Master’s architecture program changes back to bachelor’s

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Richardson Memorial Hall houses Tulane's five-year architecture program, which ranked 14th in Design Intelligence Quarterly. 

Emily Fornof, Associate News Editor

Tulane’s undergraduate architecture program was recently ranked 14th in Design Intelligence Quarterly in its first ever undergraduate ranking. The transition from a five-year Master of Architecture to a five-year bachelor’s program this year qualified it for ranking.

According to Kenneth Schwartz, dean of the School of Architecture, Tulane changed its program around 15 years ago to end with a master’s degree, due to a large number of credits and extensive study that occurred at the undergraduate level. Last year, however, Tulane decided to return to a bachelor’s program.

The previous five-year master’s program was one of few across the country because a five-year bachelor’s program is the common standard for undergraduate architecture programs.

“It’s confusing because, traditionally, in most university settings, a Master of Architecture is exclusively a graduate degree,” Schwartz said. “At the end of the day, the degree that [students] were receiving was still an undergraduate degree. So it was kind of confusing to students, parents, employers, all of the above.”

Students can still move onto master’s programs after receiving a bachelor’s degree, but a five-year bachelor’s degree is enough education to qualify for the architecture licensing test. Not only does the type of five-year degree not make a difference in finding jobs, but the quality and content of the education are not expected to change.

“[The change from master’s to bachelor’s] won’t change the program,” sophomore Caroline Zimmermann said. “The content won’t change, and it won’t become any less of a program. I don’t think it will weaken the program. I think it does become more contemporary with the times.”

One of the key changes with the new program is a decrease in the number of credit hours required to graduate. Students in the M.Arch have to graduate with a minimum of 168 hours, but with a bachelor’s program, the minimum has dropped to 150 credit hours.

Schwartz said the School of Architecture sees this decrease in hours as a way to open up new opportunities for students.

“We are reducing the credits,” Schwartz said. “That’s one simple way of looking at it. We are also utilizing the opportunity to evolve our curriculum in ways that we think are better for the students anyway … so it’s given us some freedom that we wouldn’t have if we stuck with the M.Arch.”

The other big change with the B.Arch program is the school’s ability to be ranked.

“I think it’s exciting,” freshmen Anna Deeg said. “It is the first year that Tulane has been ranked and already we’re 14. A lot of people already look at the Tulane architecture program and already think it’s a great program, and to have the ranking to go with it just rounds it out.”

The school hopes this ranking will benefit its students after they move into the workforce.

“The ranking will also help position our graduating students better in the field,” Emily Parsons, director of undergraduate advising and student affairs in the School of Architecture, said. “Our students go out and they get fantastic jobs, but this is also something that the professional world looks at to see … where do we want to get our new hires from … so this could have a profound effect.”

The school also expects this ranking to increase their quantity and quality of students that apply to the five-year B.Arch program.

“[The ranking] will probably increase our numbers, but our number increases are not nearly as important to me as how we get the best and the brightest to chose Tulane over the five other really great schools to which they might have been accepted,” Schwartz said.

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