Architecture School Prep for Students in the UK

Architecture School in the UK

There are several routes to becoming an architect in the UK, the most common is the three part route validated by the Royal Institute of British Architects, (RIBA).  This is a combination of academic study and practical experience.

1)      Part one is a three year bachelor’s degree in architecture usually followed by a paid year in practice when you document your experience under the PEDR scheme, (personal education and development record.)

2)      Part two is a professional diploma in architecture at postgraduate level, usually 2 years at university, followed by another years paid work experience.

3)      Part three is the completion of a professional practice exam covering worked case studies, the legal and business side of architecture and your finished PEDR.

All together it takes at least 7 years to become fully qualified. For more about this process, and other routes including part-time study visit the RIBA site here. – Currently the RIBA have validated over 40 courses in the UK.


How to Begin

First you need to get into a program. Start by researching which course you would like to take. Whilst all courses cover the core architectural areas; structure, history, materials and spatial concepts; institutions vary considerably in their teaching style and focus. For example, some courses are very technical and based in a science or engineering department, whereas others are concept-focused and based in art schools or are concerned with issues such as sustainability. Be sure to attend open days and subject taster sessions so you can get a feel for the university itself and the courses they provide.

The essential thing to check is that the course you choose is prescribed by the Architects Registration Board (ARB), as this means you will definitely receive exemption from RIBA part one on completion and can begin your career.

If you’re going straight from secondary school, or after a year-out, the application process goes through UCAS who have a great index of all the courses available.  If you’re applying as a mature student applications go direct to the university, you’ll always find the relevant contact information on the department’s websites.

It’s important to know that unlike other subjects, both architecture undergraduate and postgraduate courses are covered by the UK government’s student loans scheme because it is a professional certification.


The All-Important Portfolio

Every Architecture school will look for good grades, (at least two A-levels or one A-level and two AS-levels or Scottish Highers equivalent.) Usually these entry requirements are express in terms of UCAS tariffs, a full description and tables of which can be found here.  They are interested in subjects covering arts, sciences and technologies and will want to see consistent achievement shown in these subjects through A*-C grades at GCSE. However, what the tutors are really interested in is your creative portfolio. Your portfolio says more about you to architects than anything else and is therefore the most important element of getting accepted onto an architecture program in the UK.

Initially tutors will assess your application, depending on the institution this could include a personal statement – why do you want to study this course at this place? And a sample portfolio, a precursor to your full portfolio that they’ll go through if they invite you to interview.

As architecture is rarely studied before university level, the portfolio doesn’t need to include architecture itself, but must demonstrate the key skills an architect needs such as, observation, drawing, design and ideas development. Work could include anything from sketches, painting, photography and digital work, to models, design sheets, and sculpture.

Essentially, tutors will want to see that you are excited by architecture, have you had any work experience in the construction sector, have you helped build anything, or visited an architect’s office? Are you becoming aware of architecture and getting involved in the industry by reading design magazines, visiting buildings and attending relevant lectures and exhibitions?

The sample portfolio, (usually about 10 sheets,) should showcase snippets of the best parts and leave the tutors wanting to know more.

Best of luck!


Rebecca McKinney received her Bachelor of Architecture in 2006, and Professional Diploma in Architecture in 2013.  She is also a board member of NewEarthUK, a charity that promotes architecture that is sustainable, suitable to our earth, is low energy and provides happy living environments.  Find more of her work at: