Choosing a career in architecture is a wise move.
Indeed, it’s a highly respected profession where you’ll have the opportunity to make a tangible impression on the environment around you; it also happens to pay pretty well, too. The downside, though, is that becoming an architect is not easy. It requires a huge amount of commitment and dedication, and in a competitive job market, where you get your degree from can be just as important as how.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Using the QS University Rankings, which take into account a variety of factors, we’ve compiled a list of the top colleges and universities in the field.
So, if you’ve just left school and you want to create the next Burj Khalifa or design the next Shard, read on: these are the top 20 architecture schools in the world.
20. Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Location: Kowloon, Hong Kong
2019/2020 course fees: HKD 190,000 ($24,230)
A leading institution in the field, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) offers its students a unique education.
Its four-year Environment and Design degree fuses different disciplines such as history, architecture, technology and urban design, and offers its undergrads the opportunity to build their own experience through an impressive range of electives such as Urban Design, Western Study Trip and Landscape Design.
As a student at PolyU, you will have dibs on state-of-the-art facilities including studio spaces, computer laboratories and workshops. You’ll also have access to the institution’s research resources that will be integral to your degree course.
19. University of Tokyo
Location: Tokyo, Japan
2019/2020 course fees: ¥535,800 ($4,940) per year
The University of Tokyo offers a unique undergraduate degree structure.
During the first half of their four-year course, undergraduates can study various liberal arts courses. This is so students can acquire a broad educational background before following a particular discipline during their third and fourth years.
The Department of Architecture offers diverse modules which you can match to your own interests. However, an important thing to keep in mind is that, while there are a few courses taught in English, modules under the particular department are in Japanese.
18. Tongji University
Location: Shanghai, China
2019/2020 course fees: CNY 60,000 ($8,480) per semester
As a leading educational institution in China, Tongji University strives for excellence.
The architecture course is a dual degree taught in English. Students spend their first three semesters at the Tongji University campus, then the next four at the University of New South Wales, before coming back to Tongji for their final semester.
As an architecture student, you will be taught core principles of architecture and learn basic design methods and theories, before specialising in the field you’re most interested in.
17. University of Melbourne
Location: Melbourne, Australia
2019/2020 course fees: A$9,527 ($6,520) per year for Australian students and between A$34,112 ($23,340) and A$44,632 ($30,540) per year for international students
As an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne, you’ll be able to pursue an architecture major, while also studying subjects from other disciplines, through the Bachelor of Design programme. The course is designed in such a way that it allows students to build on several different, but crucial, skills and knowledge areas.
Areas of focus include engineering, performing and visual arts, and the built environment. Plus, you’ll also have the freedom to major in two subjects if you want and develop an overarching set of skills that will make you very employable after graduation.
16. University of California, Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles, US
2019/2020 course fees: between $16,250 and $46,000, depending on residency
The University of California, Los Angeles (or, more commonly, UCLA) is a world-renowned university with a long list of Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows under its belt.
In order to be admitted to the School of Arts and Architecture, you will not only have to submit an impressive application but also a supplemental application meant to emphasise your interest in the specific school and subject.
As a major in Architectural Studies, your curriculum will focus on three main areas: critical studies, design and technology. Through this course, you’ll be able to build important foundations that will help you progress in your career afterwards.
15. University of Sydney
Location: Sydney, Australia
2019/2020 course fees: between A$9,359 ($6,400) and A$40,000 ($27,380), depending on residency and nationality
Ranked as the top university in Australia, the University of Sydney has a lot to offer to its prospective students. When it comes to architecture, there are different undergrad degrees available, all of which approach the subject in their own unique way.
While core units are meant to help you attain a comprehensive understanding of the subject, you can select electives of your own interests, whether they are related to your faculty or beyond it. Not only that, but you will also have the opportunity to study abroad during your second or third year. Pathways into further study are also available once you have attained your bachelor’s degree.
14. Columbia University
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Location: New York City, US
2019/2020 course fees: $85,410 per year
Based in Upper Manhattan, New York City, Columbia University is one of the most prestigious Ivy League schools in the country. Architecture majors, then, are taught the core principles of form, space and material in pursuit of a liberal arts degree.
During your studies, the Big Apple will be far more than just a backdrop, as New York City is a key architectural site that’s integrated into the curriculum. While there are a lot of practical modules within this major, Columbia takes a more philosophical approach towards the subject, encouraging its students to consider architecture in relation to society, politics and culture.
13. University of Hong Kong
Location: Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong
2019/2020 course fees: between HK$42,100 ($5,370) and HK$171,000 ($21,800), depending on residence and nationality
Considered to be Asia’s Global University, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is a truly innovative institution. Its four-year bachelor’s programme in architectural studies fuses arts and sciences, integrating elements from across these fields.
HKU’s architectural studies curriculum aims to create a sense of community among its students, fostering this within the work done in design studios. The degree not only sets the groundwork for aspiring architects but also provides students with knowledge that allows them to enter other related sectors.
12. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne
Location: Lausanne, Switzerland
2019/2020 course fees: CHf660 ($670) per semester
As one of the leading STEM schools in Europe, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne is not only known for its excellent teaching and innovative research but also its cosmopolitanism. With the stunning city of Lausanne as the backdrop, your studies will be equally balanced between practice and theory.
Classes, then, will incorporate subjects like history of architecture, building techniques and modelling. The school also guarantees its students personal workplaces, state-of-art facilities, workshop visits and personal travel that will allow them to expand their knowledge. Following the end of your bachelor’s programme, you’ll also have the option to pursue a master’s degree and solidify your knowledge further.
11. Politecnico di Milano
Location: Milan, Italy
2019/20 course fees: €3,726 ($4,145) per year
Founded in 1863, the Politecnico di Milano is one of Europe’s most renowned design and engineering schools, with several Pritzker and Nobel Prize winners among its alumni.
It is also internationally focused, with its Architectural Design BSc taught entirely in English as well as Italian. Taught across three campuses, the course takes in numerous conferences, exhibitions and study trips, as well as guarantees an external internship in the final year.
There are then four master's options (all taught in English) for those looking to specialise. In addition, prospective candidates must complete a short entry test focusing on logic, mathematics and drawing competency, as well as pass an interview board.
10. Tsinghua University
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Location: Beijing, China
2019/2020 course fees: between CNY 24,000 ($3,390) and CNY 40,000 ($5,650) per year, depending on nationality and residency
Located at the former imperial gardens of the Qing Dynasty, Tsinghua University belongs in the elite C9 League of Chinese universities.
As an undergraduate, you will have the option of taking on either the Bachelor of Engineering in architecture, which is a four-year programme, or a Bachelor in Architecture, which takes five years to complete.
While these courses will place focus on architectural principles and developments at a worldwide scale, students are also prompted to consider China’s own development at this front, thus placing both a global and local focus on the subject.
9. Manchester School of Architecture
Location: Manchester, England
2019/20 course fees: between £9,250 ($11,900) and £22,000 ($28,300) per year, depending on nationality and residency
Located directly in the heart of Manchester, the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) is actually a collaboration between two universities: the Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester. The result is one of the largest and most prestigious architecture schools in the country.
As a result of this increased funding and capability, the school has recently revamped its studio, teaching and workshop facilities, with regular field trips at home and abroad and strong connections with existing practices all over the world.
As well as a portfolio, you will be asked to submit a short statement explaining your interest in architecture. There is, however, no interview process, with the university claiming that it is a poor indicator of suitability.
8. National University of Singapore
Location: Singapore, Singapore
2019/20 course fees: between S$8,850 ($6,500) and S$39,050 ($28,650) per year, depending on citizenship status
Situated in the heart of one of Asia’s most dynamic cities, the National University of Singapore’s BAArch and March programmes are designed to attract architects in step with their fast-paced surroundings. The course’s curriculum has evolved from focusing on the design of buildings to encompass the creation of products, landscapes and even entire cities.
Grades and admission requisites are dependent on individual circumstances (although a strong showing in mathematics, chemistry and/or physics are expected), while candidates are also required to pass the Architecture Admission Test (AAT).
There are overseas opportunities, too. Indeed, students are actively encouraged to take semester-long classes at one of the university’s US, Asia or Europe-based partner institutions. Progression to PhD level is also an option for those that wish to remain in academia.
7. University of Cambridge
Location: Cambridge, England
2019/20 course fees: £9,250 ($11,900) per year for UK/EU students and £27,700 ($35,640) per year for international students
At first glance, the small number of students enrolled in the department’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes might seem misleading but make no mistake: Cambridge’s exclusivity is very deliberate.
The faculty aims to focus as much time as possible on each individual in order to closely develop their potential, with every student allocated their own dedicated workshop. As a result, the admissions process can be taxing and includes a drawing test, a written essay, a panel interview and the submission of a portfolio. You will also need to have excellent grades in art and mathematics.
6. University of California, Berkeley
Location: Berkeley, US
2019/20 course fees: $14,180 per year
Based just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED) is a renowned and prestigious school that offers full-time places to around 1,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Interestingly, unlike many other universities, you’re not required to submit a portfolio during the admissions process, with CED preferring to evaluate your motivations, ambitions and general academic performance instead.
5. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, US
2019/20 course fees: $47,730 per year
Jointly administered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University’s architecture programme offers the kind of revolutionary teaching practices and innovative course structure that you would expect from one of the world’s foremost educational institutions, with students able to focus on one of two main undergraduate routes: Design Studies or History and Theory.
Note that Harvard’s acceptance rates are notoriously low, so you’ll need flawless grades, an array of strong references and an engaging entrance essay to even be considered.
4. ETH Zurich
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
2019/20 course fees: CHf1,320 ($1,330) per year
Established in 1855 and widely regarded as one of the finest STEM institutions in the world (Albert Einstein is among its alumni), ETH Zurich offers several undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Although you are required to speak German for the former, many of the latter are taught in English or French.
ETH Zurich is characterised by its emphasis on theoretical study rather than application, and this is a feature of its architecture courses. Admission requirements, meanwhile, vary depending on your home country (there is an entrance exam, although not all applicants are required to sit it).
3. TU Delft
Location: Delft, the Netherlands
2019/20 course fees: €2,080 ($2,310) per year for EU/Surinamese students; between €2,080 and €14.500 ($16,130) per year for international students
Based several miles north of Rotterdam, TU Delft’s bachelor’s degree programme explores urbanism and building science as well as conventional architecture studies. This broad, wider-ranging approach to study has seen the university consistently retain its place as one of the foremost technical institutions in Europe and the world.
Unfortunately for international students, the undergraduate programme is taught only in Dutch, although the renowned Berlage master’s degree is in English.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Location: Cambridge, US
2019/20 course fees: $53,450 per year
MIT is one of – if not the – most pioneering STEM institutions in the world. Naturally, their architecture programme reflects this.
The faculty is keen to emphasise the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, especially where environmental solutions are concerned. This focus on sustainable architecture, and the research that supports and drives it, is a key factor in MIT’s lofty ranking.
Prospective candidates, meanwhile, undergo a standardised application process and are required to submit several short essays covering a range of personality and motivation-based questions. If successful, they’re offered a place on the best architecture course on the market.
1. University College London
Location: London, England
2019/20 course fees: £9,250 ($11,900) per year for UK/EU students; £25,770 (£33,150) per year for international students
Having been voted by industry peers as the top UK university for architecture every year since 2001, UCL is a constant innovator in the teaching, research and study methods of the profession. Its top-of-the-range Bartlett Manufacturing and Design Exchange (B-MADE) facility is the envy of many institutions, and it also hosts a prestigious annual exhibition, in which every student is expected to contribute.
All applicants must submit an assessment task prior to an interview, with much of the subsequent emphasis on the quality of your portfolio; therefore, it’s important to prepare thoroughly beforehand.
If you believe you’ve got the necessary skills to pursue a career in architecture, then there’s a wealth of high-quality teaching opportunities all over the world; these are simply the crème de la crème of the list.
Of more importance is your own drive and determination and, of course, the creative wheels of your mind. If you possess these, then your success in architecture will be defined by you, and not by your choice of university.
Are you surprised to see any of these unis here? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 14 August 2018. It was written in collaboration with Siôn Phillpott.
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 23 October 2019.