What Richard Waite and Ella Braidwood reported for AJ’s annual survey is pretty disconserting: results show that 26% of British students of architecture have faced or are currently facing mental health issues. These are attributed to stress caused by:
- student debt and its consequent necessity to get paid jobs (…) almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of respondents said they would have accumulated a debt of £30,000-50,000 by the end of their course (…) 58 per cent of students based in London said their debt would be £40,000 or above (…) nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) reported that they don’t expect to pay off their student loan – an increase from 31 per cent the year before
- no pay or little money for paid work (…) around a third (31 per cent) of students in the survey said they had been asked to work for free by practices. On top of this, some with a salary claimed they were often not paid to work overtime.
- confronting the needs practical training or practice (…) A significant number of respondents felt architecture education was too long (61 per cent) and did not equip them for practice (35 per cent) (…) nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) said construction, technology and business teaching within architecture training was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ (…) RIBA criteria requiring at least 50 per cent of the course to be on design may not leave enough in the curriculum for everything else
- long working hours, exams and coursework deadlines (…) many students claimed the expectation of working long hours contributed to their mental illness. A culture of working into the night, the survey confirms, remains endemic in architecture schools (…) Just over nine in ten (91 per cent) students reported working through the night for their studies at some point – and almost one in three (29 per cent) said they did it on a regular basis.
Such results were meant to cause some turbulence for the academia. Bob Sheil, director of The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, told Dezeen that architectural education and accreditation needed “new models” and he pointed towards the qualification system. He addressed the matters raised by propagating the need for the creation of new programs that can embed the rapid changes occurring in the profession and make the most of student talents.
The high cost of student loans or the low wages are matters only tha state can resolve. But what I find interesting in this survey, is that one of the main stress generators comes from within the academia’s unwritten rules or hidden curricula as mentioned in a previous post. As a student claims in the AJ article: ‘A culture of suffering for your art is promoted within education’. Let’s admit we have all been caught victims in this vicious propaganda. This is why I think more attention should be given to class work and the time spent in class. For if there is enough time for students to work during class time there are at least two major gains: first there is less to be done at home and second they get more help while they are there in class both from their peers as well as from the teachers. Not to mention the confidence of having advanced or completed something at the end of the day.
Waite, R., Braidwood, E., July 2016, ‘Mental health problems exposed by AJ Student Survey 2016’, AJ, available here
Dezeen Magazine, Aug. 2016, ‘Bartlett head calls for new models of education to protect future UK architects’
For more interesting reading visit University of Toronto Mental Health Report 2013-2014