Survey of UK Architecture Students Shows Mental Health Concerns

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A survey from British magazine The Architects’ Journal suggests that more than one quarter of all architecture students in the United Kingdom have reported mental health issues related to their education.

Of the 450 survey respondents, all of which were architecture students from the UK, 26% said they were either being treated or had been treated for mental health issues related to their studies.  An additional 26% said they would need to find professional help in the future.

In total, more than half of those who took the survey reported mental health concerns as a result of their courses, writes Aftab Ali for The Independent.

The problem was found to be even more significant for female students, with close to one-third reporting that they had already sought out professional help in comparison to 26% of male students.

A number of survey respondents reported stress-related hair loss, with one participant stating, “Architecture has had a detrimental affect on my mental and physical health,” while another wrote, “A culture of suffering for your art is promoted within education.”

Many of those who had already sought professional help said they did so due to an expectation to work long hours.  Survey results showed close to one in three students worked through the night on a regular basis.

The survey also found that many students are unsatisfied with the quality of the education they are receiving.  In all, more than 60% of participants said that their studies took too long, while 35% said their course was either “poor” or “very poor” for the amount of money it cost.  At the same time, 35% said they felt their studies did not adequately prepare them to enter the workforce.

One-third of respondents added that they had been approached by architecture studios who had asked them to work for free.

An additional concern of participants centered around money, with 38% saying they had built up a debt between $40,000 and $66,000 during their schooling.  One in ten believed they would owe over $90,000 by the time they qualified, while two-fifths said they did not think they would ever be able to repay their loans.

Currently, the system in place in the UK requires students to attend school for at least seven years in order to qualify as an architect.  Meanwhile, a bill is on its way through Parliament that would increase the amount of debt incurred by students by allowing universities to raise the fees they charge students above the current cap of almost $12,000.

“High fees, debt, the fear of debt, low wages, poor working practices and educational models that reflect aspects of practice based on individualism and competition rather than collective action and mutual support have put intolerable pressure on those students who can still study and has excluded many more,” said Robert Mull, former architecture director and dean of London’s Cass school.

In response to the survey findings, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Jane Duncan said that students should apply for funds available through RIBA.  The funding was set up in response to the increasing financial pressures faced by students.

Duncan also said that those who believe they are suffering with mental health issues should seek help.