Choosing a career in architecture is a wise move. 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 to study, 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 10 architecture schools in the world in 2018…
10. National University of Singapore (NUS)
Location: Singapore, Singapore
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: Between S$8,850 ($6,540) and S$39,050 ($28,860) per year, depending on citizenship status
Situated in the heart of one of Asia’s most dynamic cities, NUS’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, it’s actively encouraged for students 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.
9. Politecnico di Milano
Location: Milan, Italy
2017/18 undergraduate course fees: €3,726 ($4,390) per year (subject to increase for non-EU students or decrease if eligible for EU-funded financial aid)
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.
8. University of Cambridge
Location: Cambridge, UK
2017/18 undergraduate course fees: Between £9,250 ($12,340) and £21,732 ($29,000) per year, depending on nationality and residency (subject to increase for 2018), as well as additional college fee
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.
7. Manchester School of Architecture (MSA)
Location: Manchester, UK
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: Between £9,250 ($12,340) and £22,000 ($29,360) per year, depending on nationality and residency
Located directly in the heart of the city, MSA is actually a collaboration between two universities (Manchester Metropolitan 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.
6. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, USA
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: $46,340 per annum
Jointly administered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design, Harvard’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.
5. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
Location: Berkeley, USA
2017/18 undergraduate course fees: Between $17,372 and $45,926 per year, depending on residency status
Based just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, UCB’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 are not required to submit a portfolio during the admissions process, with CED preferring to evaluate your motivations, ambitions and general academic performance instead.
4. ETH Zurich
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: CHF1,288 ($1,300) 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 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 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, Netherlands
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: €2,060 ($2,430) per year for EU/Surinamese students; between €2,060 ($2,430) and €15,575 ($18,350) per year for international students, depending on residency status
Based several miles north of Rotterdam, 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. University College London (UCL)
Location: London, UK
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: £9,250 ($12,340) per year for UK students; £25,020 (£33,400) 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 interview, with much of the subsequent emphasis on the quality of your portfolio; therefore, it is important to prepare thoroughly beforehand.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Location: Cambridge, USA
2018/19 undergraduate course fees: $51,520 per annum
Although their rivals at CalTech might disagree, 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 are offered a place on the best architecture course on the market.
If you believe you’ve got the skills necessary to pursue a career in this field, then there is 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.
Do you agree with the unis on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 9 July 2018.