The MArch in Architecture has recently been restructured to make it more definitively post-graduate and vocational in its orientation, and also to specifically differentiate it from the undergraduate learning experience. The former Diploma Course has been replaced by a two year MArch. The course acknowledges that architectural practice is a diverse field and prepares for this diversity through a combination of transferable analytic skills in research and synthetic design skills. Students are encouraged to develop a specialist interest in their final year. The course is based around a number (presently six) of studios, which have both fifth and sixth year students. These studios investigate architectural themes in depth; the themes develop out of the studio leaders' own research interests. The aim is to consider design within the context of rigorous and innovative research. This implies that the product of the studio courses will extend beyond the comprehensive design of a building and into other areas such as consultation, historical analysis, technical innovation or cultural investigation. In addition to core modules, students may choose from a range of option modules in a variety of specialisms.
The MArch Course Handbook is available in pdf format (see Downloads). It is contains the same information as the hard copies issued to all students at the beginning of the year.
The MArch is recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architecture as giving exemption from RIBA Part 2. It is also prescribed by the Architects Registration Board (ARB), subject to periodic review by ARB, for the purposes of entry onto the United Kingdom Register of Architects.
The 'live project' has now established itself as a core part of the MArch course, and is seen as a pioneering initiative in architectural education. For a six-week period in both fifth and sixth years, students work on live projects with a range of clients local community groups, charities, to regional authorities. In some cases the projects involve actual building, in others design of urban masterplans, in others consultation exercises. In all cases the projects have a two-way benefit. Clients get access to architectural or design input which would often be denied them and can draw on the research base and innovation of the School of Architecture. Students get the opportunity to bring their developed skills into the real world, often with immediate social benefit. Finally, the live project develops communication skills and group working, both of which are essential skills for future life in practice.
The MArch course is focused on the studio. This is supported by a range of other courses. In the fifth year, students take a research methods course that introduces research techniques in preparation for a major dissertation. The dissertation is carried out over fifth year and the early part of sixth year, and is normally a 15,000 word essay on a subject of the student's choice. In addition fifth year students attend the Theory Forum, in which invited international speakers address a common theme. Finally, fifth year students take a management course run by professor John Worthington, which looks at innovative ways of approaching practice, briefing and business organizations. In the sixth year, students complete their dissertation, but the main focus is on the major design project. This is supported by an extensive design report that sets out the research basis for the project and the theoretical agenda being pursued. Technology is delivered through a series of master classes in which experts address specific issues. Students then choose a specialist area of architectural technology to support their main design project. Management studies are also related to the main design project; the expectation is for a critical awareness of the issues at stake rather than exact compliance. There is also a Architecture and Town Planning route run in conjunction with the Department of Town and Regional Planning