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Who are we meeting with?

Publishing the Farrell Review will be just the first step in shaping governmental, professional and public opinion on architecture and the built environment. To ensure our recommendations successfully influence public policy as well as private behaviour and thinking, we recognise that quite a bit of work lies ahead. We will need the support of architects, the diverse other professionals engaging with the built environment, as well as policy makers and the general public. This will require continued work past the date we submit our report to Minister Ed Vaizey and the Department of Culture Media and Sport. To better understand what lies ahead, we sat down this week with Sir Ian Livingstone, who authored, with Alex Hope, the 2011 DCMS-commissioned report Next Gen. Since publishing the report, Sir Livingstone has launched the Next Gen Skills campaign to advocate for the fulfilment of the Next Gen report’s recommendations. The campaign has brought together key members of the UK digital, creative and hi-tech industries to press the government to update the UK education system in order to better prepare students to compete in our digital future.

This week we have also continued our dialogue with professional organisations, including RIBA and Design Council/CABE. In a continuation of our focus last week on early education, we’ve now turned our attention to higher education. This week we hosted a focussed session on the subject of higher education to specifically consider barriers to the architecture profession. We learned this week that there was a 10% drop in applications to university architecture programmes from 2011 to 2012 and that the total number of UK applications also fell, as well as the total share of applications from UK students. This drop coincided with an average 260% increase in fees, suggesting one possible cause, but we’re also considering other issues and barriers that might be dissuading UK students from applying to university architecture programs.

What are we reading?

In preparation for our meeting with Sir Livingstone, we read Next Gen, the report he wrote with Alex Hope, which coincidentally also focuses on educational issues (a primary theme for our week). We’ve also been investigating the successes of his post-report campaign, via its website: http://www.nextgenskills.com/. Additionally, we’ve continued our research from last week on programmes that have successfully introduced architecture learning as a lens for examining a broad range of subjects, including core materials such as English and Mathematics. Last week we wrote about Open City’s educational programmes and this week we looked into an example abroad: the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). CAF has developed a series of resources for teachers, including two textbooks, which offer a series of architecture-related lessons on Science, Maths and more. This initiative, alongside work in the UK, highlights the feasibility of reconsidering our educational structures and norms in order to broaden the way we teach our children and learn about the built environment.

What are we watching?

We’re not the first to investigate our educational system and ask why it is the way it is and what should we change. The RSA has animated an excerpt of lecture by Sir Ken Robinson in which he offers his perspective on the origins of our educational system and considers how we might restructure it.

Photo Credit: Libby Makinson and Shevaughn Gill of Farrells run a one week design studio at the University of Newcastle #oneweekoneseat.

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