Staff profile: Rachel Sara

Take a look at Rachel's career highlights and passion to support a diverse range of students in Architecture through championing live projects and her feminist manifesto.

Rachel Sara headshot

Birmingham City University academic Rachel Sara, who is the Oscar Naddermier Professor of Architecture, has been named among the Higher Education Academy's 56 new National Teaching Fellows. Professor Sara becomes the 11th current Birmingham City University academic to receive the honour.

Rachel has been teaching for 20 years and joined Birmingham City University in 2019, she has significant experience in architecture education nationally and internationally, having taught new lecturers in architecture, led masters programmes, been link tutor for courses in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, and undertaken a range of prize-winning projects to support the development of best practice.

Rachel's teaching in architecture is motivated by a desire to support a diverse range of students into the architecture profession, which is still underrepresented by women, working-class, black and minority ethnic groups. In response she has developed approaches to learning and teaching architecture which develop civic agency, critical engagement with learning, and cultivate more supportive, inclusive models of education underpinned by feminist pedagogy.

Rachel initially undertook a PhD at Sheffield University in architecture education which reacted to her own experiences as an architecture student. At this stage she developed a feminist manifesto for architecture education which would underpin all of her subsequent teaching and pedagogic development. At this stage she also co-wrote ‘The Crit: An architecture student's handbook’, which combined with subsequent research and films have made a significant international impact on the way in which architecture design work is assessed.

At the University of the West of England, Bristol she introduced the highly innovative hands-on-bristol project which introduced live community-based projects into the architecture curriculum. In 2019 she was appointed as Professor of Architecture at Birmingham City University where she continues to innovate; introducing an activist based Extinction Rebellion Architecture studio in 2019.

Over her career she has significantly affected the teaching undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students often well beyond the expectations of her positions. She has engaged students with community groups outside of the university setting to undertake live community architecture projects; positioning the university as a civic ‘agent of change in the city’ (Sara and Jones 2018). Rachel aims not only to transform her students but also to support them to ‘participate in the transformation of their worlds’ (Friere 1989) through engaging in real-world codesign projects.

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