RIBA Student Hardship Funds

Case Studies

Jo Ashbridge, Stage 2 work experience placement

Having graduated with her Part 2 in June 2011, Jo was keen to pursue the passion she had developed during her studies for development and disaster relief architecture, and to pursue a career in international humanitarian work and disaster relief response. When an opportunity came up for a three-month internship with a shelter-related NGO in Geneva, Jo applied to the RIBA Walter Parker Bursary to enable her to take up this opportunity and pursue her architectural dream.

The bursary supported Jo for the costs of travel to Geneva and supplemented the stipend she was receiving from her employer to cover some of the costs associated with living in an expensive city.

Having gained valuable post-Part 2 practical experience, Jo is now employed by the international development agency Engineers without Borders on a project based in Bangladesh.

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Jordan Cathcart, University of Huddersfield

Education fund_Jordan Cathcart_2

Jordan Cathcart - final year project © Jordan Cathcart 

'Over the past six years I feel I have made steady progress academically as an architecture student. During placement year (4th year), I was fortunate enough to secure a placement in Beijing. The experience gave me huge confidence as I returned to start my Part II qualification, a Masters in Architecture (International).

I do not come from a financially privileged background; I am from a single-parent family from a council estate in London. However, I have never considered this to be a disadvantage for me while studying; if anything, this has given me a drive to spur myself on to bigger and greater things.

When I began my Masters course, I applied to the RIBA Education Fund and received support for both years. This funding eased the financial pressures accumulated over six years of studying and allowed me to focus fully on my studies. The international focus of my Masters involved international field trips, which I had financed myself by working over the summer. However, these additional expenses meant that I struggled with my other living and course costs, to the extent that I was considering postponing my studies for an academic year. Overall, I feel that without the support from the RIBA Education Fund over the last two years I would have been unable to finish my Part II studies to such a strong level.' 

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Georgie Day, University of Westminster

The RIBA Education Fund is a vital lifeline in a discipline which is beset by so many financial obstacles to aspiring architects. The cost of materials, the elongated period of study before qualification, the field trips, all act as barriers to entry to potential students and are enough in many cases to either put them off, or prevent them finishing, an architectural education. Not only is that bitterly unfair, but also a huge loss to the profession. The grants which the Education Fund is able to provide can literally make all the difference.

In my own personal case, I applied to the RIBA Education Fund during my third and final year of my Part 1 because I could not afford the tuition fees. Due to some confusion over legislation, I was notified that I was going to receive a fraction of the loan I had been expecting and upon which all my financial forecasts had been based.

I have worked part time throughout my degree and continued to do so in my third year but the prospect of increasing my hours under the mounting pressure of the degree wasn’t an option.  A scarcity in university funding meant that Westminster was also unable to help, and I was left facing the impossible. Thankfully, the RIBA Education Fund was there to step in.

As a result I was able to go on to finish my degree graduating with a first class honours of which I am very proud. I have gone on to work at Terry Farrells and muf during my year out, and will hopefully go on to do my Part 2. I believe in good, surprising, socially responsible architecture, and hope I can go on to contribute to the discipline, and society at large, meaningfully.

The RIBA Education Fund is crucially important. The reality is that money is a worry for many students, especially in the context of the recession and the coming changes to student funding. I believe that it is vital that the opportunity to contribute to, and gain from, such a rich discipline is available to all.

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Zaynib Kahn, Liverpool John Moores University

'I moved to Liverpool in 2005 to start my undergraduate programme. I have two sisters and at the time when I started my degree neither of them were in university. My parents and student loan supported me financially, covering my accommodation and fees. I then had a weekend and summer job to cover my food and additional maintenance costs.

On my year out I worked in an architectural office in Liverpool, and I was able to save a little to cover my costs for the first year of my diploma. When I returned to university for my diploma, both my sisters had started university and therefore there was a much greater financial pressure on my parents. Although they tried their best, they couldn't support my maintenance costs.

It was in my final diploma year that I applied to the RIBA Education Fund. The first half of the funding that I received covered my rent and helped with my general living costs of bills and utilities. My rent had increased that year and it gave me real peace of mind not to have the additional pressure that I couldn't pay my rent.

The second half of the funding covered various course costs. The university had invested in new 3D machines, and we were all encouraged to use the equipment as much as possible. However, the charge to use the machines was high. Having funding from the Education Fund enabled me to create wonderful models and to investigate new materials and methods to express my work.

Additionally, our final wall presentation was a vital part of the diploma course. The printing alone can set you back quite a bit. Thanks to the RIBA Education Fund I was able to print my work and present all my drawings in a way that really did justice to my designs.

Lots of students start the year asking 'will I be able to fund myself adequately through the course?' and 'will I have enough to carry out my projects effectively and really make the most of my education?'. I have done very well this year at university, producing work of a high quality. I could not have achieved this without the support I received from the RIBA Education Fund.'

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Dan Ladyman, University of Cambridge

Dan Ladyman Case Study

Suburban Street Condition © Dan Ladyman 

A fundamental element of the RIBA Part 2 course at The University of Cambridge is a field-work placement where students are required to collaborate with a practice or organisation that relates to our individual research agendas and geographical region. My design research addresses critical aspects of contemporary Chinese urbanism, through a focussed study of the residential gated community typology and its consequential street condition.

In order to undertake this placement, the RIBA Education Fund was a vital resource that allowed me to pursue my research, in China, to an advanced level that was beyond my previous financial capability. During this period in Beijing I collaborated with native architectural practice, URBANUS Architecture & Design, on several projects which had direct relationships to my specific research questions. Throughout this time, the knowledge I gained both through observation and participation with architectural practice, developers and government, has informed my design capabilities beyond that possible with limited financial resources. 

The RIBA Education Fund is an exceptional source of support for students who suffer financial hardship and I would encourage the RIBA to continue to promote the scheme throughout architectural schools. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the RIBA and those involved for their generosity in supporting my academic progress and enabling me to achieve beyond what I was previously financially capable.

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Shaun Merchant, University of Plymouth

Education Fund_Shaun Merchant

Shaun Merchant (centre) participating in a workship in Poland 

'In 2008 I graduated from Napier University in Edinburgh with a first-class honours degree in Interior Architecture. I really enjoyed the course and won the university medal of excellence. I was inspired by where architecture could take me, but as the course did not hold a Part I qualification, in order to continue my studies in architecture I had to complete the ARB's Part I exemption. As well as being academically challenging, this was an additional expense that stretched my financial limits.

In 2009 I moved from Edinburgh to study for my Part II at Plymouth University. However, due to my relocation and exemption, I started the academic year on the back foot financially and I found myself concentrating more on monetary matters than my education. The RIBA Education Fund relieved a lot of the financial stress I found myself in, helping me with course costs, bills and travel to and from university.

My final proposal was based around a compulsory live project in Poland. This would have been almost impossible to complete without experiencing the country first hand. The trip allowed me to broaden my architectural knowledge, not only through the nature of the project and the research required, but equally through collaboration with Polish students. This enabled me to take a step out of my comfort zone and generate my final project while allowing for architectural discussion. However, without the financial assistance provided by the RIBA Education Fund, I would have never have been able to go to Poland and I am certain that I would have had to leave university and defer my studies for a year.

The experiences of the trip have shaped my architectural education and allowed me to explore avenues of research and expression that I never thought possible.

The last two years at Plymouth have broadened my architectural knowledge and I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to study there. I am also extremely grateful for all the assistance I have been given over the two years from the RIBA Education Fund. Without the financial assistance provided I would have not been able to remain at university, let alone gain the experience from research and travel.' 

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Stephen Paradise, Cardiff University

I write to say thank you to the RIBA Education Fund Committee for approving my request for a maintenance grant for the academic year 2011/12 back in November.

The grant enabled me to successfully complete my Master in Architecture at Cardiff University, obtaining a Commendation in the Design Thesis for the proposal of a timber college in Aberdare, an ex mining town in South Wales. I am told it will feature in the next edition of Touchstone magazine for the Royal Society of Architects Wales.

We still live in uncertain times and unfortunately I have not yet been able to secure a full time position since graduating last month, however I was able to secure a two month fixed contract at a local design led practice to assist with production information for a social housing project. This project was completed whilst undertaking my finals in June, helping to personally finance printing model and exhibition material expenses.

I continue the search for work within the field of architecture, broadening my horizon to practices nationwide, outside of Wales, and with good fortune, I should not be without employment for too long.

I will be sure to write again one day soon upon completion of the Part III, which I hope to commence part time this September, employment pending. The road to achieving my life long ambition has been fraught with hardship, however I know that with hard work, dedication (and a little help along the way) one day soon I will be an Architect, RIBA - which I beleive still means something truly special in this day and age, regardless of what the press may say.

Please keep up the good work! - it really does make a difference to those who are less fortunate.

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Janine Pollock, Stage 2 work experience placement


SBA Architects: a pair of award winning holiday cottages, Tower House and Rock Cottage, situated at Borve on the Isle of Harris. Image courtesy Janine Pollock

Janine Pollock completed her Part 1 and Part 2 studies at the University of Strathclyde. Despite working part-time throughout her studies, and receiving the maximum student loans and grants available, Janine constantly struggled to balance her finances. She completed her Part 2 studies in June 2011, graduating with an award for excellence for her thesis project.

With few architecture employment opportunities available in Glasgow, Janine successfully applied to a practice, SBA Architects, on the Isle of Lewis for a Part 2 Architectural Assistant position. The cost of relocating the 300 miles from Glasgow to the Western Isles of Scotland was the only barrier for Janine to accept this opportunity, as she was unable to access temporary loans or apply for an extension on her student overdraft. Janine successfully applied to the Walter Parker Bursary, and the grant supported relocation costs including van hire, petrol and temporary accommodation on the Isle of Lewis.

How a grant can help you

Below are a number of statements from previous recipients outlining what a grant enabled them to achieve:

  • Paid for printing for my degree show.
  • Helped me to complete my masters to the best of my ability and undertake a study trip to Germany as part of my project.
  • Survive, as the student loan maintenance doesn't cover accomodation, let alone living costs, even with a part time job.
  • It allowed me to change my living circumstances for the coming academic year, I am now looking at flats for September as with this financial help I can look at putting a deposit down and leave the hostel I have been living in.
  • Materials and printing required for the course.
  • I was able to focus solely on my studies. I got a first class honors and am nominated for the bronze president medal.
  • It allowed me to undertake a six month term of professional experience working as an intern in a reputable office in Paris. The position was invaluable with regards to my ongoing educational and professional career, of which could not have been achieved without the fund.
  • Receiving a Walter Parker bursary was an enormous relief. It has helped to cover my living expenses while pursuing my professional experience outside the UK and allowed me to extend my contract by several weeks. This will also enable me to take part in a training course as part of my current professional experience, which I would not otherwise have had funding to do.
  • Payment towards expenses for the end of year work and portfolio and the remainder towards debt that was result of the whole academic year's expenses.
  • Pay for a new computer which was much needed at the time.
  • Funding that I received from RIBA allowed me to continue with my studies.
  • I was able to travel to a main city for studying; I could also visit home.
  • Printing at high quality for my degree show exhibition as well allowing me to afford materials for models.
  • To take part in a research trip with my studio to Cario, and to complete my 4th year to as high a standard as possible with regard to the production of the portfolio, and printing costs etc.
  • It has massively helped and contributed to my expenses for my final year of architecture degree and general living costs.
  • The funding was essential to me being financially able to complete the course, I was able to attend a study trip in Dusseldorf and Cologne with the cohort and I was able to pay a substantial portion of my rent, allowing me to be present at the university for the full term.
  • Additional materials, books and general living costs.
  • I was able to print my portfolio and cover partially electricity bill.
  • Funding for final project.
  • It allowed me to finish off my final year, printed and presented as I had originally planned.



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