Pathway to an interior architecture degree… without an ATAR!

Pathway to an interior architecture degree… without an ATAR!
November 9, 2023 SydneyDesignSchool

Pathway to an interior architecture degree… without an ATAR!

Two of our Advanced Diploma of Interior Design alumni have recently graduated from UNSW with a Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Hons).


Our partnership with the University of New South Wales means we can offer graduates of the Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Interior Design the opportunity to apply for direct entry into the degree, saving them 12 or 18 months of study.

Jenna Ritchie and Ryan McGregor both have an Advanced Diploma of Interior Design and they’re the first of our alumni to take advantage of this pathway and to graduate from UNSW. Jenna came to us fresh from high school and Ryan was a Flight Attendant looking for a career change. Now they’re both Interior Architects! We caught up to find out about their experience at uni and what they’re up to now.

Ryan McGregor - pathway to a degree from Sydney Design School to UNSW
Jenna Ritchie - pathway to a degree from Sydney Design School to UNSW

Congratulations on graduating with a degree!

Ryan  Thank you! We graduated with honours which is super exciting and we’ll have our official ceremony in December.

Jenna  Thanks, yes, we’re extremely excited to be all done and dusted! It’s an extraordinary achievement for both of us.

How was the transition from Sydney Design School to uni?

Ryan  It was so interesting to go from one educator to the next. Honestly I wasn’t sure where we would fall in terms of our skill set when we joined UNSW two years into the course. It wasn’t till the end of our first year when we got our first studio that were truly able understand what we had learnt from Sydney Design School and how that played in the university world.

One of the biggest advantages was being proficient in all the software programs we were taught at SDS. We were ahead of the game with Revit, AutoCAD and the whole Adobe Suite, as well as with our presentation skills, which isn’t included in the university roll out. The other big thing I noticed was our confidence and capability to sell a project.

Having said that, doing the Interior Architecture degree at UNSW was definitely not a walk in the park! They pushed us to think very differently over a range of disciplines and provided a platform to explore what worked for us.

Jenna  It was a big transition in regards to the environment and the schedule, however as we continued into our studio classes it allowed us to connect with other our peers and educators.

It became evident in our studio classes that our ability to communicate our designs through visual and verbal communication was at a more professional level. The skills we obtained from SDS that allowed us to achieve this were both the software programs we learned and our ability to create conceptual designs and material palettes.

As we continued our studies at UNSW we were able to increase our skills through an extensive amount of alternative research methods.

Jenna Ritchie - pathway to a degree from Sydney Design School to UNSW

How does it feel to have graduated and what are you up to now?

Ryan  I’m elated to say the least! When I originally came back to Australia I planned on doing 1 year of study, so to be finished now (4.5 years later) is very exciting!

I worked at Jardan while I was at Sydney Design School and I made good friends there. I then went into designing prefabricated cabins for a few months, which led me to working at Studio Barbara. I’m currently working 4 days a week at Studio Barbara, with 1 day dedicated to freelance projects for my own business, Studio Surry. I like variety in my day and having the flexibility to jump across projects makes the week more interesting. The team at Studio Barbara are absolute gems who allow me to grow and who support a healthy company culture which is a huge thing for me.


Above: Ryan’s Sydney Design School hospitality project
Below: Ryan’s Sydney Design School design specialisation project

Jenna  As you would expect I’m over the moon to know my weekends and evenings are now free. This is so unknown to me! I started at SDS straight from high school and thought that I was going to complete a Certificate IV in Interior Decoration… fast forward over four and a half years and now I will be holding a certificate with the words Bachelor of Interior Architecture with Honors printed on it!

Throughout my time studying I started to apply the knowledge I was learning to my role working at a tile showroom. Then I moved into an Interior Designer position at Altus Design Studio, run by fellow Sydney Design School alumni Josie Simpson. Since then I’ve been part time at The Space Within working on beautiful, colourful residential projects.

Now the big question is what’s next? I’ve just had a fantastic travel experience in amazing Marrakech and London, so now it’s time to find a new role with my new qualification as an Interior Architect.


Above and below: Jenna’s Sydney Design School design specialisation project

Jenna Ritchie - pathway to a degree from Sydney Design School to UNSW

Jenna and Ryan graduated from our School with an Advanced Diploma of Interior Design. Find out about the course here.


You might also be interested to read:

Student profile | Ryan McGregor

Graduate Jillian Dinkel | Jillian Dinkel Designs

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