The Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London has finally been given taught-degree awarding powers (TDAP), allowing the influential school to grant degrees for the first time in its 170-year history. While the school is the oldest independent architecture school in the U.K. and internationally renowned as a pioneering educational institution, graduates of the AA could not, until now, receive academic degrees backed by the U.K. government. Nonetheless, the illustrious alumni list of the institution includes Pritzker Prize winners Rem Koolhaas, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid among other big names.
The victory is a turning point for the AA, whose financial insecurity and an uncertain future was a major factor in pursuing accreditation earlier this year. The institution, which does not receive government funding, is reliant on student tuition dollars, particularly from foreign students whose visa status would remain on shaky ground as long as the school was unaccredited. While the road to gaining TDAP was years in the making, the school successfully petitioned the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education for the right this year.
“Without TDAP, the AA Diploma–widely known and internationally acclaimed – is not an academic award recognised by the UK government, and AA graduates regularly encounter challenges when returning home or to other overseas countries for the purposes of professional development or further academic study,” explained Eva Franch i Gilabert, directors of the school, in an interview with Dezeen last year. Franch i Gilabert was elected to the directorial position in March 2018 after receiving the largest majority of any candidate in almost three decades.
Balancing the school’s finances and securing TDAP status was a major point of Franch i Gilabert’s administration. The decision to give degree-granting power is a much needed boon for the AA after the international architecture community protested staff cuts at the AA Files, the school’s journal, under the previous interim director. Their acceptance into the circle of official higher education institutions is also a sharp turn for the AA, which maintains a reputation for its cutting-edge and radical educational style.