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Historically, architecture education was considered a technical training. The public did not recognize the difference between architect and engineer. During the Cultural Revolution, architectural education merged into engineering schools due to the general understanding of the government and the public that architectural design is not necessary and therefore can be executed by structural engineers. Therefore, most of today's architectural education takes place in technically orientated universities. Only from the end of the 20th century on a few art schools started offering architectural programs as part of their interior design department. The Central Academy of fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing started its architectural school officially in 2002.

Chinese architectural education, compared to the West, has a very short history. It was in 1952 that China recognized the higher education system. At the time 8 formal schools provided graduates for the whole country. In 1986, 46 universities/colleges offered architectural studies, 80 in 2001 and 120 in 2004. Fewer than 30 schools are accredited by the Ministry of Education to award Bachelor degrees. The rest does not even bother to apply for a certificate, since the enrolment of students is assured. This because the market demands currently for “architects”, draftsmen and design assistants is high.

There are 3 different types of schools offering an accredited educational program:1. Architecture school/department in a comprehensive university,2. Department in a technical university (professional training in specific discipline/field),3. School in art institute/academy.

The schools that have building/technological-related departments usually run a LDI from within, e.g. the aforementioned Design Institute of Tongji University which ranks as one of the top-3 design practices in Shanghai. However, opposed to an engineering focused education, there is agrowing interest to see architectural studies as part of cultural studies. 2001, the ME gave universities more autonomy. This allowed art schools to open architecture departments. The first one was CAFA (Beijing) in 2002; in the last years also the Hangzhou's Art Academy and the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute set up a bachelors/master's program in architecture. About a dozen other art schools in the country have expressed interest in following suit.

The biggest challenge for these newly established schools is finding skilled staff. The market does not call for quality, but even accredited architecture schools and/or departments offer no guarantee for quality teaching. Government support is based on the heads of the enrolled students, and not on the quality. Quantity precedes quality. For example, letting an unqualified student fail will make the school lose one position in the following year to apply for a governmental supporting fee. Theuniversities therefore prefer not to let anybody fail. Or to put it in another way: every student who passes the national-wide test for entering university/college in China is safe in university.

There exists a huge gap between the demand for architects and the lack of a well set up educational system. In order to adjust as fast as possible to these new market conditions, architecture education focused from the 80s onwards on training students to become skilful, efficient and pragmatic architects.