Landscape Institute responds to student downturn

Landscape Institute members consulted on changes to voting, structure, chartership route and membership categories.

Farrer: Landscape Institute president selected top three winners
Farrer: Landscape Institute president selected top three winners

The Landscape Institute is considering creating new routes into the profession as student numbers atrophy and practices report recruitment difficulties.

It is currently consulting members on a series of changes to voting rights, structure, route to chartership and introducing non-professional categories of membership.

Head of education and membership Chris Sheridan said the institute is reaching out more to colleges and universities as well as to allied professions to encourage people to do postgraduate and conversion courses in landscape architecture but also to join the institute as non-professional members. It is also considering accrediting courses that are not pure landscape architecture.

"A lot of professions need to change now, they need to be relevant and fit for the future and make sure people have got the right skills. We need to look at the breadth of what people are doing," said Sheridan.

Immediate past president Sue Illman said the institute needs to keep pace with new courses coming on stream such as urban design or urban management.

"We're being much more proactive, we're targeting courses that we want to attract and organisations that have people like urban designers and landscape managers," she explained.

"It's not just about design. I spend more time talking about landscape planning than I do on design now, I work on sustainable urban drainage systems and I lecture as well."

Landscape Institute award-winner for best student dissertation Jacqui Jobbins is an example of somebody who trained as a landscape architect but is not focused on design. The former garden designer and landscape company boss said her ideal job would be in research, analysis and assessment for Land Use Consultants. Institute president Noel Farrer put her work among his top three winners this year.

LDA Design is the winner of this year's Landscape Institute President's Award. Senior partner Neil Mattinson said he thinks too many courses focus on garden design and fail to prepare students for the bigger picture in terms of integrating their skill sets into masterplanning, urban design and large-scale public realm.

"I'm extremely concerned about the next generation of landscape architects," he added. "We try and accommodate as many graduates as we can because we understand the difficulties in securing your first job, but we are alarmed at the lack of rigour and basic knowledge among our graduates.

"When they come to us it's as though they have spent three or five years developing graphic presentation skills at the cost of basic design and horticultural knowledge."

Added to this, a significant minority of landscape architecture students in the UK are foreign nationals who take their skills back home with them while those who stay "don't always have enough grounding in the basic skill sets", said Mattinson. Foreign landscape architects move to the UK to work but it can take a while to get used to the British system.

Mattinson said he is also concerned that education establishments are increasingly out of kilter with fast-changing practice. "Universities like Sheffield, Cheltenham, Greenwich and Writtle are doing a good job at the moment but some other courses seem to be in decline," he added.

Writtle College senior lecturer in landscape architecture and urban design Tim Wareman said there is a lot of concern in academia about courses closing. Manchester Metropolitan and Kingston University have closed undergraduate degrees in the past 18 months, while there is a move towards landscape architecture being subsumed into other, broader courses.

KeyStat

The number of colleges and universities that are currently running programmes accredited by the Landscape Institute - 12 colleges and universities


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