Every year for the last nine years, the Design Futures Council and the journal DesignIntelligence have produced a ranking of the architecture schools that best prepare students for professional practice. The results are determined through a poll of firms and organizations that hire graduates. Many of the country's leading firms participate; collectively, these participants employ more than 100,000 people. This year, for the first time, a selection from the ranking and its accompanying survey of deans, practitioners, and students appears in ARCHITECT magazine.
The ranking has experienced some fluctuation over the years. Last year's list of the top 15 undergraduate programs also included the Illinois Institute of Technology, Auburn University, and the Rhode Island School of Design. At the graduate level, last year's list also featured the University of Pennsylvania, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), the Rhode Island School of Design, Texas A&M, and the University of Illinois. Each of these programs just missed the top 15 cutoff for 2008. It would not be surprising, based on nearly a decade of results, to see these programs reappear toward the top again next year.
Architecture schools are becoming ever more selective and are offering a wide variety of learning options, even as accreditation standards have stayed relatively rigid. The National Architectural Accrediting Board will be evaluating changes to its accreditation rules in 2008, a move that is sure to provoke interest from students, practitioners, and professional organizations.
Leaders in the profession warn that architecture is going through disruptive changes: Increasingly, students are more knowledgeable than more experienced practitioners about green building and technologies such as BIM. This is bringing about a phenomenon known as “up-mentoring,” in which interns and architects in their 20s and 30s have more-valuable roles in professional practice than ever before, helping baby boomer and even Generation X colleagues keep pace with technology. Firms using recent graduates solely for AutoCAD production are sorely underutilizing their talent. When our survey asked practitioners if their firms got an infusion of new ideas about sustainability from recent hires, 57 percent said yes, and that response is expected to increase.
James P. Cramer is chairman of The Greenway Group and the founding editor of DesignIntelligence. His full report is available for a fee at www.di.net.
The Greenway Group and DesignIntelligence administer a variety of professional practice surveys on behalf of the Design Futures Council. A comprehensive database is evaluated each year at the survey onset, and a careful review of the survey questionnaire is conducted with a series of panelists in professional practice and design education. The survey is administered through a variety of means, including postal mail, e-mail, facsimile, and online. All survey respondents are invited to participate, and the survey attempts to furnish a representative sample in fixed regional clusters (outlined in DesignIntelligence).
The survey staff recognizes the subjectivity and fallibility of the survey process and has continually (over the course of the last nine consecutive surveys) made careful analysis and quality reviews to improve upon the consistency and value of the survey. Conducted and designed by the Design Futures Council as an ongoing dialogue between academia and professional practice, the survey serves as the bridge between these inherent partners in architecture and design. The goal beyond fresh perspectives on relevance of architectural education is to advance quality in its many diverse manifestations.
Each survey, from the three survey pools (students, deans, and professional practice) is pooled, tallied, and reviewed in anonymity. A list of respondent organizations is published for context, while respondent information remains confidential. The survey pool includes many of the nation's largest hiring firms and organizations and represents the thousands of graduates in the profession. The survey attempts to remain objective, including a complete list of all NAAB accredited programs; other, nonaccredited programs are not evaluated.