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Information for Students 2020

The London School of Architecture is founded on a model that brings together practice and academia. In the First Year, students must undertake a three-day per week placement with a suitable practice. The LSA has established a Practice Network in London to help to facilitate work placements for students. Within this, the school seeks to match students and practices to the satisfaction of both parties and to follow a fair and transparent process in order to achieve this.

If you have been offered a place on the taught programme and seek to be placed in the Practice Network, the placement process is as follows:

1. In the spring, the LSA will publish the research themes for 2020/21, and you will be asked to make a first, second and third choice. From these research themes, the LSA will establish the Design Think Tanks, which are groupings of practices and students who share a similar research agenda. The precise research question of each Design Think Tank will be formulated from the start of the programme in September, and the Design Think Tank Project will be developed collaboratively from December 2020.

2. The school will consult with you to find out more detail about what you would like to get out of your practice placement experience. From your choice of research theme and this consultation, the LSA will suggest practice placement options that the school thinks would suit both you and the practice, and together we will agree the choices. Where possible, the LSA seeks to set up two interviews for you, which will take place within specified ‘Interview Weeks’.

3. Following an interview, the practice is asked to inform the school about its outcome, and then will in turn notify you. From the first two interviews, the school hopes that the majority of candidates will receive the offer of at least one suitable work placement.

4. In the event that you receive two placement offers, you are free to decide which one you accept. If you receive an offer from the first interview, you are free to accept, with no obligation to attend a second placement interview. The school asks that any scheduled second interview be cancelled with suitable notice, so that the opportunity may be opened up for another candidate.

5. In the event that the first two interviews do not yield an offer of a placement, the LSA will seek to identify further potential opportunities within the Practice Network.

6. The LSA will do everything within its power to help secure you a placement, but we cannot guarantee you will receive one, as ultimately the decision resides with the practice. You cannot enrol on the course unless a suitable placement is arranged in advance of the start of the academic year on Tuesday 1 September 2020. The placement must start no later than Wednesday 2 September 2020.

7. You will enter into both an employment contract with the practice placement provider and a standard contract with the LSA. The practice will pay you directly for your employment.


Alternative placement routes

There are two other routes to the establishment of a practice placement within the framework of the LSA programme:

1. A candidate who is employed by a practice operating within the LSA Practice Network is offered a conditional place on the taught programme and the practice declares its willingness for that employee to go part-time within the terms of the scheme.

2. A candidate who is currently employed by a practice operating outside the LSA Network is offered a conditional place on the taught programme and the practice declares (i) that it wishes to join the Practice Network and (ii) its willingness for the candidate to be employed part-time within the terms of the scheme.

Similarly candidates with a conditional place offer may target suitable practices outside the LSA Practice Network, seeking employment within the terms of the scheme.

Practices that seek to join the Practice Network through these routes must apply through the same process as the existing network. The school will assess the practice’s aptitude to join the Practice Network based on its completed Expression of Interest form and, potentially, at interview. The practice must be based in London.


In both routes 1 and 2, the practice/student pairing must join a Design Think Tank that suits their shared interests.


Tuition fees

The tuition fees are £9,000 per year for both the First and Second Year. Tuition fees are due and payable at enrolment for each year, and you have two payment options:

1. To pay in full. You are entitled to a five per cent discount if full payment of that year’s fees is made prior to or at enrolment.

2. By three instalments. The £9,000 annual fee can be split evenly between the three terms. The LSA must receive the term’s first tuition fee instalment no later than the start date of that term. The terms will ordinarily start in September, January and April.

You are required to ensure that you have secured funds to pay your tuition fees at the point of enrolment. Students who anticipate difficulty in making tuition fee payments as outlined above should contact the school as soon as possible to discuss their financial position and options.


Accepting your place

To accept your offer of a conditional place on the taught programme please notify the school by the date specified on your offer letter. You should indicate whether you are seeking a placement within the Practice Network, or through one of the other routes. At this stage you will need to provide the first £400 (non refundable) of the £900 deposit.

The London School of Architecture banks with HSBC and our deposits account number is 50024716 and sort code 40-11-60. As your reference, please use your initial of your first name and your surname, e.g. the reference for Joan Smith would be JSMITH.

Once you have satisfied the condition of gaining a suitable work placement, you can accept the offer of a place on the taught programme, at which stage the remaining £500 of the deposit is due (non refundable). If you accept a work placement and pay the total £900 deposit, and choose not to join the course subsequently, the deposit will ordinarily be forfeited.

All offers are subject to you providing original certificates of the qualifications upon which your offer has been based, in person at enrolment. If you do not have these documents you must bring certified replacements to your enrolment. Failure to provide this documentation or production of fraudulent qualifications will result in your offer being revoked.


Student finance for 2020/21

The LSA is seeking to achieve a level playing field with universities from 2020/21 so that our students can borrow the full amount of their tuition fees.

In 2019/20 our tuition fees were £8,000 and from 2018/19 students were eligible to apply for £6,000 tuition fee loans and for a maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company, alongside their practice placement salary.

To further support our ambitions to widen access, the LSA is seeking to ensure that our students can borrow the full amount of their tuition fees. To do this, the LSA will complete its application to the Office for Students to move to the Approved (Fee cap) category by the deadline of 24 March 2020.

The school has a strong track record in achieving its milestones and is confident it will secure access to full tuition fee loans from 2020/21. In order to secure this access, our tuition fees will increase to £9,000 in 2020/21 to enable us to:

1. Invest in essential staff and infrastructure to meet the complex requirements of new regulation introduced by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017; and

2. Invest more money into widening access and participation so that we can deliver on our core mission.

At this stage, we cannot guarantee that we will secure access to full tuition fee loans, and should it be delayed, we will offer a £1,000 discount to all new students on their £9,000 annual tuition fees until access is secured (calculated on a per term basis). In otherwords, tuition fees will remain at the existing £8,000 level until you can borrow the full amount.

As part of our application to change categories, on 28 February we submitted a draft Access and Participation Plan 2020/21–2024/25 in which the LSA commits to doubling the number of students from neighbourhoods with the lowest participation in higher education and increasing the ethnic diversity of students by 50% over the next five years (categorised as BAME by the OfS).

Should we secure access to the higher loans from 2020/21 and our Access and Participation plan is approved, we will:

  • Introduce a £500 ‘study budget’ for each student in both years, which can be used to fund school-related costs, such as printing, making, and study trips.
  • Increase bursary and hardship fund support for students (see more details in Financial Support section)

As this year’s recruitment cycle progresses, our main priority is to ensure we support our selected candidates into enrolment in September 2020. We are committed to ensuring that you can make informed choices about where you study for your Part 2.

We are pressing ahead to improve the status quo by securing the best deal possible for you with the Student Loans Company for 2020/21. If at any point you need further clarification or want to talk through your personal circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact stephanie@the-lsa.org. We are here to help you!


Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Students whose domicile is Scotland and Northern Ireland are required to apply directly to the Scottish and Northern Ireland educational authorities. In regards to Wales, an application to Student Finance Wales for consideration of course designation is in progress and the school is hopeful that designation will be forthcoming.


Bursaries and hardship funding for 2020/21


Should we secure access to the higher loans from 2020/21 and our Access and Participation plan is approved, we will extend our package of financial support to target students. A per-annum bursary of £1,500 will be available to students who are from Adult HE Quintiles 1 and 2 with a household income under £16,000 (to check your eligibility please email bursaries_scholarship_ committee@the-lsa.org). The following processes are also in place:

  • If demand exceeds the number of bursaries available, students will be prioritised on highest need based on actual level of household income.
  • We may also decide to utilise available money from the Hardship Fund (see below) to award additional bursaries, where deemed necessary.
  • Should demand be less than then number of bursaries available, any unallocated bursary funds can be reallocated into the Hardship Fund (see below).

We will provide significant additional funding as part of our Hardship Fund, to which students can apply for support (whether or not they have received a bursary). Hardship Fund allocations will be made on an individual basis, based on demonstrated financial need. These funds can supplement bursary allocations or provide financial support to students who do not meet the bursary criteria. Funds can be used to cover additional costs associated with an architecture course, such as model making and printing, to ensure successful participation in learning.


FAQs on student finance for 2020/2

Is access to the full £9,000 guaranteed for 2020/21?

No. The LSA is optimistic that it will secure full access by then, as we have successfully met all regulatory requirements since we opened in 2015. But the decision ultimately rests with the Office for Students, which is sadly outside our control. The LSA is fully committed to ensuring this access and will fully endeavour to satisfy the requirements of our regulator.

When will we find out what is happening with loans for 2020/21?

We will keep in close contact with you to ensure you have the most up-to-date information, and we will let you know quickly of all relevant updates from the OfS. We are committed to ensuring you have the right information so that you can make informed choices about the future of your education.

The Office for Students wrote to us on 2 March to “confirm that the OfS will prioritise [the LSA’s] application”. They wrote: “In view of Student Loans Company deadlines, final decisions on changes of registration category will need to be made by the OfS before 31 July 2020 in order for these to take effect from 1 August 2020.”

We hope to conclude this before 31 July and we will work closely with the OfS in the coming weeks to progress this application and seek to resolve this in the interests of our current and prospective students as quickly as possible.

What has prompted your changing approach to student finance?

Over the last five years, strong feedback from students and prospective candidates underlined the urgency for the LSA to enter the state system, so that they could borrow money for their tuition fees and maintenance loans as they would at a university. If our students have to self-fund their living costs, it limits the range of students we attract, making it impossible to achieve our mission to widen access to architectural education.

The cost of delivering the course has risen over that time as
we have continuously enhanced provision and the costs of higher education regulation, both direct and indirect, have also increased. Therefore, tuition fees have had to rise.

As we look to the next five years and consider how we can best widen access and participation, we have agreed as a Board and senior faculty to increase the tuition fees to the full amount that students can borrow, so that we have more to invest in widening access through new initiatives and financial support, such as giving students bursaries to fund the hidden costs of studying.

By increasing the tuition fees to market rate, we will be able to be much more proactive in ensuring we find and support the students who most need it.

What happened to the ‘cost-neutral’ model you opened with?

The LSA was founded in 2015 with a mission to widen access to architectural education. We launched with what we described as a ‘cost-neutral’ model, where student tuition fees were set at £6,000 per year and students earned a minimum of £12,000 in a 12-month 3-day/week work placement in First Year – so students earned the same amount in the First Year as both years’ tuition fees combined.

Our definition of ‘cost-neutral’ has evolved since then. Today, the course doesn’t set a minimum ‘cost-neutral’ education for all students but offers students the opportunity to balance tuition fees and earnings over the course of the two years. The programme is structured so that students can work for three months over summer and one day per week into Second Year’s first term, enabling higher potential earnings throughout the two-year programme above the mandatory placement (see below).


Top: The LSA works with our Practice Network to enable students to earn while they learn. In First Year, days students must undertake a 3-day/week integrated work placement, and spend 2-days/week at school. Additionally, the course is structured so that students have the option to work a further 2-days/week in the summer, and 1-day/week in the first two terms of Second Year.
Bottom: The baseline salary of £20,000/annum enables a student to earn £12,000 in their placement, and up to £16,000 if they work the additional optional days. Many are paid more, and if they earn an upper salary of £25,000/annum, they could earn up to £20,000 over the two-year programme (figures are indicative).


Why didn’t the LSA secure access to full tuition fee loans sooner?
We have been on the pathway to securing access for our students to higher tuition fee loans since our foundation year, and we are moving as fast along this route as the regulations have allowed.

When we opened in 2015, we needed three years’ audited accounts to apply for recognition from the Department of Education. We first secured access to £6,000 tuition fee loans for the academic year 2018/19, which was the first year for which we were eligible. We entered in the final year of the old system, which was abolished by the government prior to the creation of the Office for Students.

For 2019/20, we needed to apply to register with the OfS in
the new system, which we did successfully. For this year, it was theoretically possible that our students could gain access to loans for the full amount of their tuition fees by entering the Approved (Fee cap) category. However, the OfS guidance about our submission came at a very late stage, which compelled us to enter the register at the lower level.

For 2020/21, the Office for Students wrote to providers on 2 March 2020 to announce the process of how to change categories for the first time and gave a deadline of 24 March 2020 for applications. The LSA will meet this deadline.

What about staying outside of the Office for Student system and simply offering bursary support?

This is something that was considered, but it was immediately obvious that we could never fundraise for bursaries to the same amount that students could potentially borrow from the state. We simply saw no alternative to entering the state system.

Why raise the fees to £9,000 then give each student £500 study budget back? Why not just have lower fees?

Research has shown that fear of future debt is not an impediment for many students. However not having cash to hand during studies to fund costs of studying such as model-making and printing can be a huge impediment. This is our way to ensure a more level playing field to reduce barriers for success and continuation.

As the tuition fees are going up, will there be any additional resources available for students?

Yes. As we write above, should we gain access to the full tuition fee loans, we are introducing a £500 ‘study budget’ for every First Year and Second Year student to use towards their academic costs (Please note that this will only be introduced once we have access to the full tuition fee loans).

We anticipate that we will have more space and are looking at options on how we can achieve this. We are based at Mare Street and have a ground-floor studio facing onto the street, which is great for studio, seminars, talks and exhibitions. We are negotiating on a studio on the first floor within the same building which will increase the amount of space we have. We should be able to offer you more information as this progresses.

We are also very open to hearing your ideas on anything else that may be useful to support your studies, as we seek to get better each year, and we can only do this with your feedback.


Have salaries remained static in placements?
No. Since we opened, salaries for the work placements have also increased and in 2020/21 we are asking all work placement providers in our Practice Network to pay the London Living Wage of £10.75/hour, which equates to a minimum annual salary for three days per week of around £12,575. Students can (and often do) earn more than this over the course of the two years (see graphs below. Email stephanie@the-lsa.org for further information).



Arranging a salary sacrifice of your course fees with your practice

You may consider entering into a salary sacrifice with your practice in regard to your placement provider covering part of your tuition fees to the London School of Architecture. If this is correctly structured it will save you and the practice money but it is important that this is carefully structured to avoid any tax problems.

If you enter into a salary sacrifice your practice will meet part of the tuition fees to the London School of Architecture on your behalf. Your salary will be reduced by the agreed amount that your practice has met on your behalf. On this basis the tuition fees are paid out of gross salary so this creates a tax saving for you, but in addition you and they save National Insurance on the agreed sacrificed amount. This will only work if your contract of employment is revised to reflect that your earnings have been reduced by the amount of the salary sacrifice. In doing this it is imperative to ensure that this leaves you with earnings (after salary sacrifice) above the National Minimum Wage. It is also important that your payroll record reflects the salary sacrifice so the earnings are shown to be the revised sum (salary after salary sacrifice).

Once you enter into this arrangement it cannot be terminated for the 12-month period unless you experience a ‘lifestyle change’. While the tax legislation does not define a ‘lifestyle event’, this is considered by HMRC to include marriage, divorce, or an employee’s spouse or partner becoming redundant or pregnancy. It is sensible before accepting an event is a ‘lifestyle event’ that you get HMRC written acceptance.

If you would like to pursue a salary sacrifice arrangement, you should discuss it directly with your practice as soon as possible, as the practice would need to seek approval from HMRC. We can supplied your practice with extensive guidance on salary sacrifice, and sample letters and FAQs for each to amend to their needs. The practice is under no obligation to enter a salary sacrifice arrangement with you.

The above is subject to current UK legislation.


Students without Part 1

The school may accept students who have an equivalent qualification from a programme that is not Part 1 accredited by the Architects Registration Board in the UK. But students should note that if they seek to secure Part 3 after Part 2, they will first need to gain Part 1, and this is solely the responsibility of the individual student. Full information on how to do this is available on the ARB website at www.arb.org.uk/student


Making opportunities

The LSA uses the city as its campus. For 2016/17 and 17/18, we were based at Somerset House and used Makerversity for the Second Year workshop. In 2019/20, we moved the studio to Mare Street in Hackney, which offers greatly enhanced studio space, in a neighbourhood of makers. After consultation with our students, we reviewed how workshop opportunities could be provided, and it was agreed that – instead of spending a centralised fee on a single workshop – the budget would be divided and each student could invest their portion as they choose, using any provider that suited their needs. This will be held under review on an annual basis, and will be developed in future years in partnership with students.