Architecture school rankings


Image by AA School of Architecture

You may be in the early stages of your architecture school application and happen to find yourself looking through all sorts of architecture school rankings. There’s nothing wrong with school rankings, as long as they’re valid. Many of them should be taken with a pinch of salt. Here are a few important things to remember when looking through rankings:

QS is not necessarily a quality rank for architecture.

There are a lot of MIT and Bartlett grads out there proud of how their alma mater places in the upper echelons of the QS architecture rank. However, this rank is not an entirely valid rank for architecture. Architecture is notoriously hard to rank, and the metrics used by QS have placed many of the universities on their list in odd positions. For example, Stanford doesn’t have a NAAB program…and yet is ranked at no.23. A lesson in being critical! It is also worth remembering that top independent schools such as the AA, Cooper Union and SCI-Arc are not picked up by this ranking, yet these are some of the top schools in the world.

2018, QS world university rankings 2018: architecture (Guardian)

Quality ranks tend to come from organisations that are actually from an architecture background.

The AJ and other architectural media more valid sources as their indicators focus on what matters in architecture.

Don’t obsess over rankings.

Your valuable time may be better invested in developing your application and portfolio, and not scrolling though rankings. If your dream school is in the top 20, globally, then it’s going to be an exceptional school and that’s all anyone can ever know. Your own personal selection strategy is what matters. Sure, if your school ranks as 250th on average instead of 50th, then there is clearly a difference in calibre. Just make sure not to see ranks as individual positions of 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. See the ranking order in groups of 5, where the real differences are. For example, see the first 5 rankings as 1st place schools, the next 5 rankings and 2nd place schools, etc. This will stop you getting hung up on the tiny differences in ranking positions between schools which don’t really mean anything. There is no meaningful difference between, for example, a school ranking 3rd and another ranking 4th, or a school ranking 87th and another 88th. Seeing them in this grouped way will stop you getting hung up over small differences that, in the long run, don’t really mean anything. Use ranks generally. Now you can use your time to ask more relevant questions.

Ask more relevant questions.

Once you’ve gathered a few schools that you’re interested in, profile them yourself. Does one have a certain professor with interests that align closely with your own interests? What is the course structure like? Does one have a pedagogy which is totally incompatible with your interests?


Now that you’ve gone through the ranking malarkey, see this post on school selection. Personal school selection strategy beats rank crawling.