Student stories

A donation to the RIBA Education Fund makes all the difference to architectural students experiencing financial hardship.

Read our student stories below to see how grants have helped previous applicants:

Please donate online to help support the next generation of architects. 

Jordan Cathcart, University of Huddersfield

'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).

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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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Shaun Merchant, University of Plymouth

'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.

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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 believe 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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