GRAD programme helps Architecture graduates weather the downturn


A new postgrad programme from Northern Architecture is helping graduates build their CV whilst improving the North East's built environment. Anne Fry reports.

The GRAD (Graduate Retention and Development) programme is designed for graduates of architecture at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities and was launched in January 2010 by Northern Architecture, the North East’s architecture and built environment centre, and local practice +3 Architecture, which has provided free space and mentoring for the graduates within its offices in Newcastle.

Newcastle and Northumbria Universities have provided mentoring support and initial funding to the scheme. Of the original group of ten graduates (GRADs), eight have since gone on to find paid employment in local and national architectural practices with both the graduates and their new employers stating that the GRAD programme and the skills and experience they had developed were positive factors in their success.

Thomas Ormerod, (BA Architectural Studies 2009) and former GRAD, said: ‘I joined the GRAD programme to keep my CV active, but once there I quickly realised what an amazing opportunity I’d been presented with. Over the last five months I’ve learnt so much and developed new skills from the other members, which will be really valuable for Part II and have helped me to secure a paid job in London. GRAD has given me something I can be proud of and employers have responded really well to the fact that I’ve been doing something self motivated and keeping architecturally active during a difficult economic time.’

The 2009–10 GRAD cohort.

Most recently the GRADs have been working on design proposals for a new public space for young people and the wider community in Middlesbrough.

In addition to the project work, the GRAD programme also functions as an informal employment agency, promoting the GRADs individually through both the contacts they make during their project work and through the GRAD website, which showcases the skills of the current members of the collective, and links to their online portfolios.    

Carol Botten (BA English Literature 1998), Director of Northern Architecture and a Newcastle graduate herself, said: ‘So far the GRAD programme has been a great success, bringing together the skills of un- or under-employed architecture graduates and local projects that need some initial design work, research or engagement activities to enable schemes to be realised. We would be delighted to hear from any Newcastle alumni practising in the region who might be able to support the programme by offering additional mentoring to the GRADs on the projects they are working on. Please do get in touch if you’d like to get involved.’

You can contact Carol and the GRAD team by telephone: 0191 2602191, and e-mail:

published on: 16th December 2010

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