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A friend in need

Stephen Hodder

You can help the RIBA bring diversity into our struggling student population

Promoting and supporting architectural education is an intrinsic part of our Royal Charter. But for many students in the UK, degree education is becoming largely unaffordable. The length of architecture courses, the introduction of fees and the need for specialised materials, printing and essential study visits, make architecture one of the most expensive professions to join. This is a very different ­situation from the one I and many of you ­experienced during our education.

Against this backdrop I worry that students from poorer backgrounds or different family circumstances may not be able to ­enter the profession.

In 1997, the RIBA Education Fund was set up to ensure that the study of architecture remains financially accessible to all. Its purpose is to alleviate the financial hardship of architecture students, widen participation in architectural education, and reduce student drop-out rates. To date, generous gifts from individuals, the Doric Club, legacies, companies and charitable trusts have enabled the Education Fund to distribute grants to those students in greatest need of support. Since its establishment the fund has provided over £480,000 to support over 380 students of ­architecture in the UK.

An additional trust with similar objectives exists as a restricted fund within the RIBA. Known as the Walter Parker Trust, it was created from a legacy donated in 1927.  Since last September, the income of about £10-15,000 per year from this trust has also been used for student hardship.

In 2012-13, £105,500 from the RIBA Education Fund and Walter Parker Trust was awarded to 102 students – the highest ever to be allocated in one academic year

Demand from students has increased year on year. In the 2008-09 academic year, the fund received 50 applications: by 2011-12 that number had tripled – the highest ever. 

In the 2012-13 academic year, £105,500 from the RIBA Education Fund and Walter Parker Trust was awarded to 102 students enrolled in schools of architecture across the UK on the grounds of financial hardship. This is the highest ever amount of money to be allocated in one academic year. All of this is managed by the RIBA Education Trust Funds Committee with the support of the Institute’s staff.

There are, however, challenges ahead. The fund needs to be sustainable in the longer term to respond to increased demand as student finances become ever more ­restricted. We also need to raise awareness of the funds among students. And importantly, rather than only being of use to existing students who are running out of funds, the Education Trust Funds Committee would also like to be able to offer funding schemes to encourage more students from less well-off families to qualify as architects. The committee has  been considering a bursary scheme that ­encourages more of these students to progress to Part 2 courses.

So an effort is being made to ensure a sustainable fundraising strategy; a strategy I wish to give my full support to. An annual appeal is one component of this strategy and included in this month’s journal is an RIBA Education Fund leaflet. Becoming an RIBA Education Supporter will make a difference to the lives of many architecture students and I hope it is something you will consider. 

Libuan Link-up

Last month the RIBA signed a historic memorandum of understanding with the Libyan Board of Architecture and Libyan Institute of Architects, in a bid to boost the profession there. The institute is looking forward to working with both organisations to improve design and construction skills, education and standards in the country. 

The signing took place during the RIBA’s third international conference, held in partnership with UKTI in early March, where partnering was the theme. 66 Portland Place welcomed visitors from France, Portugal, Malaysia, Libya and China among other countries.

Council elections

Nominations open on 1 April for the next president-elect and for seats on RIBA Council. If you would like to stand please check from 24 March for full details.