Architecture education ventures further online with the new BSc in Architecture

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Architecture education in Canada is reinventing itself with an online degree that will help the country meet its rapidly growing need for more architects.

Athabasca University and Architecture Canada | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) have teamed up to offer the Bachelor of Science in Architecture. Leading members of the architecture community came together in Edmonton on April 29 to celebrate the degree, which will open its doors to students in July.

The degree is already in high demand. “We’re just shy of 300 students sitting on the waiting list just biting on the bit, waiting to enrol in the program,” said Dr. Lisa Carter, dean of AU’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

“And these students are saying this is a remarkable program that will allow them to break down barriers they’ve had in their past.”

A new path for becoming a licensed architect

The degree, the first of its kind in Canada, will offer online courses that aspiring architects can take without having to quit their jobs. Until now, Canadian universities have required students to study architecture full-time and in person.

It couldn’t be a better fit for students like Bobby Harris, an architectural technologist who wants to become a licensed architect but doesn’t want to give up his day job.

“I have three kids, I’m married, and I work full-time. But it allows me to still chase that dream and go after that passion in my life, which is architecture,” he said. “It allows me to pursue my dreams.”

“Architecture education is probably one of the first models that will effectively show the Internet can be a dramatic tool for professional education,” said Barry Johns, chancellor of the College of Fellows of the RAIC and a driving force behind the program.

Helping international architects practise in Canada

In addition to the new bachelor’s degree, the RAIC Centre for Architecture at AU also offers a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Architecture. And through Broadly Experienced Foreign Architects (BEFA), a program supported by the federal government, AU and the RAIC are also helping internationally trained architects meet licensing requirements to practice in Canada, Johns added.

“We have over 90 students (who were) referred to us through the BEFA network,” Johns said. “These are people who are eminently qualified as architects. They just need to have some Canadian experience and take one or two courses. And then they should be entitled to be licensed to practice in Canada rather than drive a taxi cab or work in a restaurant.”

And a boon for Alberta

The Government of Alberta approved the degree in March, and MLA David Xiao was at the April 29 event to bring greetings and praise from the government. Xiao said the degree is particularly meaningful for Alberta, which could be home to a million more people in just a decade.

“To manage this growth, we need to ensure our province has the infrastructure and facilities to meet the demand,” Xiao said. “The new Bachelor of Science in Architecture will create opportunities for students while delivering professionals to an industry growing exponentially in Alberta.”

“We cannot realize the future of this province without the help of qualified and dedicated professionals like the future graduates of this program.”

See more photos from the launch event at the Art Gallery of Alberta.