Today, the role of an architect extends far beyond creating aesthetically pleasing structures. They are at the forefront of the green building movement, integrating sustainable materials and energy-efficient designs into their projects. Rather than contributing to urban sprawl, they are repurposing existing structures for new functions, minimising the need for additional resources and energy. What’s more profound is that they are contributing to the development of sustainable cities — prioritising pedestrian-friendly designs, green spaces that boost well-being and ensuring efficient public transportation.
Hence why beyond the conventional confines of design and aesthetics, architecture degrees are fast becoming catalysts for change. These are more than just paper qualifications but a crucial means to solving complex problems that span everything from environmental sustainability to social inclusivity.
The architects these universities aim to produce go beyond the traditional boundaries of their profession, recognising the interconnectedness of the built environment with broader societal and environmental issues. Armed with a holistic understanding of the world’s challenges, graduates from these institutions are poised to revolutionise the way we build, live, and interact with our environment.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Situated in a globally influential Bi-city region, the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) offers students the chance to explore the socio-spatial challenges of a rapidly transforming urban landscape of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. From dense high-rise districts to tropical country parks, over 200 islands, and heritage sites, this is a vast living laboratory of diverse architectural contexts.
CUHK’s MArch is the second part of a two-degree sequence in professional architectural education. Source: The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Location aside, the school also stands out for its dedicated infrastructure. Housed within CUHK’s expansive, green 138.4-hectare campus, it is the only division of its kind in Hong Kong with a purpose-designed building solely devoted to the study of architecture — the 7,700-square metre facility provides students with unlimited access to state-of-the-art resources and a conducive environment for an impactful education. The school operates within the Faculty of Social Science and is uniquely positioned to address issues of Asian urbanism, drawing students passionate about driving social and environmental change.
For aspiring undergraduates, the Bachelor of Social Science (Architectural Studies) provides a solid foundation, instilling creative skills for crafting solutions that seamlessly blend cultural nuances, physical contexts, and cutting-edge environmental technologies. It’s an effective pathway to the School of Architecture’s accredited Master of Architecture (MArch), which prepares students for advanced research, design thinking and speculative spatial practices. Its aim is to evolve learners into leading architects at the heart of social, urban and rural innovation to create solutions for environmental challenges. The Master of Science in Urban Design is just as impactful, a gateway to mastering the art and science of creating vibrant, sustainable, and socially just cities.
All three programmes are accredited by local and international professional institutions. In true CUHK fashion, all three programmes emphasise small group settings, community engagement, and close ties to the booming industry of architecture, offering students unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal growth.
Students at the Department of Architecture in ETH Zürich (D-ARCH) in Switzerland are designing for a different world. Guided by high-quality teaching and informed by research, they are exploring the issues of future cities, energy, climate change and sustainability – and putting their own stamp on them.
The Department of Architecture of ETH Zürich is currently home to 2,120 students. Source: ETH Zürich
Faculty here are diverse and highly skilled, with expertise ranging from the development of new construction systems to conservation, from the use of robotics to historiography and sociology. Working in close proximity with students and with the protection of academic freedom, they encourage students in both bachelor’s and master’s programmes to join the search for creative solutions in the field of tension between construction, the satisfaction of living and working needs and the preservation of a livable, designed environment.
The institutes of D-ARCH are: Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA), the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA), the Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) and the Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS). Within each lies many opportunities to excel in teaching, learning and research.
Each is closely linked with the design studios through the interdisciplinary definition of task, with research findings funnelled into teaching. Further collaboration with other divisions of ETH Zurich – such as the humanities, social and political sciences, as well as the material, environmental and engineering sciences – complement this.
The University of Melbourne
Located in Australia, The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is producing the next generation of architects through a multidisciplinary approach that allows them to become innovative leaders in the field.
The Faculty’s multidisciplinary approach prepares students to advance into the world as leading, adaptable professionals in their fields. Source: The University of Melbourne
For example, Bachelor of Design students are given the flexibility to combine in-depth study in a particular area with subjects from other disciplines in design. Master’s programmes equip students with knowledge across a wide range of disciplines and practical learning opportunities to apply real-world knowledge.
The faculty also has a strong international reputation for graduate research, where students and professors focus on the latest debates and engage with industry professionals, policy-makers and the community in analysing and solving complex problems in architecture.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is a leading global university based in Asia, powered by a mission “to transform the way people think and do things through education, research and service.”
In the QS World University Rankings 2023, the NUS Department of Built Environment is ranked seventh. Source: National University of Singapore/Facebook
Its School of Design and Environment (SDE) stands apart with its diverse offerings in two departments — Architecture and the Built Environment — and one division — Industrial Design. Since its inception, SDE has remained the sole faculty in Singapore to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to teaching and research across various disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, project and facilities management, building performance and sustainability, as well as industrial design.
“We provide world-class multi-disciplinary graduate-level courses and research programmes related to design and the built environment,” says Professor Wong Nyuk Hien, Vice Dean (Research), School of Design and Environment.
This year’s Times Higher Education take the pulse of the research and teaching strengths of more than 200 universities in the MENA region to produce Arab University Rankings 2023: a region of resilience and growth.
Even as many universities struggle to keep the lights on, others reap the rewards of strong investment and tumult elsewhere, writes Pola Lem
The statement encapsulates the resilience not just of a Lebanese institution grappling with record-high inflation, but also that of its peers in the wider Arab region, which has been especially hard hit by the global economic crisis. But while many universities have been struggling to keep the lights on – quite literally, in some cases – others have reaped the rewards of strong government investment and the flight of scholars from neighbouring nations.
This year’s Times Higher Education Arab University Rankings take the pulse of the research and teaching strengths of more than 200 universities across 15 countries. Together, our league table – which this year reflects an updated methodology – and our editorial content capture the complex dynamics in a region with starkly different realities.
In our analysis, we examine the factors motivating researchers to uproot from some parts of the region and settle in others. This “push and pull” dynamic weaves through a selection of interviews and opinion articles featured alongside THE’s third annual Arab rankings.
In the United Arab Emirates, Timothy Baldwin, the head of the world’s first postgraduate university devoted to artificial intelligence, tells us about establishing a “clean-slate institution” in a prosperous young country keen to build its reputation as an investor in cutting-edge technology.
“We have just experienced the hottest summer on record, with the highest temperatures, fastest rates of ice melt, most dramatic wildfires and highest incidence of extreme weather,” she writes. “Water shortages, crop failures and species extinction are news of the day, and with them come forced migrations that test our humanity.”
But her message, like that of Mawad in Lebanon, comes with a rallying cry – a call for action and grit in the face of great adversity: “The MENA region is severely affected, with its traditional warm climate, water shortages and desert landscapes, but this is no reason to throw up our hands in despair.”
THE looked at the MENA higher education establishments by measuring their knowledge transfer, impact and international outlook, thus in Rankings for 2022 that are given by Country breakdown. It would be interesting to compare the same Rankings in 2021.
Arab University Rankings 2022: Country breakdown
The different countries of the Arab region have different strengths in higher education. Here we explore their scores against THE’s five pillars: teaching, research, citations, society (which measures knowledge transfer and impact) and international outlook
Algeria’s overall score is 24.3, based on 21 universities ranked, making it the lowest ranking region in the table. The average score for society is higher than for three other countries, however, at 26.9.
Egypt features in the top half of the table, with an overall score of 59.6 based on 34 universities. While the country scores especially high for citations (71.3), it falls down on international outlook (45.3).
While Iraq’s average overall score is among the lowest in the region, based on 23 universities ranked, the country does punch above its weight in the society pillar, with an average score of 59.0.
An all-rounder, Jordan has average scores in the 40s for all the pillars. And when it comes to working internationally, it scores 53.8, based on 14 universities ranked.
Lebanon is the third-highest scoring country in the region, or the second-highest when excluding countries with fewer than five universities ranked. Its strengths are teaching (82.9) and research (79.0), but its weakness is citations (39.4).
The average overall score for Morocco is 37.4, based on 10 universities ranked. The country’s strongest pillar is society, where it has an average score of 54.2.
With the seventh-highest score in the region (or fourth when discounting countries with fewer than five universities ranked), Saudi Arabia scores well all-round. Its strongest areas are international outlook (75.2) and citations (74.7).
With an overall score of 44.4, based on 10 universities, Tunisia sits around the middle of the table. The pillar on which it performs best is teaching (53.2), followed by research (50.3); it is weakest on citations (23.2).
United Arab Emirates
The UAE has the highest average overall score in the region, when counting countries with five or more universities ranked, at 71.2. It scores especially well on the international outlook pillar (82.4). Its lowest scoring pillar is society at 51.0.
Oxford archaeologists discover monumental evidence of prehistoric hunting across the Arabian desert.
They have found over 350 Monumental Hunting Structures labelled and since then known as ‘Kites’ In Northern Saudi Arabia And Southern Iraq Using Satellite Imagery.
Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert
Distribution of kite structures in the Levant and in northern Arabia. White: previously documented kites. Red: kites recorded by EAMENA.
Archaeologists at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology have used satellite imagery to identify and map over 350 monumental hunting structures known as ‘kites’ across northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq – most of which had never been previously documented.
Termed kites by early aircraft pilots, these structures consist of low stone walls making up a head enclosure and a number of guiding walls, sometimes kilometres long. They are believed to have been used to guide game such as gazelles into an area where they could be captured or killed. There is evidence that these structures may date back as far as 8,000 BCE in the Neolithic period.
Kites cannot be observed easily from the ground, however the advent of commercial satellite imagery and platforms such as Google Earth have enabled recent discoveries of new distributions. While these structures were already well-known from eastern Jordan and adjoining areas in southern Syria, these latest results take the known distribution over 400km further east across northern Saudi Arabia, with some also identified in southern Iraq for the first time.
Dr Fradley said: ‘The structures we found displayed evidence of complex, careful design. In terms of size, the ‘heads’ of the kites can be over 100 metres wide, but the guiding walls (the ’strings’ of the kite) which we currently think gazelle and other game would follow to the kite heads can be incredibly long. In some of these new examples, the surviving portion of walls run in almost straight lines for over 4 kilometres, often over very varied topography. This shows an incredible level of ability in how these structures were designed and built.’
Evidence suggests considerable resources would have had to be coordinated to build, maintain, and rebuild the kites over generations, combined with hunting and returning butchered remains to settlements or camps for further preservation. The researchers suggest that their exaggerated scale and form may be an expression of status, identity and territoriality. Appearances of the kites in rock art found in Jordan suggests they had an important place within the symbolic and ritual spheres of Neolithic peoples in the region.
From the design of the kite heads to the careful runs of guiding walls over long distances, these structures contrast markedly in scale with any other evidence of architecture from the early Holocene period. The researchers suggest that the builders of these kites dwelt in temporary structures made from organic materials that have left no trace visible on current satellite imagery data.
Desert kite research is a very active field just now – Michael and colleagues explore a significant extension to their distribution pattern, which has major implications for our understanding of the relationship of the kite builders with new mobile pastoralists and the occupation of the region.
Bill Finlayson, Director of EAMENA and Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Oxford
These new sites suggest a previously unknown level of connection right across northern Arabia at the time they were built. They raise exciting questions about who built these structures, who the hunted game were intended to feed, and how the people were able to not only survive, but also invest in these monumental structures.
In the context of this new connectedness, the distribution of the star-shaped kites now provides the first direct evidence of contact through, rather than around, the Nafud desert. This underlines the importance areas that are now desert had under more favourable climatic conditions in enabling the movement of humans and wildlife. It is thought the kites were built during a wetter, greener climatic period known as the Holocene Humid Period (between around 9000 and 4000 BCE).
The largest number of kites were built on the Al Labbah plateau in the Nafud desert, where the absence of later Bronze Age burial monuments suggests that a shift into a drier period meant some of these areas became too marginal to support the communities once using these landscapes, with game species also potentially displaced by climate change.
Whether the patterns of kite construction over space and time represent the movement of ideas or people, or even the direction of that movement, remain questions to be answered.
The project, supported by the Arcadia Fund, is now extending its survey work across these now arid zones to further develop our understanding of these landscapes and the effect of climate change.
The study Following the herds? A new distribution of hunting kites in Southwest Asia is published in The Holocene.
MENA student leaders held their first event of the school year in their newly designated room in the Asian American Cultural Center — one student leaders have worked for years to obtain.
Courtesy of Keya Bajaj
On a rainy Tuesday evening this week, students belonging to Yale’s Middle Eastern North African community attended the academic year’s first mixer to meet new students and celebrate the long-awaited opening of a physical space designated for them.
The MENA community, comprising students from 18 countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, welcomed new and returning members alike at their new room, which officially opened its doors this school year. Located on the third floor of the Asian American Cultural Center, or AACC, the MENA room is the culmination of a long effort by student leaders to claim a designated space of their own.
At Tuesday’s mixer, MENA members connected with other Yalies from the region over generous helpings of falafel and baba ghanoush. Leaders also gave students a tour of the new space.
“We hope to find forever friendships here, to celebrate cultural and religious events together,” AACC peer liaison Zahra Yarali ’24 said.
Most of the evening’s conversations took place in the MENA room. Here, in a homey space decorated with Arabic calligraphy wall art and plush floor cushions, community members swapped stories of cultures “split between two continents,” as described by MENA Student Association President Youssef Ibrahim ’25.
But some attendees did note the room’s small size, which was unable to accommodate all of the event’s attendees.
AACC Director Joliana Yee told the News that the room was furnished with the intention of it being a work in progress — a place that MENA members could personalize and make their own.
In the past years, MENA members have shared space with both the AACC and the Afro-American Cultural Center and were assigned peer liaisons from one of the two houses, depending on which region they chiefly identified with.
But student leaders have pushed back on the legacy system, noting that MENA students have an identity distinct from the other two cultural centers.
“We do not fit entirely in either house,” Ibrahim said.
This sense of not belonging, a common sentiment among MENA community members, is fueled by “a lack of awareness of how big the community is here [on campus],” AACC Associate Director Sofia Blenman said.
Blenman added that the new room is a testament to MENA’s goal of “empowering students to feel … that they are seen.”
Still, MENA students face challenges representing themselves on campus. Official documentation, including the Common Application platform, does not offer a Middle Eastern and North African identity option, so there is no administrative record of who on campus identifies as MENA. Group leaders are therefore forced to trawl through residential college class lists to find new recruits and welcome them into the community.
Yee noted the struggle MENA students face of “being racialized as white in the U.S. context but having lived experiences that are drastically different.”
“There is validity to the unique experiences we’ve had,” Yarali added. “We are reclaiming an identity that has been whitewashed for so long.”
“Leaving an impact on the world is a lot about taking up space,” Yarali added, and the newly-inaugurated MENA room may give members of this group a new sense of hope. The group’s plans for the year include celebrations for Ramadan, the Persian New Year, winter solstice and perhaps a cultural fashion show.
MENA is also looking forward to more student-driven events and continued opportunities for collaboration with the AACC, which hosted Tuesday’s mixer.
But the attainment of the room does not mark the end of MENA students’ fight for representation on campus. MENA students have spent years advocating for a cultural center of their own, and that activism will continue, Ibrahim said.
“I aspire for a physical cultural center of our own,” he said. “It is a right for us to be represented.”
The MENA room will host an event with the Arab Students Association this Saturday, Sept. 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
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