More than a third of respondents (35 percent) felt their course was either “poor” or “very poor” value for the money, the survey found.

The survey also indicated that half of women in the survey said they had experienced discrimination in their studies, compared to one in 10 men.

The findings raise questions regarding the emotional health of future designers in the UK and what the educational institutions and profession can do to ease stress and anxiety in the industry.

“Much could be done to rethink the courses so they align with the architectural education needs of the future rather than the dictates of the architectural big cheeses of the past,” said Seldon.


Tagged categories: Architects; Design; Education; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/15/2016, 8:24 AM)

THIS JUST IN: Architectural Programs Deemed Difficult and Stressful by Students. If working through half the night and stress from the workload are overwhelming students then they are in for a big disappointment when they enter the job market where getting work and keeping the client happy is as big of a challenge as the actual work. The educations received by students going into the traditional "professional" careers are one of the last remaining fields of study that actually try to prepare students for the job market they've chosen to go into. Absolutely no one stands to gain anything by lightening the load for those students. Flash cards and multiple choice tests actually make recent graduates less useful than they were before. I don't want to hire someone who got crushed by an academic workload that has already been dumbed down and I certainly don't want to be in buildings designed by people who couldn't handle the pressure of school.

Comment from Andy Bozeman, (8/15/2016, 8:38 AM)

I agree with JM. World-wide the higher education system is turning out work-load sissies. Try 40 years of 18 hour days, and often, 36+ hours straight. That's the real world; and without mental health issues.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/15/2016, 11:02 AM)

I'm not surprised in the slightest. Architecture students: Welcome to one of the heaviest programs in University. You may have been brilliant and slacked off during high school, but you're going to have a tough time now. At my university, the Engineering students' minimum course load was one that would have required special authorization to take in any other faculty due to how intensive / heavy it was. Architecture is much the same. In fact, one of my Professors in my first year would have agreed with Jesse -> he said our first year was there to weed out the actual engineering students from all the science students who had enrolled in the engineering program by mistake. There is a reason it is a hard program: if a medical doctor messes up once, he kills a patient; if an engineer or architect messes up once, they can kill hundreds or thousands of people. Real world, real, not to be harsh, but if you can't handle that truth and the course load that comes with it, there are lots of other faculties out there.

Comment from Andy Bozeman, (8/15/2016, 11:04 AM)

...just the occasional tic, and the need to crawl under the drawing table and tear paper.

Comment from H. J. BOSWORTH, (8/16/2016, 10:24 AM)

I feel for architecture students! & I disagree with these comments. Architecture programs have traditionally made absurd demands and abused students. And working all night on anything should be the exception - not the rule. Making matters worse, they get out and end up being poorly paid for what they do. And then if they are successful and open their own firm, big business clients like Trump cheat them out of well deserved fees. And they typically do not design their projects for structural integrity - an engineer does that!

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/16/2016, 11:01 AM)

H.J., I understand where you are coming from...and I didn't like the all-nighters and working for a pittance when I got out of school either...but it's part of the process and there is a lot to learn before you can hope to get to the point of being successful and safe (in engineering or architecture). In a perfect world and in many jurisdictions, the architect designs the look and the engineer makes it work...but unfortunately, that isn't always the case. In some jurisdictions, architectural designs don't get engineering reviews. Even outside of that, non-structural elements can fail (like building envelopes)...and the failure of a glass cladding on a high-rise building can be just as lethal to folks on the ground as a structural failure. The simple fact is, engineering and architecture are tough university programs that lead to challenging early careers and that likely won't change in the near future.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/16/2016, 2:13 PM)

From the facade of your kids school to the skylights at the mall to the HVAC unit on the roof and the tires on your car, even the pigments and dyes in your clothes, we all have to trust total strangers with all that we hold dear. "Well your Honor, I didn't want the skylight at the museum to fall and flatten the entire 7th grade student body, but I was recovering from a long night when I signed off on the plans. Besides, if they would have paid me more it wouldn't have fallen. I can't be expected to invest in my work more than my boss has invested in me". There's not even a need for the court system to sentence somebody who said that. If they got out of the room alive it would be a miracle and they'd have no chance of making it home alive. School is easy. Ask anybody who has spent 25+ years in their field and they'll tell you how unprepared they actually were when they left school. It's challenging, engaging and there's no risk. You're learning about yourself as much as you are learning about your field. How do you really respond to unfair and unreasonable levels of pressure? Unfair and unreasonable is the reality of the commercial world and that's never going to change. When you graduate you're ready to start learning. The earning comes later, if you have something valuable to contribute. It takes about a decade on the job to learn enough to set yourself apart and justify a big salary.

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