Architectural Blatherations

Reactions to Our Ratings

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The Good Oil

Architecture schools and their employees hate being rated, ranked or assessed. Hate it, hate it. Here we publish a selection of their comments, together with our response.

University of New South Wales (UNSW): Dr Tom Loveday writes

UNSW's Dr Tom Loveday wrote a critique of our rankings of the English-speaking world's architecture academics. He berated us for disregarding the manifold contributions that architecture academics make to other fields, and in other creative pursuits. He is quite correct: we ignore these contributions entirely.

We applaud the many benefactions that the world's architecture professors have bestowed upon civilisation, beyond the daily toils of their salaried positions. Our ratings made no attempt to measure this great bounty, as we made crystal clear in our discussion of the methodology behind the rankings. We see no reason to change our methods.

What irked us was this demand from Dr Tom that we:

re-publish the report accompanied by a retraction of the first publication, including an apology to those affected

No offence Dr Tom, but we have to regard this as an attempt to bludgeon us into silence. Your colleagues at the University of South Australia tried to the same. We didn't cave in to them either. What is it with you delicate-petal Australian academics that you shrivel up and call for your lawyers at the least criticism?

RMIT University: Mr Brent Allpress writes

Mr Brent Allpress of RMIT University
Mr Brent Allpress

Mr Brent Allpress of the RMIT university architecture school program in Australia sent us this email in which he raised many important points about our rankings. We discuss them below, point by point.

Are we conflating multidisciplinary schools, to the disadvantage of RMIT?

Mr Allpress wrote:

a key point that your survey overlooks however is that you are conflating multi-discipline schools with single discipline architecture schools which are increasingly a rarity. a great many architecture departments and schools in australia have been subsumed within larger multi-discipline structures.

the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT is not a School of Architecture.

the equivalent disciplinary unit to a School of Architecture at RMIT is the RMIT Architecture Program.

Fine. Whatever. Sounds like a classic academic quibble to us. We used the school terminology for simplicity and lucidity. We are not entirely sure that our readers are that interested in academic niceties, so we did not burden them with hair-splitting.

He continues:

if you were to break down your survey to focus on architecture discipline units and not multi-discipline units your comparisons would have far greater relevance. as it stands your survey title: "rating australia's architecture schools" is a misnomer.

it would be more accurate and useful to retitle the survey: rating australia's architecture schools and programs, and undertake a more selective audit accordingly.

No, RMIT, we are not

We agree with his criticism, and indeed this has been an essential part of our methodology from the beginning. Mr Allpress must have missed a few key statements in our 2005 report, and the lengthy of discussion of our methodology here. Just in case Mr Allpress is tragically suffering from early-onset Alzheimers, we remind him that we said:

We took each site at face value. We used the smallest administrative unit possible [italics ours], preferably a department of architecture. Several sites could not be bothered to distinguish those teaching architecture from those teaching, say, toilet hydrodynamics. In such cases we used all those listed.

That is, we did not measure the very multidisciplinary units that Mr Allpress takes us to task for including. We did our best to narrow our measured individuals to those teaching architecture.

We'd also like to point out that since our indicators use very specific data from architecture libraries, including a multitude of non-architecturally focussed staff {faculty} from multidisciplinary units would decrease the unit's research intensity , not increase it.

A more accurate methodology: we whinge back

Mr Allpress makes a clarion call:

your criteria remain interesting, but your survey would greatly benefit from a more accurate, selective and careful methodology that identifies [sic] the primary architecture discipline unit and doesn't [sic] compare apples with fruit salads.

We whinge back

Alas, we do not have the luxury of a fat research grant, tenure at a university and a stack of free time. We actually having to work for a living. We suggest to the RMIT University school—sorry, program—of architecture that instead of whingeing and whining about our study, that it complete a comparable one of its own: using over 3,000 academics from more than 150 universities, as we did. To have our whinge and whine back, we made this table for your delectation:

Mr Brent Allpress at the taxpayer-funded RMIT… Dr Garry Stevens at the unfunded KCAS…
…works for a university, an institution funded by Australian taxpayers specifically to conduct research. When Mr Allpress waddles into his office chair, he is comforted that millions of Australian taxpayers are helping to keep his arse warm and cosy. …works in the private sector for people who have no intention of paying for his research. When Dr Garry sits in his office chair, the only person paying to keep his backside off the floor is himself.
…is paid by the Australian taxpayer and sundry students, in either fat research grants or a generous long-term salary and superannuation {pension} package …does not receive one cent of taxpayer or student money, from any nation in the world
…conducts research on time paid by these taxpayers and students, published in places that demand a fee …conducts research in his own free time, and published on this site absolutely gratis and for free (even!)
…is an employee of the state who is expected to conduct research as part of his job …is a private individual who can conduct research or just play Sopranos Trivia, as he pleases
…has six months a year free of teaching, and only a few hours of face-to-face time each week during term …works more hours a day than the typical Aussie academic is required to work in a week

We challenge RMIT university to put its large but ill-informed mouth where its millions of Australian taxpayer dollars are. You don't like our results, do your own study—and on exactly the same budget we had: nothing. Not one paid staff hour, not one single cent of the tax-payer's dollar, not one single second of some poor student's time. And in the same time we took to do ours: four months. We shall publish RMIT University's response to our challenge here, but we suspect they are much too comfy to do any actual work.

Boston Architectural College: Dr Landsmark Writes

In a bit of a dither about the BAC's ranking on our research intensity index, Dr Ted Landsmark sent this email to the inestimable journal Archvoices. We couldn't agree more with what he says: every damn point, and we have made appropriate edits to our site to reinforce our views where we feel Dr Landsmark made good points. We just wonder why his email seemed rather breathless.

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