Proposal for a centre of excellence in university education by CraigGreenhill

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									Proposal for a centre of excellence in university education 2010-2012

Mission of the unit:

The educational mission of the School of Architecture is to equip architects graduating from the
department to serve in the professional field of architecture, which includes the development of
physical environment, construction design and the associated implementation and managerial
functions. The overall objective is to provide competences for operating in the field of architecture
with a high level of construction skill, mindful of the historical context, with due social and ethical
responsibility and respect for sustainable development. A further objective is to create a basis for
postgraduate studies and so for tasks in research and teaching. The operations of the school are
characterised by an enthusiastic processing of current issues in architecture and urban design and of
the further development of content and methods in teaching. As part of this constant developmental
endeavour work on a revised strategy for the School is ongoing as a part of the Faculty of Built
Environment and the strategy of architecture education at national level.

The School of Architecture has engaged in persevering work in order to develop into a learning and
research institute actively oriented towards the surrounding society and the international
community. The school is internationally known as an independent pioneer in teaching and
research. This reputation comes from the enlightened selection of themes to be taught and methods
for teaching them, for profound interpretations and for the productive application of high-profile
achievements. The School has concentrated and well-established international co-operation
relations with three universities. Student exchange is extremely active under the auspices of
numerous exchange programmes. Co-operation is enhanced by various shared projects.
Cooperation with domestic universities is extensive and enduring. The School is moreover a
significant actor in research and development in its own field in its own region and co-operation
between the municipalities of the region and private actors is thriving. Professors and researchers
constantly participate in the public debate, making the School celebrated and adding to its societal
influence. In teaching, research and in the presentation of the outcomes of teaching the most recent
methods and techniques are in use. The architectural media laboratory teaches the use of IT and
digital tools and action models for the entire institution, and also participates in the further
development of the area at international level.

The teachers at the School of Architecture, the other personnel and the students constitute an active
and interactive entity. Indeed, the present application was also compiled in collaboration with the
steering groups of the degree programme and of the School, the departmental personnel and
representatives of the students.


Programme and course design:

The point of departure in planning the education offered is professorial posts in which development
is active and on incumbents’ own initiative. The size of the department and the studio-based mode
of teaching enable good internal communications and if necessary rapid reaction in relation to
challenges emerging. The School’s own distinctive profile comes from teaching emanating from
in-house research and profound interpretation of topical themes taking advantage of the most recent
methods. Familiarity with current educational needs and new professional challenges is enhanced
by the excellent and extensive connections to working life cultivated by the professors and other
members of staff.
The School of Architecture benefits from the services of a full-time study planner, a study advisor
and a head of education for the development of education and research. Together with those
responsible for the degree programme and the running of the department they are responsible for
the overall development of the degree programme and for setting guidelines for the future. Co-
operation between the professorial personnel and management is regular and unfettered. Matters
pertaining to content of education are processed and decisions on these are taken in the steering
group for the degree programme, which includes all professors in the School, researchers, other
teaching personnel and representatives of the students.

In implementing education planning a specific objective has been to enhance the students’ options
for exerting influence and receiving information. The departmental office is in particularly active
dialogue with students. The study planner and study advisor are constantly available to students.
Students are represented in all important working groups. Informal contacts between the
management of the School and its students are on a regular basis.

Teaching and research are linked by starting up projects which are worked on simultaneously as
practice assignments for students and research conducted by postgraduates and researchers.
Researchers can benefit from students’ inventory, analytical and visualised materials, and
conversely researchers’ most profound analyses can be utilised in the supervision of practical
assignments. Processes carried out in this way are typically arranged in the form of workshops and
there is a connection to international co-operation.


Delivery of education:

The School of Architecture offers the opportunity to take the bachelor’s degree (180 credits, 3 years
of study) and then the master’s degree in architecture (120 credits, 2 years). The degree structure is
versatile and constitutes a cogent study entity. Compulsory subjects include history and theory of
architecture, construction, urban design and regional planning, likewise artistic expression and
foreign languages. In addition there are optional courses including landscaping, art history,
construction acoustics and interior decoration.

The architecture media laboratory is responsible for the teaching of IT and digital tools and action
models. Teaching is broad-based and approaches tasks in architectural professions from numerous
angles. In almost all subjects teaching is characterised by a synthesis of technical and artistic
material such that the theoretical elements prepare the ground for students’ practical applications
and designs. Practically oriented special courses, excursions in Finland and beyond, research
projects and. for example, student competitions serve to supplement the content of basic teaching.
Forms of teaching include lectures, seminars, practice assignments and design competitions. Work
in small groups, in pairs and under personal supervision forms part of teaching in a wide variety of
ways. Participation in topical events within the field and in co-operation projects outside the School
is included in the programmes of various courses. Teaching includes experimental teachership in
which students support one another in the completion of their studies. Various mentoring methods
are in use to promote interaction between teachers.

Degree structure and teaching methods enable both individual teaching and professional
specialisation. Due to the extensive nature of the field and the many levels involved teaching is
broken down in such a way that progress in both technical and artistic elements occurs gradually
with due attention to the individual student’s characteristics. The large amount of personal
supervision and the prominence of studio-based teaching ensure that teaching is of high quality and
easily available. Degree structure moreover provides opportunities for individual specialisation and
for excellence in a certain branch of architecture. The overall objective is to support students’
growth both as people and as professionals in the field of architecture. The School is particularly
keen to support students’ chances of developing their own creativity in professional tasks and
problem solving. The endeavour is to maintain and increase students’ motivation and enable them
to achieve learning that is goal-oriented and profound. In addition to enabling them to function as
professionals in architecture the aim is to enhance their capability to comprehend their position and
opportunities to exert influence in society.

Teaching offered in the School of Architecture is essentially student-centred and promoted growth
to expertise as studies progress. In the teaching of architecture the significance of the subjective
experience of the learning process is emphasised. This is a matter of growth into expertise based
not only on the cultivation of “knowing that” and “knowing how” but also on acculturation to the
operating culture of the organisation. Growing into expertise is based on a gradually intensifying
participatory process during which students absorb knowledge and skills pertaining to the field
through participation in authentic expert procedures, likewise the operating culture of the field and
so develop into fully-fledged members of that expert community. In this process tacit knowledge is
also crucial; knowing takes shape around practical solutions to practical problems.

Teaching is interactive in nature; evaluation of studies and feedback provided to students is
exceptionally thorough. In the teaching of architecture supervision of design tasks is typically in
the form of a one-on-one discussion between teacher and student. Personal supervision enables
individual characteristics and various aspects to be taken into consideration. It moreover promotes
an atmosphere of mutual confidence and frankness in the teaching situation. Personal supervision is
supplemented by various design studio sessions and seminars. Interim evaluation of assignments
and final critique involves all those teaching or studying on the course. Evaluation of work
produced is individual and based on statements from several teachers and a common discussion in
which students have an equal opportunity to express their views. Grades are generally awarded by
all teachers involved in the teaching of the course. Student feedback is collected regularly and in
several different ways. The feedback so received is assessed in groups of teachers and a response is
provided to the students.

The teaching and learning equipment at the disposal of the School of Architecture is excellent. IT
systems and design tools are of great significance in architecture, thus the digital information
environment of the School of Architecture is extremely well organised and maintained. This makes
it possible to teach high quality IT and digital tools and action models. Wide-ranging CAD design
teaching is based on three-dimensional modelling, in which connection students learn about
information model technology and its application options. Teaching in the main tools in urban
planning, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), has been integrated to become an integral part of
more extensive design courses. There is also an important role in teaching for architectural IT 3D
visualisation and presentation techniques and the production of 3D graphics real-time and 3D
modelling tools. Teaching in digital photography and methods in turn introduces students to the
opportunities of imaging methods as a tool in design and as a means of expression and presentation
of designs, image as a means of expression and the theoretical bases of imaging methods.
Involvement in the virtual university project has been active with the development of open and
distance learning (ODL) and web-based teaching and studying. The Shared Design Platform is
currently ongoing for developing ways of disseminating two and three-dimensional design
knowledge. The project comprises two parts, distance supervision and web-based urban planning.
At the School’s laboratory for architecture and urban research there are projects ongoing on which
students nearing the end of their studies are working as research assistants. One such project is
entitled “Urban Fallows” on which the research assistants are in a key position in the analysis of
targets for development and in the visualisation of development paths. They also participate in the
negotiations conducted with urban planners, leaders of business life and enterprises and present
their own work. It is a characteristic feature of the “Urban Fallows” Project that targets are
processed as a part of real urban development and design processes. Research and its findings are
presented at intervals at follow-up lectures.

The interaction between teaching on the professional course in urban planning scheduled to
commence in autumn 2008 and the “Urban Fallows” Project will intensify as fallows development
is taken for the course theme in planning at a general level. The targets selected for teaching in the
Tampere urban area also constitute a more extensive network for which funding has been applied
for from the EU towards the cost of compiling and developing. This requires that partners for the
project can be recruited from municipalities, cities, real estate owners and enterprises. Students will
be included in all development phases, thus providing them with an opportunity to acquire a
conception of topical urban planning at a general level where skills in the history of architecture and
construction design will also be brought to bear.


Outputs:

The students studying at the School of Architecture are particularly gifted, committed to their
studies and highly motivated, and their learning outcomes are excellent. Architecture is a highly
sought after field of education, which is apparent not only in the high calibre of students but also in
the large number of applicants in relation to the places available and in a very low dropout rate.
The School of Architecture has been successful in sustaining the acknowledged interest in the field
and in increasing the motivation to study throughout students’ careers at the School. This is
apparent in the good learning outcomes and professional success. For example, according to a
survey conducted in 2007 the average for students having begun their studies in 2005 was the best
at our university (3.6), the average for the University of Technology as a whole being 2.7. Among
students beginning their studies in 2006 the studies of first-year architecture students progressed
clearly most fluently of all degree programmes. After their first year of studies these students on
average had achieved almost 60 credits.

From the students’ perspective teaching is meaning and the atmosphere of the School is good.
According to the study on the well-being of university students, students report receiving good
support from the personnel for their studies. It was moreover reported that students rank the
atmosphere of the School best of the entire institution. According to the survey students of
architecture consider compulsory courses to be more meaningful than do students on numerous
other degree programmes.

Internationality is traditionally a part of the profile of the School. Student exchange is extremely
lively under the auspices of numerous exchange programmes. Every year there are some 40 foreign
students studying at the School. Visiting students are successful in their studies, which testifies to
the high standard of teaching, likewise the students’ good motivation to study in our institution and,
for example, to use the well organised CAD working environment. Internationality is a
characteristic feature closely linked to education and an enrichment of it, thus the School of
Architecture looks forward to its further development in the future.
Students’ success in external projects and in their subsequent professional activities have been
excellent. For several years graduates in architecture have done really well in international
competitions intended for students of architecture. Exhibitions of these entries have been mounted
and sent to tour Europe. Our students have also been successful in finding placements in working
life and the unemployment rate is extremely low. Moreover, many of our graduates have been very
successful both in Finland and in international architecture competitions.

The School of Architecture has been most successful in creating co-operation between teaching and
parties external to the university. This is apparent, fro example in the numerous project courses and
competitions arranged by the School in which the end result has been numerous construction and
planning efforts brought to fruition. This is exemplified in the studio courses and competitions on
the new possibilities in wood construction and resulting in highly creditable outcomes.

Many of the courses implemented in the School have had to do with the development work on
topical projects within the university’s sphere of influence. For the school such projects have
served to provide interesting and inspiring tasks as past of teaching. They have moreover made it
possible to simulate an authentic design scenario, offer the students a chance to forge links with
prospective employers, broaden the scope of research, enhance the quality of teaching and augment
its resources. From the perspective of those providing funding there is an opportunity to gain
innovative and unprejudiced solution models for topical subjects, to benefit from the School’s wide
range of theoretical and practical expertise and to develop their own field of operations, products ad
services.

Recent examples of the regional influence of students’ work include the development project on the
site of a local plywood factory in the vicinity of the School. Here a master’s thesis submitted to the
School of Architecture examined and created a vision on the basis of which it will be possible to
develop the area long term in a situation of changing social conditions and economic fluctuations.
The work was accomplished in collaboration with local actors and the successful outcomes have
served to initiate the planning of the area. The productivity is based on the method developed in the
work in which future research methods have been brought to bear on the area and on the potential
inherent in its buildings.


Continual development:

An essential feature of the teaching offered at the School of Architecture is active support for
students to take an investigative and critical attitude and so arrive at new solutions to the
contemporary challenges to architecture. Teaching rests on the teachers’ artistic, professional and
scholarly expertise which, combined with the students’ innovativeness and creative stance lays a
good foundation for the further development of the content of teaching. A theme which draws
together current teaching and research and the teaching of various professors is ecological
awareness and sustainability. The School contemplates matters pertaining to ecological
consideration from a carefully selected perspective which benefits from the special expertise of our
field and perceives a turn towards ecological awareness as an opportunity.

Teaching and research go hand in hand in the School’s joint projects for which important
supplementary funding is obtained. Interesting and well funded projects impart to the students a
positive image of research, making postgraduate work and attractive option. We constantly engage
in co-operation with the other departments of the University of Technology and also with other
universities in Finland and abroad. Where appropriate, partners also include enterprises and public
actors. The school uses its field of operations and laboratory to enhance the success and prosperity
of the area and also its own job opportunities.

An active effort is made to encourage and sustain dialogue between teachers and students. This is
exemplified in the habit initiated at the beginning of the year of having “guild coffee sessions”
attended by those responsible for the School and its degree programme and members of the student
body, where matters pertaining to teaching are extensively processed. The head of the School and
the personnel for their part have regular “coffee sessions” where topical issues of the School are
discussed.

Transfer to teaching of new information and modes of operating in the field of architecture is fast
and efficient. The teachers are extremely well informed on the prevailing situation and future
prospects in the professional field. The knowledge and skills needed in practical work and also
novel views quickly permeate teaching through the experiential professional knowhow of the
teaching staff. The good community spirit of the School and the suitable size of the institution are
also favourable to good knowledge transfer.

The new faculty resulting from the recent structural reform at our university is perceived to be an
excellent opportunity to develop and intensify teaching on built environment. Co-operation
between the School of Architecture and the Department of Civil Engineering is natural and provides
interesting new opportunities for the further development of teaching.

								
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