AJ Survey shows high percentages of mental health problems among students of architecture


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

Validation of non formal and informal learning


Validation: a process of confirmation by an authorized body that an individual has acquired learning outcomes measured against a relevant standard (Council of the EU, 2012) It is about making visible the diverse and rich learning of individuals and attributing value to the learning of individuals irrespective of the context in which this learning took place. Its purpose is to produce proof of learning, potentially to be exchanged into future learning and/or work.

Four phases of validation of an individual’s learning outcomes:

  • identification: of knowledge, skills and competence acquired. It is important for the individuals’ self-awareness. It is a methodological challenge. It is supported in some countries by the use of standarized ICT tools allowing self-assessment. It often involves advisers and counselors that help the candidates explore the tools at their disposition. Ready made solutions can fail to identify particular skills and competencies.
  • documentation: as in provision of evidence. Building of portfolio/work samples/dossier
  • assessment: the stage in which an individual’s learning outcomes are compared against specific reference points and/or standards. The phase depends on the reference point. Assessment tools need to be able to capture each individual and the context in which learning took place. (individual specifity)
  • certification: commonly the award of a formal qualification, sometimes a license. The value of the certificate or qualification depends on the legitimacy of the awarding body or authority

A person not interested in acquiring a formal qualification should be able to opt for a solution giving more emphasis to identification and documentation phases. Since validation has been
found to influence positively individuals’ self-awareness and self-esteem, it should be about individual choice: arrangements must be designed to allow the individual to opt for the most cost-efficient solutions, possibly for limited documentation rather than full, formal certification.

Validation and open educational resources (OERs)

It acknowledges the rapid expansion of learning opportunities through OERs, thus digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and free learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research. Validation process requires that learning outcomes must be carefully described for OERs as well as methods for assessing and testing them.

Validation Tools

  • Tools for extracting evidence: tests and examinations, dialogue or conversational methods, declarative methods, observations, simulations, evidence extracted from work or other practice.
  • Tools for presenting evidence: CVs and individual statement of competences, third party reports, portfolios



CEDEFOP, European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning, Cedefop reference series 104, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015

Text and Image available here


Connected Learning


A research synthesis report of the Connected Learning Research Network


This report is a synthesis of ongoing research, design, and implementation of an approach to education called “connected learning.” It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition.

First Published January 2013

Written by: Mizuko Ito, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins
With contributions
from: Shaondell Black, Neta Kliger-Vilenchik, Dilan Mahendran, C.J. Pascoe, Sangita Shresthova

Available here

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.