In this edition of our annual rankings of the top architecture, landscape architecture and interior design schools we provide new insights and perspectives on education’s relevancy and differentiation.

In this edition of our annual rankings of the top architecture, landscape architecture and interior design schools we provide new insights and perspectives on education’s relevancy and differentiation.

While all rankings are flawed, we have decided to share once private research conducted by Greenway Group’s Counsel House Research to an open audience with the hope that we can stimulate new thinking about education that serves the future human capital needs of the design professions.

Quite simply, our rankings sum up the satisfaction levels of the leading professional firms and organizations that hire graduate architects and designers.

Top thinkers in both professional practice and in education have guided us. We agree with former Harvard President Derek Bok who said: “Left to itself, the contemporary research university does not contain sufficient incentives to elicit all the behaviors that society has a right to expect.”

Nearly 10 years ago, several dozen leading firms began conducting independent research about the colleges and universities that were preparing students for professional practice. Several themes came to the surface early on:

  • A school’s geographic proximity does not necessarily give graduates a preferred pipeline to that geographic marketplace. Schools located in major markets are occasionally perceived to be out of touch with local practicing design firms.

  • Some schools have a repute for not listening well or responding to feedback offered by practitioners.

  • Certain schools appear to learn faster than others about changing professional practice and they have an agility component to implement these changes to benefit their students. These schools are perceived to have a growing competitive advantage in the marketplace by those who recruit.

  • Some schools have more “brand rapport” with a marketplace and they actively seek two-way communication with professional firms and corporations.

  • Practitioners believe that you don’t necessarily get what you pay for in higher education

  • Certain schools regularly provide “creative zones” of excitement for their students while other schools procrastinate against needed change and offer up steady doses of cynical, uninformed and limiting beliefs about today’s design professions.

In the world of the architect and designer this makes fertile territory to challenge the status quo and to openly discuss the reasons that some schools are perceived to be consistently so much better than others.

The firms that commissioned this research find it has value for their own internal evaluation purposes. Firms who hire graduates value some schools over others and want to know the experience of other leaders in the professions.

We urge critical evaluation of these research results and we recognize that there are some wonderful programs that are not on our top lists. Some of these are new programs; others are small and don’t get a critical mass of research feedback. We encourage prospective students to exercise caution before making up their mind about where to go to school. At the very least students should:

  • Visit the campus and talk with students, faculty, and administration

  • Talk with graduates about their real-world experiences

  • Interview practitioners in the firms or industries where they would like to work

  • Draw up a list of strengths and weaknesses on each school, based on your preferences.

In our rankings we have tried to combine the experience of seasoned analysis along with an open mind. We hope to be candid, timely and useful. And we hope you will benefit from the study.