Is my partner too old to start training in architecture?

Culture Down Under

I'm about to move to New Zealand, where my partner has been offered a job, and I'd like to do a postgraduate course in art history or museum studies. I have a BA in history and have been working in a local museum for the past three years. I'm really interested in cultural artefacts and issues of identity. What are the opportunities for study in Auckland, and what would it cost?

Unlike in Europe and North America, the number of universities in English-speaking countries in the southern hemisphere (such as New Zealand) is comparatively small. So don't assume that there will be several local institutions offering similar degrees, as is the case here. But you're in luck, because while New Zealand has only eight universities, the University of Auckland has two relevant masters programmes - art history, and museum and cultural heritage. The latter examines the public presentation of visual and material culture, and sounds just what you're looking for.

The academic year in New Zealand runs from February to November. Ideally, you should start researching 18 months before you intend to start. But you can still do most of the necessary work in cyberspace and contact the university via e-mail.

Fees will be between 18,000 and 25,000 New Zealand dollars (£7,000 and £9,800). You'll need to pay in full before you enrol, and provide copies of your educational certificates. You'll also have to apply for a student visa: see for details.

Fast track to architecture?

I'm writing on behalf of my partner, who is mulling over a possible career change to architecture. He's 42 with a degree in fine art. After leaving college he ran a business building furniture and kitchens for 14 years. Would he be able to study architecture without taking another first degree? And how long would it take to qualify?

Training to become an architect in the UK is a serious business. Unlike in the US, there is no fast-track route into the profession. Training takes a minimum of seven years, must be accredited by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and to practise you must be on the UK's Register of Architects.

Training requires a degree in architecture (which typically takes three or four years), followed by a year of supervised practical experience in an architect's office. Then there is a further two years of study for a diploma or a secondary degree in architecture, another year's supervised work-experience and, finally, the professional practice examination.

Your partner is going to have to start from scratch. It is possible that, in England, he could get exempted from the first year of the first degree, which would shorten the training by a year, or possibly more. This is far more likely if he applies to a newer university than an older one. Chris Ellis, RIBA's acting director of education, says that some universities might discourage your partner because of his age, but this is more likely in older institutions; some folk do start training in their forties.

An alternative route to qualification for mature students is the RIBA examination for office-based candidates at Oxford Brookes University - but you need to have worked for several years in an architectural practice first. The admissions tutor Dan Sames says that your partner's age isn't a problem on the normal architecture programme, which is design-based and attracts people with an arts background.

You may have read that architects are among the UK's unhappiest employees, but Ellis says that, while architects are not particularly well paid, they do generally get enormous job satisfaction.

Advisers: Gillian Sharp and Mike Cox, Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caitlin Davies at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail