Welsh School of Architecture

MSc Degree Programmes FAQ's

Refer to this list if you have questions about any of the masters courses except the MArch. It contains questions we have received from applicants over the years and which we expect to recur. Please check them carefully before contacting us with specific enquiries of your own.

These FAQ answers mainly relate to the MSc Degrees Suite, but there is reference from time to time to the Diploma/MA in Professional Studies and the MA in Urban Design. See the FAQ "What is the difference between an MA, MSc, and MArch?" for an account of the spread of masters courses that the wsa provides.

Your FAQ's do not answer my question

Where else can I look for answers to my questions?

The University has its own Frequently Asked Questions about studying at Cardiff University, what life in Cardiff may be like for a postgraduate student, possible sources of funding and making an application, which you will find at: www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/questions/.

I still have not seen an answer to my question - who can I ask?

If you have questions about our masters courses that are not covered by these FAQs, please send them by e-mail in the first instance to Christine Heywood at HeywoodC@cardiff.ac.uk. Please bear in mind that, whilst we are responsible for delivering courses, it is the University that administers student progression, charges fees, awards degrees, runs the information services and so on. If your questions are about these more general aspects of study at Cardiff, then you will get more reliable information by using the direct contacts given in the University web pages. You could start your search at www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective.

Is there an open day when I can come and have a chat with the tutor?

There is a Postgraduate Open Day at Cardiff University in November, in which the wsa takes part. Please visit website for more updates.

The Postgraduate Open Day is the ideal opportunity to visit the School and to meet with some tutors. Some ad-hoc visits to the School can be accommodated by previous arrangement, but they are subject to the tutors' availability.

Can you send me a prospectus?

The wsa can send you a copy of its school brochure, which tells you about the School's activities. Please e-mail HeywoodC@cardiff.ac.uk, or ask at reception if you are in Cardiff. Much of the information in the brochure is available in a different format on the school's web site at www.cardiff.ac.uk/archi.

Cardiff University prints a Postgraduate Prospectus which gives information on postgraduate study at Cardiff and has pages on postgraduate courses offered by all academic schools in the university. This is a 150-page document which will be posted to you if you e-mail prospectus@cardiff.ac.uk or phone (0)29 2087 4455. If you are in Cardiff, pick one up at 46 Park Place. There is an application form inserted in each copy of the prospectus.

The bulk of the prospectus, the pages on postgraduate courses offered by academic schools in the university, is available on line in PDF format at www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/pg/information/prospectus/index.html. The more general information from it, and more besides, can be found by looking through the University web pages, starting at www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective.

Where can I find out more about Cardiff?

I do not know which of your courses to choose

I would like to study architecture at a distance, so will any of your courses help me?

The Dip/MA in Professional Studies provides the training needed for the 3rd part of the route to professional qualification. Parts 1 and 2 can only be studied locally at the WSA, and it would be difficult to run a distance course for them because of the importance of teaching design live in the studio environment.

What is the difference between an MA, MSc, and MArch?

All masters degrees in the UK are taught at the same academic level, which is a "postgraduate" level normally taken by students who have already graduated with a bachelors degree. Standards are dictated nationally by the Quality Assurance Agency. Most taught masters degrees in the UK are either MA or MSc. There is no significant difference between these except in their bias towards arts and humanities on the one hand and science on the other, and towards methods of learning and research relevant to these disciplines.

At the wsa we have masters degree courses for architectural students continuing their professional training, and we also have a number of additional masters courses open to applicants from other disciplines. There are three categories: professional studies, architectural science, and courses in urban design and energy studies shared with other Schools.

Professional studies

This category continues the sequence of courses that begins with the BSc and is designed to provide professional training for architects. There are two courses. The MArch fulfills the requirements for Part 2 of the ARB/RIBA route to professional qualification. The Diploma in Professional Studies completes the ARB/RIBA requirements for qualification, and is supplemented by the MA in Professional Studies, which gives students an opportunity to contribute research of their own to the wsa's existing body of research in this subject.

Architectural Science

Our MSc Degrees Suite allows us to open our doors to students from a wider range of disciplines. Their common theme is sustainable design, which is a subject area in which the wsa's Centre for Research in the Built Environment has a strong research reputation. They are designed to be of value not only to architectural students but to students from many other professions involved in designing, developing and evaluating the built environment. Since the oldest of these courses opened, almost half the students who have joined have had training in disciplines other than architecture. They have come from 38 different countries, students from outside the UK accounting for about two thirds of the total.

Urban design and energy studies

The wsa runs two masters courses in co-operation with other schools in the University, so that students can benefit from our shared expertise. The MA in Urban Design is run jointly by the School of City Planning and ourselves. The broad division between us is that the School of City Planning gives three modules in the theory of planning whilst the wsa runs three studio-based modules giving students experience in design.

We also contribute to the MSc in Sustainable Energy and Environment, which is taught at the School of Engineering. We run one module on Sustainable Development, and contribute to others.

Do your masters courses provide training for an architectural profession?

The MArch and the Dip/MA courses offer part of the professional training needed for a career in architecture. They give exemption from RIBA Part 2 and Part 3 examinations respectively. None of the other masters courses are designed to contribute to professional training in architecture. Nevertheless, candidates with RIBA Part 2 who are looking for relevant professional experience towards Part 3 may find that their examining boards will accept a year spent on another masters course - our board has done this with one of our masters courses in the past. If you are interested in this, you should check with your board.

We do occasionally receive inappropriate applications for our MSc courses from students who are looking for professional training to become an architect, so for applicants unfamiliar with the training route for architects in the UK, here is a fuller explanation.

To practice under the title "architect" in the UK, you must qualify as an architect by following a full course of instruction accredited by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and ARB (Architects Registration Board), taking five years full-time at a school of architecture followed by a period of professional training in practice. The normal route has three parts. In the wsa, Part 1 leads to a BSc degree, Part 2 to an MArch degree, and Part 3 to a Diploma (which further study can extend to an MA).

Many schools provide additional postgraduate courses at master's level, which give instruction in a specialist area but are not a necessary part of professional training. Qualified architects may undertake them to increase their knowledge or skill, and this may even be part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). At the wsa, our masters courses are not limited to architectural graduates, but are taken by students from a much wider range of disciplines.

What is the difference between the three MSc degrees?

The three MSc degrees belong to a suite and share certain modules. The thematic differences are explained in the pages for the MSc Degrees Suite. But the best way of capturing their different flavours is by reading through the descriptions of the individual specialist modules in each masters. You have to decide whether you are more interested in generally improving the sustainability of your practice, in designing more building environments more sustainably, or in modelling the environmental performance of buildings. To read a fuller comparison between the courses follow this link, more info.

What is the history of the three MSc degree courses?

The first of the three architectural courses was the Environmental Design of Buildings, which was established in 1993. At this time, it was the first masters course to be taught at the wsa. The course was substantially restructured for modularisation before the 2001 session, changing its eight modules in Stage 1 to six. The distance learning version of this course was opened publicly in 2003, although it was run as a pilot before this. The British University in Dubai opened an independent course modelled on it in 2005.

The Building Energy and Environmental Performance Modelling and the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design courses are considerably more recent, and were established in response to the success of the Environmental Design course and the perceived need for alternative perspectives. The former started in 2004 and the latter in 2005. Although these courses are young, they build on the experience gained in teaching the Environmental Design of Buildings. From the outset, the courses shared modules, but their rationalisation as an MSc Degrees Suite was put in place for the 2008 session.

How do the local and distance options compare for the MSc in the Environmental Design of Buildings?

The two courses teach the same material to the same standard, have the same project work, and offer the same credits. The quality of the teaching material is as high as it is for local students. In fact it is because it was needed for the distance course that the material has been documented so thoroughly, and was subsequently made available to local students as well. The difference in teaching methods inevitably creates a difference in the detailed taught content and learning experience.

We offer the distance option because it has obvious advantages to students who are unable to attend Cardiff, either because they cannot be free for a year as full-time students, or because they are too far away to travel for teaching days as part time students. Students take the same time to study each module as local students, but study only one at a time so it is easier for them to fit the study into a working schedule if they are in employment. There are drawbacks, of course. The distance course does not offer the full atmosphere of learning with other people in a University. And it does seem to require greater motivation to study at a distance, without face-to-face pressure from peers and staff.

Am I qualified to take your courses?

I am not an architect, yet I am interested in one of your MSc courses; will I be able to take it?

We deliberately pitch the MSc courses at non-architects as well as architects. There has been a mix in almost every MSc year, and non-architects have done as well as, and often better than, architects.

I have a degree in THIS discipline - does that make me eligible for the course?

Applicants often ask whether their particular degree would make them suitable for the course. An indication of preferred entry disciplines is given in the details for each course, but there is not a restricted list of acceptable disciplines for any of the masters except the MArch and the MA in Professional Studies. It is more a case of whether you will find the course suitable for you than whether you will be suitable for the course. If your degree relates to the subject of the masters and studying it has led you to want to focus on that subject, then you are probably going to find the course suitable.

Even if your previous degree appears to be unrelated, if you have an interest in the subject of the masters, and would find the knowledge you gain useful, this is probably enough. However, in that case you might like to attach an explanation with your application or discuss the matter with the course leader before applying. If we do see an application from a student with an unsuitable degree, we are likely to contact him or her to find out more.

We have had a number of students taking this course in the past who came from a background quite unconnected with the building industry. Most of them have found the course a valuable experience and some have done very well.

For a discussion of the starting skills needed on the Architectural Science masters, see the FAQ "Do I have the skills and knowledge that I will require to take the course?"

Diploma/MA in Professional Studies has more specific requirements, as it is preparation for Part 3 of the RIBA's professional examination. To be eligible, students should have obtained a degree which has been validated at RIBA/ARB Part 2 level, or have obtained qualifications which have been assessed by the ARB as equivalent to Part 2. Students should also have completed a specified period of Professional Experience complying with RIBA/ARB regulations.

I have THIS degree from THAT university/institute - is this acceptable?

We prefer bachelor's degrees of 2.1 class or above. We do not automatically bar applicants with a lower class of degree, but consider each case on its individual merits, as applicants may be changing their discipline or focus in order to take better advantage of their natural talents.

The University relies on UK NARIC for guidance on what Universities and other educational institutions around the world have degrees of an acceptable standard. However, there is no internationally recognised scheme whereby classes of degree from Universities overseas can be compared with those in the UK. We are therefore thrown back on judgement and experience in making our decisions.

I don't have a first degree - can I still apply?

Applicants who have at least two years of working experience in a position of responsibility relevant to the proposed course of study are acceptable under University regulations for masters degrees. We make judgements on an individual case basis. Please note that this would not apply to the MArch or Diploma/MA in Professional Studies, as they are RIBA/ARB Accredited courses and have additional requirements.

Do I have the skills and knowledge that I will require to take the course?

For the Msc Degrees Suite, we are very pleased to have students from different backgrounds, as they are able to learn from one another. If your discipline has prepared you only tangentially for the course, there will be much new for you to learn. We teach most of the specialist knowledge from early principles, so this should not be problematic. What needs more consideration is whether you have general knowledge and skills in science, mathematics, and design for us to build on.

The level of science and mathematics required is equivalent to that taught at secondary schools in the UK for GCSE examination. In other words, it is fairly basic, below the level required for entry to an engineering course at undergraduate level. You will, however, use this basic level and should be comfortable with it.

The design ability required is also rather basic, and is certainly not at the standard that would be required of architectural graduates if this were a course designed for them alone. Please see the later FAQ "I am concerned that I do not have a design background; will the course teach me how to design?" for more discussion of the level of skill expected.

For a fuller discussion of this issue with respect to the Environmental Design of Buildings course, follow this link, more info.

Note, however, that there are specific requirements for the MA in Professional Studies. See the FAQ "I have a degree in THIS discipline - does that make me eligible for the course?"

I am concerned that I do not have a design background; will the course teach me how to design? (MSc)

The masters courses in the MSc Degrees Suite will not turn you into a designer. They are not intended to train non-designers in the arts of architectural design. There is not, therefore, any real content in them (beyond a half-day discussion in the Induction programme) devoted to how to design. Rather, the courses are structured to be possible for non-designers.

The project modules in the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design programme and the Environmental Design of Buildings programme do nevertheless involve making proposals for a design. Our principle is to give spatial planning and aesthetic design low profiles in these projects. A good architectural student will find it impossible to ignore these aspects, but opportunities for exercising skill in them are minimised in the project briefs, and the grading does not take them into account. Non-architects are encouraged to see themselves as advising a design team rather than producing a final design (and where the projects involve group work, this is exactly what they do). Although the presentations are graphic rather than written reports, non-designers are discouraged from trying to emulate architects even in the manner they use to draw plans and sections. They are advised to use less formal methods of presentation. Simple diagrams employing the most basic of drawing skills suffice to express the ideas.

For a discussion of other skills needed on the courses, see the FAQ "Do I have the skills and knowledge that I will require to take the course?"

What are the English language requirements?

You must have a standard of written and spoken English that will enable you to benefit fully from lectures, seminars and tutorials. This is assumed to be the case if your first language is English or you have acquired a degree taught in the medium of English, but you must state this in the place requested in the application form. Otherwise evidence of your English language standard is required.

The University's preferred test is IELTS, which is available around the world in British Council offices. A minimum standard for most courses is an IELTS grade of 6.5.

The University will not accept applicants with lower scores. If your IELTS grade is 6.0, we are prepared to accept you on the condition that you successfully complete a pre-sessional course at the University's own on-campus language school, housed at the International Development Division. Information about these courses can be found at www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/inter/elt/courses/presessional/index.html.

With these minimum standards, students often have difficulties. If you need it, additional tuition whilst you are taking our masters can also be arranged with the International Development Division.

Tell me about the other students taking the courses

How many students take the course each year?

The size of the student cohort on the MSc Degrees Suite has fluctuated from year to year, but has shown an overall rise leading to students being turned away in recent years. The graph below shows student numbers joining each year from 1993 to 2006, divided into full time local, part time local, and distance students. Almost all of them were taking the Environmental Design of Buildings programme, as the other two have only started recently. The gap in the distance student numbers in 2004 is because the course was started as a pilot before it was released to the public.


What has the mix of disciplines on the course actually been?

Almost half of the students that joined the MSc Degrees Suite from the 1993 to 2006 entry years have been able to bring to the course and share with others skills learned outside the formal discipline of architecture as it is understood in the UK. The background of some students has not been related to the building industry at all, and our impression is that students in this category have done as well as others, and some have done very well indeed. The graph below shows the proportions of students in each of these years who have been architects, who have combined knowledge of architecture with another discipline, and who have come from another discipline altogether.


If you are interested in more specific figures, then click here.

From what countries have students come in the past?

Students joining the MSc Degrees Suite from 1993 to 2006 have been from the UK, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Cyprus, Belgium, Lithuania, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Uganda, South African, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Sudan, USA, Canada, India, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Bahrain, Japan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistani, UAE, Israel, and New Zealand.

The graph below shows the proportion in each year who have been from the UK, from other European countries, and from elsewhere in the world. The courses' ability to attract students from overseas has increased markedly over the years as its reputation has grown.


What reasons do your students give for taking the course?

Many students undertake the study because of a feeling of responsibility towards the environment and the future. There is a strong common view among them that there is a problem to be overcome. Not all of them share this view, but enough to make it a focus for discussion. Many overseas students have come on the course because of what they perceive as a lack of sustainability in the building practice of their own countries; they want to make a difference.

For some it is a career move, as the professional path on which they are embarked requires them to have a masters' degree. A few others have taken the course out of personal interest without regard to career. One student, for example, had already retired from being a senior partner in a large practice. Another student chose not to complete the whole course, just studying those aspects that he wanted to know more about.

Tell me about how the courses are run

How many days a week and weeks a year will I attend?

For postgraduate courses the academic year is a full year from the end of September until two weeks short of the end of the next September, with three-week breaks at both Christmas and Easter, making 44 weeks in total.

All masters courses have a taught stage followed by a research stage. Stage 1 has to be completed successfully before students can be examined on the work they have done in stage 2, although it is possible to begin work on stage 2 earlier. The taught content of Stage 1 is delivered in a number of modules, but the research in stage 2 has just one dissertation module.

Full-time students are expected to be engaged in their studies for at least a full working week through both stages. There are part time and distance routes for students who have jobs, which demand a lesser engagement from students. For the time you need to set aside for study each week, see the FAQ: How much time would I need to devote to study each week?

In Stage 1, local students will need to be in attendance at the School for lectures, seminars, and other teaching events. In Stage 2, students study more independently, but need to attend for periodic personal supervision. Part-time students fit into the same regime, but the time they need for attendance is reduced. Distance students are able to pursue their studies without attending.

The pattern of attendance within this overall scheme will depend on the teaching programme of the course that you are applying for.

MSc Degrees Suite

The week numbers for the stages and modules is shown diagrammatically in the main pages on Programme Structure. Remember that dates for the Easter break vary from year to year, and the ones shown in the diagram are rather ideal. A timetable for the complete year is issued to students when they enrol at the School.

Full-time students proceed through this programme as follows. At the very beginning there is a part-week following enrolment at the School which we leave fairly free so that students can visit events for new arrivals put on by the University and the Student Union; nevertheless, we organise the occasional event. The induction programme in the following two weeks is taught intensively, and requires full-time attendance.

In Stage 1, full-time students follow a regular teaching schedule. The lectures and seminars for each 10-credit teaching module are delivered in one half-day per week for six weeks. It follows that full-time students attend two half-days a week for these. There will be group tuition as well for the project module, regulated by demand, but probably taking a further half-day a week. In addition, occasional classes held in Stage 1 to provide skills training in the use of computer software and research methods. Students are engaged in self-study for the remainder of the week.

At the end of each teaching module, there is a week set aside for assessment. The form of assessment varies with each module, but this may require attendance at a class test. During and at the end of each project module there will be days when students are expected to present their work to class, and some of these presentations will be assessed. At the end of Stage 1 there is a week for examination of all student work in the stage, and during this week all students must be available to hang their work, meet the examiners, and attend briefing classes.

In Stage 2, there is not a pre-scheduled teaching programme. Instead students are guided in their work by a supervisor, with whom they arrange regular tutorials.

There may be other events organised in the year, some of which will not be on the initial timetable, such as study trips. Part-time students take more than one year to study the course. Several pathways are possible, and these are explained in the main pages in Programme Pathways. Ideally, at the end of their studies, they will have attended all the teaching events that full-time student will, but in a different sequence.

They are strongly advised to attend the two week induction programme at the beginning of the year, although we recognise that it may not be possible for them to attend all sessions and they may need to make a choice about what aspects they feel are important for them.

In Stage 1 they attend the same half-day teaching periods as full-time students for the modules they are taking, both teaching and project modules. This will give them a regular schedule for visits to the school. Their adherence to that schedule is expected, and it is recommended that they come at other times when possible to meet other students and staff and use the resources (such as the library and computer software). Assessment for teaching modules will normally be held in periods that fit the schedule, but some of the project assessments will require attendance on days that lie outside it, and prior warning of this will be given.

There are irregular events planned in the week for examination at the end of Stage 1 which part-time students should plan for. During Stage 2 they will visit the school to meet their supervisor by mutual arrangement for short meetings at regular intervals (perhaps fortnightly). Study trips last full days outside their normal schedule and although they will be encouraged to join them, this is not mandatory.

Distance students study course material on the internet away from the school. The taught content for all the teaching modules is available to them on line. They will be in contact with tutors and supervisors through the internet for the project modules and dissertation. Material for the induction programme is limited at the moment although we are building it up. If they are able to join local students for study trips, they can. If at any time they would like to visit the school, they would be very welcome. See also the FAQ: "How is the distance course in Environmental Design of Buildings delivered?".

Diploma/MA in Professional Studies

Students on this scheme are required to attend three short residential courses held normally in October, January and April. They otherwise study in their own time.

Are the courses project-based or mainly taught by lectures?

There is a fundamental separation between the teaching modules in which students gain the fundamental knowledge and skills of the discipline, and the project modules in which they apply them in processional contexts. Guidance through the subject matter in teaching modules is led by lectures, but takes many forms including the use of on-line material which students can study at their own pace, seminars and workshops which help students with their understanding, and assignments which give students practice in skill formation. The project modules are linked to the teaching modules, and give students an opportunity to practice their new skills in meaningful and practical contexts. This practical element is an important component of the teaching, and is an inheritance from the School's experience of studio teaching at undergraduate level.

The MA in Professional Studies differs from this profile, in that all the taught material is delivered on line and studied by students gaining practical experience from their work in an architectural practice.

Are the projects run like typical studio design projects in architectural schools?

In the MSc Degrees Suite, projects are run in association with the teaching modules, not independently. There is not a studio in the sense in which this is known to architectural students, in which the students' core activity is designing projects. Many of the teaching modules have their own assignments as part of the learning activity. The projects tend to be major pieces of work running the length of Stage 1, rather than a series of assignments.

In the MA in Urban Design, the structure of the course is the same, but three of the six modules are design modules taught in studio in the conventional architectural manner. In these modules, the project work is the whole of the learning activity. There are no equivalent projects in the other three modules.

How is the distance course in Environmental Design of Buildings delivered?

All teaching is on line. Teaching material is delivered via the Internet in the internationally-recognised Blackboard learning environment. The modules have their separate pages, whether they be teaching modules, project modules, or the dissertation module. Some teaching modules have interactive exercises for students to do. Discussion with the tutors and between students is conducted in a Discussion Board, and by e-mail for more personal matters.

What are the assessment methods?

Students proceed to a degree by earning credits for modules. Modules have credits in multiples of 10, depending on their size. In a masters course, they add up to 120 in stage 1 (the taught part) and 60 in stage 2 (the dissertation). In a diploma course they add up to 120 only. Students have to pass the modules to gain the credits, which means they have to pass all the modules.

The modules are assessed by written examination, course work, or project work. The mix of these components varies between courses and modules. The components are marked according to set criteria, and the average percentage for all the components in a module has to be over 50% to pass the module.

In the MSc Degrees Suite, for example, the teaching modules may have a written examination (called a class test) to test for breadth of knowledge, and an assignment to test the ability to apply knowledge to a specific problem. In a project module, students make presentations of their work, drawn, written, or oral depending on the module, and these are assessed. A long project module may have several interim assessments, so that students can gauge progress.

On the distance courses, do I have to come to Cardiff at all?

Diploma/MA in Professional Studies

The scheme is designed to be undertaken whilst in full time employment within an architectural practice or related construction industry organisation. It is taught largely by distance learning methods using the internet. The student is required to attend three short residential courses held normally in October, January and April.

MSc in Environmental Design of Buildings Distance Learning

Students on this scheme are not required to come to Cardiff at all, although they are of course welcome to visit the school at any time.

How big a commitment will it be?

I am an architectural student who has completed Part 1, and I am very interested in the specialist subject taught in one of your MScs; should I apply for it now or wait until I have completed my Part 2?

We could consider your application in either situation, so the choice is yours. From our point of view, the first degree (Part I) is sufficient. But taking a masters degree can be a diversion for some students that delays their obtaining qualification for too long. On the other hand, if the masters represents a significant and important shift in focus for you, then the opposite might be the case: if you remain in a design-focussed course at your present School you may be sidetracked from what is for you the important issue. It really depends on your long term view for your own development and career.

How much time would I need to devote to study each week?

The time that students actually spend studying varies enormously, even if they are all doing exactly the same things; for example, reading takes some people half the time that it takes others. As the starting knowledge of students also varies, the time that they need for their studies is not easy to determine or plan for.

The University's formula for working out the number of hours to set aside for study is 10 hours per credit. Thus a basic 10-credit module involves 100 hours of study. There are 120 credits in Stage 1 and 60 in Stage 2. You will be able to calculate from this that in the 44 weeks of full engagement, there are 41 study hours per week for a full-time student.

However, this question is more usually (and more legitimately) asked by part-time or distance students who have another job to do at the same time. Applying the same formula, a student taking a pathway which has 40 credits from Stage 1 in a year would be working at 1/3 the pace of a local student, and so could put aside 14 hours a week for the length of that stage. On the other had, a student taking a pathway which has 80 credits from Stage 1 in a year would be working at 2/3 the pace of a local student, and so could put aside 27 hours a week for the length of that stage. Six of these would be in attendance at the School, and the remainder would need a full weekend and an hour each evening.

See also the FAQ "How many days a week and weeks a year will I attend?".

As a part-time student, I have a job; will I be able to find time for study?

See the answer to the earlier question "How much time would I need to devote to study each week?". However, the time needed is only part of the problem. You also need to find the energy and commitment to spend your spare time studying. It is extremely difficult to juggle a career, especially when one is a principal, with a course. Working in the building industry often involves fluctuating work loads dictated by the demands of clients and contracts. Inevitably, these demands take priority over our demands on students, with the result that study suffers.

Notwithstanding, most part-time students do manage their way through these problems to attain their degree, and some have managed to do extremely well academically despite heavy professional commitments. If an extreme situation arises which could not be foreseen, it is possible to apply for extra study time.

Can I bend your schedules?

Can I build up a degree over several years, studying it a module at a time?

If you were interested in the Environmental Design of Buildings, you could enrol on the distance course as an "occasional student". This would give you the facilities that a full student would have (access to the local area network and library services, and so on) but without pinning you to a fixed schedule for completion. This leaves you free to take modules when you want and build up credits at your own pace. You could, for example, take teaching modules without engaging in the project modules.

If you are interested in this option, you should check the rules with the University Registry. In particular, you should check on the limitations there are on building up credits towards an eventual degree. You should also check the fee for this route with the University's Finance Division. It has a special all-purpose formula for it, but in our case it should amount to the fee being the same as it is for normal distance students, who are charged by module an amount that adds up to the same overall fee as paid by a local student.

One difficulty that occasional students can face if they want to build up credits towards a degree, is that the course could change during the period of their studies.

Can I take just the parts that interest me as CPD?

For the distance learning version of the Environmental Design of Buildings course, the School will consider releasing teaching modules or units within them for CPD. Some units may require prerequisite knowledge, or the completion of precursor units. Project modules are not available for CPD.

Components from the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design programme are also available for CPD.

Applicants who are interested in this option should contact the School to discuss possible arrangements and agree fees.

Can I use credits I have earned in another course to offset modules in one of your masters?

We do not have formal arrangements in place for accepting credits from courses at other institutions in lieu of taking modules in any of our masters. If you have a case to make, please contact the School.

If, on the other hand, you are enrolling on a new course that includes modules for which you have already earned credits, then it could be possible to bring those credits forward to the new course so that you do not have to be re-examined in those modules. This situation may arise in several ways. For example, you may have completed a course that shared modules with the new course, you may have studied for the course before but had to withdraw before completing it, or you may have earned credits as an occasional student. The number of credits that can be carried forward in this way is limited by University regulations to one-third of the total (three out of six taught modules for an MSc).

As a course develops, its taught content changes from year to year. This makes it increasingly difficult to find an equivalent for credits that you may wish to carry forward in current modules.

Can I start in January?

No, all of our postgraduate taught courses start in late September each year.

I need to work out the cost

How much does it cost?

The fees for all of our courses can be found in the tables published by the University: View PDF. Bear in mind when reading these tables that the fees quoted are per annum, and that part-time study takes more than one year. The exception is the distance version of the Environmental Design of Buildings course, in which the fees are quoted per 10-credit module (bear in mind that some modules are multiples of this). Students take four such modules per year over three years, unless enrolled as occasional students.

Questions about the mode of payment should be directed to the University.

Will I be charged international or home fees?

Fees for UK and European students are subsidised by the government, and are therefore less than the full cost. The University decides on your fee status based on the information you supply on application. Such guidance as it gives in advance can be found at www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/funding/fees.html.

Can I get funding for my studies/does WSA offer scholarships?

The wsa unfortunately has no funds of its own with which to support students. If scholarships from other bodies are currently available specifically for any of the wsa courses, there will be details on our own main web pages. There is at the time of writing one bursary a year available for the MSc Masters Suite from the Leverhulme Trust. Information on other sources of funding for postgraduate taught students can be viewed at: www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/funding.html

More general information about funding in Cardiff can be viewed at: www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/questions/funding.html

Will I face additional costs for the course on top of the fees?

There are no course books from which you are required to study. There is an excellent library, and good on-line resources. Similarly, the software that you will need is available on the University network. There are computer suites available for your use. It is consequently possible for local students to get by without buying books, software, or hardware. However, you may find it convenient to have your own copies of books and software that you use frequently, particularly if you are a part-time student. A lap-top is an asset (there are lockers to keep them in) and for part-time students ownership of a computer is essential for home study. Use of the University printers is via a charge card. You will need to buy the normal stationary that you would expect for study.

There are field trips on most courses. Part of the cost is paid for by the School, but a contribution from students is often requested. The trips are not compulsory. If students require English language tuition whilst studying, some early sessions will be paid for by the School, but subsequently students will have to pay the language service fees. The same applies for other extra-curricular tuition that students book in for with other University departments.

Distance students do not have the same access to the library and on-line software that local students do, so they can expect to pay more for materials and equipment. There is a list of essential pre-requisites for study on the main pages.

I am ready to apply, but how, and what happens then?

How do I apply?

To apply for any of our Postgraduate Taught courses you will need to complete an application form. Full details of the application process can be found on the University web pages at: www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/applying.html

We advise you to follow the on-line procedure.

Where do I send the application form?

You should conduct the entire application process with the University, not the School. If you apply on-line there is no need to post a form, of course. But if you use the paper form, send it to the University Registry. Also send all supporting documents to the University Registry. They will make a record of your application and send it on to us.

Is there a deadline for applications?

As a general rule, we recommend submitting your application as soon as possible once you are happy with your choice of course.

For the MSc Degrees Suite, we are able to continue admitting students until all places are full - so in order to avoid disappointment please do send your application in as soon as you can.

For the Diploma/MA in Professional Studies we normally work towards a deadline of the 1st August.

Do I need to send a portfolio?

The MA in Urban Studies requires a portfolio (see the main web pages for that programme for details of what is required). We do not require sight of a portfolio for the MSc Degrees Suite. However, if you would like to send us one, we would be pleased to see it, as it does help to give us a better picture of you. Portfolios on CDs are not welcomed, however.

Do I need references?

We do insist on the two references asked for on the application form. These should be ACADEMIC references if at all possible. However, if you are a applying for a part-time course and will be working for an employer whilst you are studying, a reference from the employer would be helpful in lieu of one of the academic references.

References should be in sealed envelopes. They are passed on to us at the School by Registry unopened, and we treat the information they contain in confidence. Open references are of little value.

How do I know if I have been accepted?

Your application is checked by the School and returned to the Postgraduate Registry with the School's decision. If you have been successful, the Postgraduate Registry then sends you a formal offer of a place. There is an acceptance slip included with the offer, which you should return to Registry if you decide to accept the place. Registry then lets us know.

Returning this decision slip is not a trivial matter. It means that if we hear nothing else from you, we will be expecting you to arrive at the start of the course. Unfortunately, every year we get a substantial number of acceptances from candidates who fail to arrive which makes planning the course difficult and can cause us to turn other applicants away. Please let us know directly (HeywoodCA@cardiff.ac.uk) if circumstances arise that prevent you from taking up the offer (if, for example, you accept a place at another university). We will understand.

There were conditions on my offer - do I have a place or not?

The place offered you is secure, but you will not be able to take it up until you have fulfilled the conditions (usually this means obtaining an examination or test result). As soon as you have, send evidence to Postgraduate Registry, and they will let us know. The University will tell you that you cannot reserve accommodation with it until you have satisfied the conditions. See www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/applying.html for more information.

I am waiting for a scholarship before I know whether I can study - should I accept the place offered?

This is a decision for you to make. But if you do accept a place that you may not be able to take up, please let us know at the School (HeywoodC@cardiff.ac.uk) that you are waiting on a decision, and then let us know again as soon as you receive that decision.

Will I hear anything more from you after accepting an offer?

The University send you on different dates information about accommodation and enrolment. Please see their web pages for more details www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/applying.html.

You will also receive correspondence from us, quite independently of this, which will include information on the enrolment and induction programme at the School when you arrive.

Where do I find information about accommodation?

This is sent by the University. For information on when they send it, see their web page www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/postgraduate/applying.html.

What can I do to prepare for the course before I arrive?

On the whole, there is no set preparatory work for students to complete before they arrive. It is up to you to decide how best to use your time to prepare for study in the way that best suits you.

As they are at masters level, the courses do start from an assumption of some prior knowledge. See the main pages for each individual course for the prior background that will be assumed, and for the induction programme that the course provides to review this and make you aware of where your particular shortcomings fall - everyone has some. These may be weaknesses in mathematics, design, social theory, basic physics, and so on - it depends on the course and on your prior background. You would do well to start catching up in these areas before you come.

Unless the main pages for your course have particular requirements, we would put the first emphasis for preparation on basic study skills that all students need whatever course they attend. In particular, language, writing, computing, and presentation skills are important. Time spent making sure that these basic skills are up to a satisfactory level before you begin will enable you to concentrate on the teaching material that you are given and the project work that you do when you are here. This is your first priority.

If you have applied for the MSc Degrees Suite, some notes on preparation will be sent to you over the summer before the course starts.

What is the final award?

What will my degree be called / will I get a degree in architecture?

The name of the degree on your certificate will be the same as the full title of the course. None of the course titles for the MSc Degrees Suite contains the word "architecture".

Will the degree certificate for the distance version of the Environmental Design in Buildings mention "Distance Learning"?

No, the method of learning is not given on the certificate, so the certificate that a distance student receives for the MSc in Environmental Design of Buildings is the same as a local student would receive.

Can I study for a Certificate or a Diploma rather than an MSc or MA?

The Dip/MA in Professional Studies allows you to register for a Diploma rather than an MA if you wish. You are then registered to take Stage 1 of the course only. If you register for an MA, you are intending to take Stage 2 also.

None of the other masters course at the School have the option of registering for a Certificate or a Diploma, so you are registering to take both Stage 1 and 2. However, having completed Stage 1 and earned 120 credits you are permitted to opt out of stage 2 and accept a Postgraduate Diploma. Also, if you have obtained credits for the teaching modules in Stage 1 but failed to obtain credits for all the project modules, you may be offered a Postgraduate Certificate.

What can I do with the masters degree?

Will I be able to move on to study for a PhD after taking my masters?

Some of the best students from the course do go on to research for a PhD. It is not an automatic route as this opportunity depends on ability. Candidates who would prefer to study for a postgraduate degree by research only can apply directly for a place as an MPhil or PhD student. There are many research areas open to postgraduate research students other than the subjects of the masters courses.

Will these courses improve my employment prospects?

The taught part of the Diploma/MA in Professional Studies course leading to the diploma covers the ground for part 3 of the requirements for professional qualification as an architect in the UK. You cannot practice as an architect in most countries without this qualification. Continuation of studies to MA level is not a mandatory requirement for qualification, but it still might increase your employment prospects.

All the wsa courses teach material relevant to practice. Any practitioner who increase their practical skill and knowledge becomes more employable depending upon the attitude of their employer and should see a rise in the standard of their practice, whether they are salaried or self employed.

The skills taught in the Architectural Science courses are very much in demand in the current professional climate. Ongoing changes in legislation regarding "green" building and energy conservation are placing new demands on practices that require new expertise to satisfy. This applies in particular to energy and environmental performance modelling which requires skills difficult to acquire satisfactorily. There is not, however a defined professional route for an environmental designer, a sustainable designer or a performance modeller as there is for an architect or building services engineer. Many graduates are likely to remain in the profession for which they were originally trained, but with their employment prospects enhanced by the specialist expertise they have gained. Others will follow more divergent career paths.

For example, graduates from the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design course should be able to advise on general principles of sustainable design, formulate targets and briefs for the development of sustainable environments, and manage built environment developments and other projects to achieve a high standard of sustainability. Students with a design background will have gained skills to enable them to implement holistically sustainable strategies to built environment designs. Potential employment prospects include: sustainability officer for local authorities, sustainable design consultant within a design or development organisation, independent sustainability consultant etc.

I am not from an architectural or building engineering background, but will taking this course help me to find a job in this field?

Many students in this position have taken the course (see FAQ "What has the mix of disciplines on the course actually been?"). We know that some of them have been very successful in breaking into the field either as academics or practitioners. For example, one physicist worked as an adviser with a firm of building engineers, a job she started whilst she was still a student. An environmental scientist has started a consultancy in environmental design in her own country and is writing a course on the subject for her university. Another environmental scientist worked as a lobbyist for sustainable design for a political party, moved on to a major international conservation group, and is now one of our clients. A human life scientist found a job with a firm of building environmental consultants. A geologist has an academic research career in environmental building studies.

As can be seen, there is not a pre-defined career path visible in this list. Success in breaking into the field is influenced by personal motivation and enterprise, as opportunities have to be found and pursued, even invented. However, is some ways the absence of a clear career path is an advantage to someone from another background, as there is no professional cabal to exclude you.

I am coming from overseas. After finishing the course, will I be able to work in a practice in the UK?

If you are intending to take the Dip/MA in Professional Studies you are already well along the route to obtaining a British professional qualification, which will obviously be of a great advantage in getting employment as an architect in the UK.

Our other courses do not aim to train students for work in the UK but, on the contrary, do their best to prepare them for practice in their own countries. Even so, a number of our overseas MSc students have gone on to work in the UK, some of them in Cardiff. Many employers find the skills we teach valuable. It would help, of course, if you have a professional qualification already in architecture, engineering, or an allied profession. But Home Office rules apply to students from overseas who seek employment in this country.

Useful links

Study options

Click here for more information on the Programme Structure.

Financial support

Click here for more information on scholarships and other forms of financial support for study on these courses.

MSc programme info

Click here for more information on the MSc Degree Programme.

Financial support

Click here for more information on scholarships and other forms of financial support for study on these courses.