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The Manchester School of Architecture: a deceitful, profit-driven organisation.

Enquiry

You must have been attracted to the very high position of the Manchester School of Architecture in the recent years' QS rankings, where it is placed amongst the world's top 10 along with the Bartlett or TU Delft.

Having attended the school I can reveal to you that these rankings are doctored. The quality of the education at the MSA is nowhere near the world top 10 and I will elaborate:

The course is presented as being jointly run by the University of Manchester and MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University). This is misleading as the course is entirely run by MMU and has very little affiliation to the well-reputed University of Manchester. Instead, MMU is an ex-polytechnic (the equivalent of a US community college) with low educational standards, huge student numbers and a very aggressive marketing agenda.

The Manchester School of Architecture is essentially a degree mill that admits unusually large numbers of students who are treated as cash cows to fund what is essentially a scam operation.

Upon attending the school one will quickly realise that there is an abnormally large concentration of international students, who are given preference for admission as they pay over £15000 in fees. These students are admitted through foreign agencies that secure a fee for placing the student at a UK university. Most of these students lack academic skills or have a very poor command of the English language to the point that it is questionable whether they can really engage with the course material. This is well-known to the faculty who conveniently choose to cover it up. As a matter of fact, I have witnessed essays with incomprehensible writing, inexistent argument or complete lack of referencing being marked above 60%.

The school's extremely greedy admission tactics have now created a problem of overcapacity where the year cohort cannot fit in a single lecture theatre and tutorial group numbers exceed 30 people, minimising tutorial time. This affects teaching quality severely, with students struggling to get more than 15' of contact time per week.

Rather than improving the quality of teaching, a big portion of the university's money goes towards purchasing fancy computers every 2 years (everyone needs a Mac in order to conduct their research) or constructing luxurious student accommodation.

The thematic research groups, so called ateliers, are poor imitations of AA or TU Delft studios, taught by academics with very little credibility or narrow vision and experience. These are mostly people who were unsuccessful in professional practice, or lost their jobs during the past recession and therefore found a safe place in the protective womb of academia. The ones with professional experience, have mostly worked in Manchester based offices doing public sector work. 

It is also a well-known fact among the faculty that the school employs some of the worst performing graduates as junior tutors or PhD candidates, as these are unable to find a transition into practice. These people teach 1st and 2nd year, then are promoted to lecturers, senior lecturers etc. Essentially the school recycles its student output in a cyclical, garbage-in garbage-out strategy.

The school extensively practises grade inflation with tutors instructed to mark up graduating students, in order to improve the overall classification statistics of the university. It is practically very difficult to fail or graduate with anything less than a 2:1. Also, the threshold for achieving a first-class degree has been lowered to 68%.

The research and teaching focus of the school involve a mishmash of urban planning and landscape architecture with social sustainability and computation. History is skimmed through in first year, whereas theory is hardly covered and generally approached in an studio-integrated process that only allows a very shallow approach in student projects. Teaching of construction, structures or environmental design is superficial, which is no surprise since most of the faculty is comprised by non-practitioners. Also, the same lecture content is often recycled across different year groups, with MArch students getting for example identical lectures to BA year 2 or 3.

The course involves no exams and minimal submission of coursework, where 3 assignments per semester constitute the entire grade for the year.

The course is essentially an education into digital media and graphic design, producing unemployable graduates who often quit the architecture field as easily as they have joined it. The outstanding majority of BA graduates of the MSA chooses to continue their Masters at other schools or other fields. As a result, the MArch programme admits more graduates from second-tier schools like Northumbria, Liverpool and Huddersfield in order to fill up the quota. The standards are eventually lowered to allow such students to graduate.

The Manchester School of Architecture can in no way compare to US Ivy League schools, or European design powerhouses like the Bartlett and TU Delft, as it significantly lacks the characteristics of a high quality academic institution. Instead, the school has established a successful business model, scamming its students out of their money and offering back very little value. The way that the school achieves a top position in the QS rankings is a result of marketing tactics and not of its academic quality. The greatest majority of students are aware of this and are disgusted by the fact that they have been misled into attending this school.

In conclusion, the Manchester School of Architecture is essentially a scam; an institution that operates using dishonest tactics, a typical expression of the commercialisation of UK higher education and the country's ethical and cultural decline. 

 
Apr 25, 20 1:21 pm
Non Sequitur

if it’s any consolation, I’ve never heard of this school. Also important, rankings are bullshit anyways.  

Apr 25, 20 1:34 pm  · 
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placebeyondthesplines

some rankings are more bullshit than others , and when read knowledgeably they can definitely have some use. the DI rankings use a methodology that is clearly flawed, but their results have an impact on the quality of each year's applicant pool (not to mention faculty searches, etc), and attending a school with stronger students makes for a more rigorous experience. 

QS is obviously complete bullshit; I think you'd have a tough time finding anyone who honestly believes Nanyang Technological University (#11) is academically superior or even in the same ballpark as Princeton, Cornell, Penn, Yale, or Columbia (#13, 14, 15, 17, and 18).

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Non Sequitur

Please, Singapore over Princeton any day of the week. /s. I know what you mean tho.

1  ·  1
Dkourri

I don't think this student has had the chance of attending any of these other high caliber schools they mention. Or they would have known that theory, construction and sustainable design are treated very similarly across the board in Architecture schools. While I understand where some of these frustrations come from, I don't think that such a wide generalization is fair to a number of the MSA staff who do really amazing work and dedicate their life to teaching at this school. This is coming from someone who's studied and taught across 6 medium to high ranking Universities across Europe and the US. 

Apr 26, 20 12:57 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

this is just the POV of one disgruntled student. He/She complained in an earlier thread this Archinect was censuring their posts for PR reasons.

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Enquiry

@ Dkourri, I am afraid that the standards at the said school are actually very low and this is something that a large portion of the MSA students are aware of. I understand that you work in academia and therefore feel the need to cover for your fellow colleagues, especially given that you have a financial interest in this. However, you fail to address any of the very significant issues I detailed above but instead resort in quoting your experience, in an effort to brush off the allegations. Trying to cover up a deceitful agenda, is deceitful in itself and representative really of the quality of the institution where you are employed.

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Non Sequitur

Oh boy. The thin foil is thick with this one.

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Enquiry

This thread's purpose is to voice the documented concerns of multiple students of the school. Since you mentioned earlier that you don't have any experience or knowledge of this school, it would be best if you refrain from this type of trolling.

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Dkourri

I'm not brushing off the allegations, I'm doing a comparison with other institutions that teach architecture, which come from personal experience. This is most certainly not about a financial interest, not all academics belong to "that group over there". There's dozens of academics at the MSA, from both schools and they all come with different opinions, agendas, pro or against management, etc. I'm sure you understand that if you worked for a company, you wouldn't go online bashing them, unless you wanted to get fired, which is not a wise thing to do in the current crisis.

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Dkourri

I would also like to ask where you get your information from, about the level of the school? How do you make this conclusion?

 · 
Dkourri

There's also a place and a time and an official process to fully explore such allegations, which I'm sure you understand.

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Enquiry

Dear Ms Kourri, 

The concerns presented in this thread are drawn from personal experiences of various people which have been documented during a long term affiliation with the Manchester School of Architecture. This has been a longer period than your involvement at the school. 

I understand that in your last post you are referring to legal action. It is not clear how this message should be perceived though, as threatening a whistleblower with legal action is not usually effective. On the other hand, your attention should be drawn to a legal case which was filed against the MSA within the past 2 years by some of the school's students. The legal case addresses issues in line with those described above, in regards to low standards of education provided by the school. 

The purpose of this thread is to question whether the MSA should be regarded as a top 10 world school, which is a big selling point in its marketing agenda. In the experience of many people, this is a misrepresentation which creates issues.

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Dkourri

I'm afraid you have greatly misinterpreted my response. I have not, in any way, threatened with legal action. I merely suggested that any student who has an issue with the institution should follow the appropriate legal channels.

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Dkourri

There is also no way you can possibly know how long my involvement with the MSA has been, as this has not been posted anywhere and can therefore only be speculation. While I fully respect the student's concerns, my question as to how one can make a comparison, if they don't have experience from other architectural institutions has not been addressed.

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monosierra

This student is not helping him or herself at all. There was a good argument against this particular school in the original post but the lashing out in posts since only undermined his or her credibility.

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Enquiry

Demetra, I know that you have been a Phd candidate at the school since 2017. My involvement has been longer and in various roles. Also, I am not a student anymore and I have had experience of other schools. 

You have attempted to defend your argument based on your experience at 6 highly-ranked schools as you quoted above. From your CV found on the university's website, it can be seen that you have only been affiliated with 4 schools rather than 6, contrary to what you have stated. These schools include Birmigham City University (an ex-polytechic similar to MMU) and the University of Nicosia which is largely unknown. 

These are not highly ranked schools. 

If the MSA is indeed amongst the world top 10, the school's profile shall then be compared against top world schools to establish the validity of these claims. Your experience at the above mentioned schools doesn't constitute a relevant reference, as these schools are not global education leaders. 

As I mentioned above, there is already an ongoing legal case against the school. When a school is being sued by its students, this signifies that standards are low and definetely not representative of a globally leading institution. Personally and unlike these students, I don't have a financial interest in suing the school. The case is that there are a lot of students on social media asking for information about schools. The purpose of this thread is therefore to help prospective students avoid getting deceived by the school's marketing tactic, like many already have. 

Further details regarding degree classifications, exam standards, RIBA validating boards, will be published in due course to reinforce the original arguments.

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Dkourri

I'm sorry that you felt the need to Google my credentials and use your findings in order to delegitimize my position. As I already said, my affiliation to the university is not posted online and my CV online is not complete. As I already mentioned, 6 universities, both middle and high ranking. Among those is Parsons, the 2nd highest raking design school in the world.

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Dkourri

It doesn't say much about your character.

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placebeyondthesplines

parsons being #2 in anything should be a big red flag for these rankings. it’s *maybe* the fourth best design school in nyc.

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monosierra

None of the top schools gives a rats ass about rankings. Neither do employers.

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placebeyondthesplines

and your point is...?

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Dkourri

Such nice and intelligent argumentations. Does this generation know anything else than to hide behind Google searches and internet aliases and use half baked information they find online to discredit others? A suggestion for your future, learn how to form an argument if you want anyone to take you seriously.

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placebeyondthesplines

"argumentations"

if you think QS rankings aren't "half baked" you aren't paying any attention at all

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monosierra

I'd like to see more statistics and information (Employment data, graduate income, student/faculty work, assignment briefs, etc) from the OP to bolster his/her case. This would help elevate the complaint beyond the anecdotal. The proliferation of for-profit education - inflated by huge numbers of international students - has indeed led to a rash of sub-par schooling in 'soft' subjects. Rubbish ranking systems only helps to hoodwink misinformed students and parents.

Now whether or not there is deceit and malice in their marketing is a trickier question. The Art Institute, a chain of art schools in the US, was recently sued by students and alumni after it went bust - partly for fraud. The OP can look up that lawsuit to see how the case was built by the plaintiffs.

I'm of the view that the fancy theory stuff is best left to those brand name schools which can afford to waste time on academic shannanigans thanks to their alumni recruitment and reputation. Otherwise schools are best advised to teach building science and construction techniques first before allowing students to run amok with the weird and wonderful.

Apr 30, 20 7:46 pm  · 
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AKATO

I cannot agree more. I graduated a couple years ago and the tutors are appalling. This has nothing to do with how good the students are - I know because some lucky ones such as myself and others have managed to go on to better schools in Europe (Bartlett/AA/Delft) but it was no thanks to MSA. Job hunting was so tough after graduating from MSA and that one person in my cohort worked in a fast-food joint for a while before settling for a mid-sized soulless firm in a small town.

FYI the saturation of architecture graduates in the UK is so high that people at much better schools also struggle but Manchester graduates' outputs across the board are NOWHERE good enough to compete with others - on EITHER the theoretical realm or the technical (I learned more reading a recommended First Year technical book on the reading list of a good uni than my entire 3 years at Manchester lol). For what it's worth when it comes to getting jobs in the UK it is by far much better to go to a top school (even if it's #TheoryOverTechnicality) than it is to go to a "technically inclined" school.

The fact that the UK government has engineered their educational institutions to become a business model means that past students who have spent so much money on it should be allowed to review their protocols and practices, just like any other consumer. People who didn't go to this school shouldn't bother with saying anything. This is clearly a disclaimer for prospective students and they deserve to know (I know I would have chosen otherwise if I was made aware of how sh*t they would be). And if they were any good there would a queue of ex-students defending them.

Good on you OP for sharing.

May 9, 20 9:26 am  · 
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Archtccc

Having read this post about MSA, along with several other similar ex-student reviews about the university, I can confirm that they are all true. I was naive to disregard them before starting my MArch at MSA this September, but unfortunately the quality of education and course structure is nowhere near top 10 in the world. The course is entirely run by MMU with almost no input from UoM, which is incredibly misleading to prospective students who are tricked into believing that they will receive teaching from a highly-ranked Russell Group university. The module description isn’t clear on the website, in terms of explaining what you’ll be taught and how you’re assessed. They are in fact a mashup of the assessment requirements which RIBA sets out for Part 2 affiliation within their ‘ateliers’, which differs greatly from a typical university module selection. The majority of assessment marks are from group work projects with the dissertation the only individually assessed module. After studying for 6 weeks at MSA, I had enough of the course, knowing what was to come for the rest of the MArch. They couldn’t care less when I asked to leave the university and never asked for my reasoning. Thankfully I got a last-minute transfer to the university where I completed my undergraduate degree. AVOID MSA!

Nov 8, 20 6:20 pm  · 
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apscoradiales

Name a school today anywhere in the World for any profession that is not "profit-driven organisation".

Their aim is to sign up as many students as they can get a hold of. Profit is No. 1 word in schools. To think any other way is gross naivety.

Nov 11, 20 10:36 am  · 
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