Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

Architecture MA (Hons)

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: Prescription from the Architects Registration Board until 2018. (Full Validation by RIBA, 2017)
Final award: Master of Arts with Honours in Architecture (MA)
Programme title: Architecture MA (Hons)
UCAS code: K100
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s):
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: ECA Director of QA
Date of production/revision: 08 January 2008, amended 16 January 2008, amended 24 March 2008, October 2013, October 2017

External summary

Architecture’s scope is more than technical, environmental or historic expertise. Studying and practicing architecture has the potential to shape culture, aspiration and community, to deepen our experience of the modern world and to imagine our futures.

The four-year Master of Arts with Honours, known as the MA (Hons) Architecture Degree, is an enhanced architectural education offering an embedded period of professional experience (Integrated practice pathway), or a period of cultural exchange (year abroad pathway) available through internal application. This enables a paced externality that enriches and informs design and dissertation work in the final stages of the degree, strengthening engagement with established and emerging forms of professional practice and the international dimensions of curricula content and experience. The MA (Hons) introduces breadth through elective courses which may follow a structured programme pathway in Architectural Histories or Digital Culture. Course options and tailored supervision are drawn from the rich ecology of pedagogic expertise in ESALA, and in the wider field of ECA and CAHSS. Design studio is central to the curriculum throughout, and in years 3 and 4 a series of thematically directed design options enable students to consolidate a specific exploration and appropriate tectonic resolution at a deeper level.

The student’s development is through design, informed by a series of complementary courses in technology, theory and professional practice. Technology courses create a thread and culture that supports students in developing methods for identifying and integrating technologies in architectural projects, studying relevant precedents of material, structural and environment systems. Architectural Theory allows students to start developing knowledge of particular contemporary architectural discourses, bringing students into contact with a wide range of contemporary theoretical concerns engaged by the school. Professional studies and the credited Architectural practice period offer a Part 1 level understanding of architecture’s professional context. The Programme concludes with an Academic Portfolio which is a curated representation of all work completed on the programme, demonstrating its relation to professional requirements, and creating a document to take to future employers.

The programme has ARB/RIBA Prescription/Accreditation at Part 1, and offer graduates exemption from this stage of their professional qualification.

Educational aims of programme

The programme provides a distinctive design experience, drawing on the educational, research and practice expertise of its committed staff. Students enjoy being part of a broad creative community of artists and scholars, including design tutors with practice and specialist expertise, and supported by world-class workshops and technical facilities.

Edinburgh College of Art is a diverse creative community of arts practitioners and practice‐based researchers, and boasts world-class workshops facilities and making spaces for everything from Animation to Woodwork, Glass‐blowing to Digital Printing. Within this environment, the ESALA MA (Hons) programme has developed a culture of design enquiry through making. Its student work is recognised for its attention to materials, through traditional disciplinary practices as well as use of innovative techniques and technologies.

Positioned in the University of Edinburgh’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the programme is part of a rich, discursive environment of humanities‐based education. Enjoying links with a range of other programmes allows students to select from a range of specialist studio and theory seminars. Supported by a body of internationally recognised educators, researchers and practitioners, and welcoming eminent annual visiting Fellows and Professors, the programme aims to develop graduates who have a critical and reflective engagement with their discipline.

Programme Strengths

  1. Part 1 accredited programme situated in a city that has long been a centre of education and Enlightenment. Models of design thinking and working in ESALA grow directly out of operating within the complex, fine-grained, stratigraphic context of Edinburgh, a place of outstanding architectural interest and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site
  2. The MA (Hons) has been commended for “the quality of the relationship between critical enquiry and techniques of representation in research and teaching as evidenced in all aspects of student work and in particular in making” (RIBA Validation Report, 2017). The school’s recognized strengths in material practice and a novel synthesis of digital and physical fabrication processes in the design studio are supported by extensive ECA workshop and digital media facilities, some of the best equipped and technically varied facilities in the UK.
  3. Teaching is grounded in the research expertise and practice specialisms of our staff, which includes architects, designers, artists, engineers, computer scientists, historians and cultural theorists, complemented by part-time expert practitioners and industry specialists who contribute to design studio learning.
  4. History and theory of architecture, fine art and heritage management are embraced within the context of urbanism and the cultural history of cities, where the civic is defined as relating to people and that which is local to them. In ESALA, architecture is recognized as a cultural and civic practice, as an endeavor concerned with people and how they live.
  5. The MA (Hons) introduces breadth through elective courses which may follow a structured programme pathway in Architectural Histories or Digital Culture. Elective course options and tailored supervision are drawn from the rich ecology of pedagogic expertise in ESALA, and in the wider field of ECA and CAHSS. In years 3 and 4 a series of thematically directed design options enable students to consolidate a specific exploration and appropriate tectonic resolution at a deeper level.
  6. The MA (Hons) provides opportunities to gain hands-on experience via an embedded period of integrated practice.
  7. Student work from the BA/ MA(Hons) is regularly recognized in international design competitions and student awards
  8. The school regularly hosts the most interesting, influential and respected scholars, practitioners and thinkers in architecture, landscape, construction and urbanism, including annually invited Visiting Professors and Fellows. Advance seminars in design, architectural research, conservation and history/theory are curated alongside exhibitions, workshops and open reviews of student work.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Although focused on architecture, this programme offers the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills that are beneficial in a range of career paths.

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture MA (Hons), graduates will be able to:

  • integrate considerations of sustainability and building construction practice, including structure, materials, and servicing systems into the overall design of a building
  • demonstrate a knowledge and reflective awareness of the major themes of architectural histories and theories and processes of design, and of the fields of cultural discourses that inform architecture through scholarly writing, dialogue and design
  • understand the ways that architectural histories and theories and the related arts, and the existing physical and cultural context can inform design processes, programmes and proposals apply knowledge of building technologies, including the applications of structure, construction techniques and materials
  • understand the relationship between people and buildings, and between buildings and their environment, and of the need to relate buildings and the spaces between them to human needs and scale
  • integrate the impact of regulatory frameworks, the needs and aspirations of clients or users, the roles of those who collaborate in the making process and the impact of the design upon the wider community
  • understand the influences on the contemporary built environment of individual buildings, the design of cities, past and present societies and wider global issues
  • demonstrate a knowledge of contemporary architectural discourse and urban condition
  • demonstrate an understanding of environmental theories and technologies and an awareness of how they relate to the function of buildings and to conditions of human comfort, wellbeing and protection
  • integrate structural and constructional principles, the properties and meanings of materials and the ways that these may inform and influence design decisions
  • understand the relationship of these theories and principles to climate, the development of a sustainable environment and the impact that design decisions may have upon the natural world and its resources
  • understand the role of the architect in society and the relationships of those in the construction, culture and other industries

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture, graduates will be able to:

  • critically scrutinise the context of a proposed design intervention taking account of its physical, institutional, cultural and historical context
  • apply the methodology of a research-practitioner
  • formulate, research, and respond to complex sets of values, programmes or briefs that are appropriate to specific contexts, circumstances and social factors resolving any conflicts between the varied requirements
  • make scholarly reference to the theories and practices of other theorists and architects when explaining a design
  • research, analyse and integrate the understanding of technology in architectural design.
  • research, analyse, respond and integrate understanding of social, ethical, professional and legal requirements of the subject
  • develop design skills to meet building users' requirements within the constraints imposed by cost drivers and legislation

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture, graduates will be able to:

  • propose, develop and present a built intervention in a challenging context
  • investigate, conceptualise and develop the design of three dimensional objects and spaces.
  • create and critically appraise architectural designs that that integrate social, aesthetic and technical requirements
  • conceive architectural designs on a specific site within the broader landscape and context of urban planning and the planning process.
  • form considered judgements about the spatial, aesthetic, technical and social qualities of a design within the scope and scale of a wider environment.
  • reflect upon and relate individual ideas to a design and to the work of others.
  • produce designs that demonstrate an understanding of the integrative relationship between climate, service systems and energy supply.
  • produce designs that demonstrate an understanding of the integrative relationship of structure, building materials and constructional elements.
  • exercise informed and reflective judgement in the development of sustainable design.
  • accept criticism and feedback, and formulate creative and discriminating responses
  • work in an autonomous, original, self-directed manner developing the practices of reflection and lifelong learning
  • formulate a learning and professional development strategy

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture, graduates will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the importance of communication and dialogue in the development and discussion of design ideas
  • select appropriate media for communicating designs and ideas clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • communicate and argue the rationale of a design proposal through oral presentation and using graphics and models in the context of practice
  • produce documentation for a complex building of institutional scale
  • demonstrate competence in the architectural conventions of scale, projection, and section in communicating a design
  • select and use a range of visual (including multi-media), written and verbal techniques in order to communicate architectural designs and ideas to various interest groups
  • communicate with specialist consultants knowledgeably to receive and implement advice on structure, fabric, cost, and services
  • engage in informed dialogue

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture, graduates will be able to:

  • select and use a variety of tools and media for analysis, evaluation and presentation, recognising the role of each in design development
  • understand the issues, roles, responsibilities, legal and professional duties and skills needed to be a member of a profession
  • apply knowledge of the issues and constituencies which influence the processes and delivery of design
  • demonstrate knowledge of the ways that regulatory frameworks and systems relate to wider social and ethical concerns
  • apply understanding of procurement: the industries, organizations, regulations and procedures commonly involved in translating design concepts into buildings and integrating plans into overall planning
  • work in an interdisciplinary environment and collaborate with others, working effectively when required as a group leader, design team member and autonomously
  • work collaboratively within an interdisciplinary environment
  • collaborate effectively when working with others in a group, reflect on the operation of group work and address issues of group interaction
  • manage time, priorities and work

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

By engaging with and completing the degree in Architecture, graduates will be able to:

  • Use a breadth of graphic and modelling techniques within a wide range of media.
  • Present a proposal using graphics and models and contribute to the presentation of an exhibition
  • Use digital and electronic communication techniques, word processing and graphics applications, and be equipped to develop these skills further as needed

Programme structure and features

Architecture MA(Hons) Placement Pathway

Level and Exit

Awards

The MA (Hons) undergraduate programme normally takes four years study including nine months of integrated professional experience. It is prescribed by the ARB and validated by the RIBA at Part 1. For progression towards Part 2, a student may apply to the two-year professionally accredited MArch programme in Edinburgh or to other institutions offering similar professionally accredited programmes

4

MA (Hons)

SCQF 10

All students take the same courses, except in the Elective (20 credits) There are four main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Dissertation (40 credits), Architectural Design: Logistics (10 credits), Academic Portfolio (10 credits).

The award requires a minimum of 480 credits. Students must pass the Academic Portfolio (AP1) to demonstrate meeting the ARB/RIBA Part 1 General Criteria. The honours classification is based on assessment during levels 3 and 4. A student may fail courses up to the value of 40 credits and these will be awarded in compensation so long as the overall average for the year is at least 40%

3

BA

SCQF 10

All students take the same courses. There are three main subjects of study:

Architectural Design (40 credits), Architectural Theory (20 credits), Architectural Practice (Working learning) (40 credits), Architectural Practice: Reflection (20 credits)

120 credits are required for progression. However, a student may fail courses up to the value of 40 credits and these will be awarded in compensation so long as the overall average for the year is at least 40%

.

Diploma in Higher Education

SCQF 8

All students take the same courses except in the Electives (20 credits). There are three main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Technology & Environment (40 credits), Culture and the City (20 credits).

Progression requirements 120 credits. (Students may be permitted to carry a maximum of 40 credits to Level 3)

1

Certificate

of Higher Education

SCQF 8

All students take the same courses. There are three main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Technology and Environment (20 credits) and Architectural History (40 credits). These are complemented by an interdisciplinary course in Art and Design (20 credits).

Progression requirements 120 credits. (Students may be permitted to carry a maximum of 40 credits to Level 2)

Architecture MA(Hons) Year Abroad Pathway

Level and Exit

Awards

The MA (Hons) undergraduate programme normally takes four years study including nine months of integrated professional experience. It is prescribed by the ARB and validated by the RIBA at Part 1. For progression towards Part 2 professional accreditation, a student may apply to the two-year MArch programme in Edinburgh or to other institutions offering similar professionally accredited programmes.

4

MA (Hons)

SCQF 10

All students take the same courses. There are four main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Architectural Theory (20 credits), Dissertation (40 credits), Professional Studies (10 credits), Academic Portfolio (10 credits).

The award requires a minimum of 480 credits. Students must pass the Academic Portfolio (AP1) course for exemption from ARB/RIBA Part 1. The honours classification is based on assessment during levels 3 and 4. A student may fail courses up to the value of 40 credits and these will be awarded in compensation so long as the overall average for the year is at least 40%

3

BA

SCQF 10

Students undertake an agreed programme of study at a partner institution that must include a minimum of Architectural Design (40 credits)

Progression requirements 120 credits.

Diploma in Higher Education

SCQF 8

All students take the same courses except in the Electives (20 credits). There are three main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Technology & Environment (40 credits), Culture and the City (20 credits).

Progression requirements 120 credits.

(Students may be permitted to carry a maximum of 40 credits to Level 3)

1

Certificate

of Higher Education

SCQF 8

All students take the same courses. There are three main subjects of study: Architectural Design (40 credits), Technology and Environment (20 credits) and Architectural History (40 credits). These are complemented by an interdisciplinary course in Art and Design: foundations in design thinking (20 credits).

Progression requirements 120 credits.

(Students may be permitted to carry a maximum of 40 credits to Level 2)

An Explanation of the Articulation of Learning Outcomes and Assessment Practices

All courses on the MA (Hons) programme are structured through specified ‘learning outcomes’ which form the basis of teaching and assessment within that course. These learning outcomes ‘map’ onto ARB General Criteria and attributes, defining the relationship between the programme’s academic courses and its framework for professional training. An awareness of this mapping allows students to understand how the incremental learning gained within discrete courses relates to the holistic education offered by the programme. This mapping exercise is completed in year 4 with the Academic Portfolio 1 (AP1) course, which asks student to demonstrate understanding and evidence of full coverage of the ARB criteria over the course of the programme.

All courses in the MA (Hons) (with the exception of Academic Portfolio 1), produce a single summative mark, produced as an average of all course learning outcome grades. All learning outcomes for AP1 must be passed to allow for the award of MA (Hons) and ARB/RIBA Part 1 exemption. Although the ARB criteria are mapped to Learning Outcomes, students may pass LOs despite not adequately demonstrating competence in relation to specific criteria. Students will be notified of this via course feedback forms, and will be advised of additional work they need to do in order to demonstrate competence via their Academic Portfolio 1, which is assembled in the second semester of Year 4 of the programme. The Academic Portfolio 1 course is the vehicle whereby student compliance with all ARB General Criteria is assessed. It is also possible for a student to fail a learning outcome in relation to a course but pass the course by receiving a summative mark which is at 40% or above. A student who has failed two learning outcomes will NOT be permitted to pass the course even if the final summative mark is at 40% or above.

How the programme maps into the University’s Strategic Plan: The University of Edinburgh strategic objectives (2016) are Leadership in learning and Leadership in research.

  • Degree offer: The MA (Hons) degree offers a distinctive teaching experience as it is positioned in the creative context of an art college and the rigorous scholarly context of CAHSS in the University of Edinburgh. Teaching is grounded in the research expertise and practice specialisms of our staff, which includes architects, designers, artists, engineers, computer scientists, historians and cultural theorists. Many models of design thinking and working in ESALA grow directly out of operating within the complex, fine-grained, stratigraphic context of Edinburgh. The school has strengths in material practice and a novel synthesis of digital and physical fabrication processes in the design studio, supported by extensive ECA workshop and digital media facilities. History and theory of architecture, fine art and heritage management are embraced within the context of urbanism and the cultural history of cities, where the civic is defined as relating to people and that which is local to them.
  • Fostering diversity and inclusion: In the taught professional programmes we recognise architecture as a cultural and societal practice, as a civic endeavour concerned with people and how they live. ESALA participates in the Pathways to the Profession scheme which introduces contemporary architectural practice and study to a range of school based students. ESALA was awarded an Athena Swan Bronze award in 2015, and contributed to ECA’s Bronze Award in 2017.
  • Recognising excellent teaching: The 2017 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Visiting Board commended ESALA on “the quality of the relationship between critical enquiry and techniques of representation in research and teaching as evidenced in all aspects of student work and in particular in making.” It also commended and encouraged ambition to develop and explore architecture studio pedagogy in other disciplines as a model of teaching and research. Student work from the programme is regularly recognised in international design competitions and student awards.
  • Supporting excellent facilities: ESALA aims to nurture a collegial academic community that encourages student representation in course and programme development, and supports a cross-programme student-led lecture series and other activities in collaboration with the profession. Facilities are excellent and include specialist glass, metal, wood workshops, photography and film and TV studios spread across ECA. Resources include a range of laser cutting and 3D printing machines supported by specialist technical staff as well as dedicated reprographic laboratories that complement studio spaces which are the main focus of enquiry-based teaching and learning. Students comment that the School’s ethos lies in the strong culture of making, the resources and workshops which encourage testing, experimentation and diversity of techniques of drawing and making.
  • Celebrating lifelong learning: ESALA aims to be a national locus for public discussion and debate in architecture, landscape, construction and urbanism. The school regularly hosts the most interesting, influential and respected scholars, practitioners and thinkers in the discipline, including annually invited Visiting Professors and Fellows. Advance seminars in design, architectural research, conservation and history/theory are curated alongside exhibitions, workshops and open reviews of student work. The ESALA environment is envisioned as a place of lifelong learning, dialogue and architectural excellence, and welcomes alumni connections.
  • Collaborating with other global leaders and strong interdisciplinary teams: the research-led teaching in specialist and elective studios on the Programme engenders and builds networks of exchange and collaboration which are evidenced in publication, exhibition as well as contribution to funded research projects. In the Year abroad pathway, previous students have studied in Madrid, Copenhagen, Graz and Stuttgart as part of the Erasmus International Exchange Programme- institutions where the school has developing research links.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims. The graduate attributes are met through a teaching and learning framework which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Courses are taught in a mixture of project based studio teaching (supported through allocated studio space), lectures, seminars, demonstrations, practical workshop activities and critical reviews. In addition, there is an embedded period of professional experience (Semester 2 of 3rd year) which is tutored, monitored and assessed by a variety of methods including online tests and the production of a practice report.

A particular feature of this programme is the Academic Portfolio, submitted at the very end of the programme, which allows the students to edit and curate their work over the programme, and is designed to enable students to demonstrate understanding of and to evidence full cover of all RIBA/ARB General Criteria at Part 1 [see also 12 (d)].

Students in all years for the programme are encouraged to attend and participate in the wide variety of subject activities such as research seminars, visiting lectures from practitioners, open reviews, Festival of Creative Learning workshops, and local professional events.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. The typical workload for a student on this programme (excluding Electives) is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

Start year

Time in scheduled teaching (%)

Time in independent study (%)

Time in Practice (%)

Year 1

40

60

0

Year 2

35

55

0

Year 3

25

50

25

Year 4

20

80

0

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 140600
Year 241590
Year 3225226
Year 420800

Assessment methods and strategies

Methods of Assessment During your time with ESALA you will encounter a wide range of tasks which are assessed. These include design projects, reports, essays, group work, written reports, presentations and examinations. As a studio based programme there is significant focus on studio based assessment. Guided peer-based evaluation and assessment is also encouraged.

Assessment method balance You will be assessed through a variety of methods. The typical assessment methods for a student on the Architecture BA programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

Year

Assessment by written exams (%)

Assessment by practical exams (%)

Assessment by coursework (%)

Year 1

17

0

83

Year 2

10

1

79

Year 3

0

0

100

Year 4

0

0

100

Feedback Formative Assessment is designed to provide you with feedback on your progress and to inform development. It allows your tutors to give you feedback prior to undertaking a piece of summatively assessed work. Formative assessment aids understanding and development of your knowledge and skills and is intended to promote further improvement in your level of attainment. Some courses have formatively assessed assignments. Summative assessment is the process of evaluating (and grading) your work at a point in time. In courses in which all assignments are summatively assessed, students receive feedback with each marked assignment.

Common Marking Scheme and Grade descriptor The assessment scheme is designed to assist students and staff to clearly identify both strengths and weaknesses in assessed work through aligning assessment directly to the learning outcomes. For each learning outcome contained within a Course descriptor the student receives a grade. These grades are then used to produce a single summative mark for each course.

The grade scheme comprises nine category bands and uses letter grades rather than numbers. An extract is given below:

Class Mark (%)

Grade

90-100

A1

80-90

A2

70-79

A3

60-69

B

50-59

C

40-49

D

30-39

E (Marginal Fail)

20-29

F (Clear Fail)

10-19

G

0-9

H

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 114086
Year 28290
Year 300100
Year 400100

Career opportunities

Graduates of the ESALA Architecture MA (Hons) programme, professionally accredited as RIBA Part 1, can go on to complete a RIBA Part 2 professional programme, either at the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere. Completing Part 3 will allow students to become registered architects and work in practice as an architect. Practice can take place in a wide range of contexts and frameworks, small & large, private, local and national government. Students graduate with a wide variety of transferable skills that can be put to use in cognate creative industries.

Graduate Attributes include: professional practice, communication methods, effective presentation skills, techniques in architectural design and construction, value judgment in relation to architectural culture, theory and design, decision making in complex and unpredictable circumstances, ability to identify learning needs with responsibility required for further professional education.

Other items

Quality Assurance 2008 ARB Prescription until 2013. 2009 Internal teaching programme review (TPR) University of Edinburgh. 2009 Enhancement led institutional review (ELIR) Edinburgh College of Art. 2011 Enhancement led institutional review (ELIR) University of Edinburgh. 2013 ARB Renewal of Prescription until 2018 2013 RIBA Full Validation 2014 Internal teaching programme review (TPR) University of Edinburgh. 2017 RIBA Full Validation (next invited Board 2022)