Wednesday23 July 2014

Arb considers radical overhaul of architecture qualifications

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Comprehensive consultation could re-write ‘Victorian’ rules

Arb chief executive Alison Carr

Arb chief executive Alison Carr

A radical overhaul of architecture qualifications is being considered by the Arb board.

The changes could potentially allow those with a degree in a subject other than architecture to do a part II, and foreign-qualified architects to join the Arb register without achieving the three-part qualification of a UK education.

The “root and branch” review would look at whether registration should continue to be based on qualifications and if alternative routes would broaden access to the professional register.

A two- to three-year review could begin next year with a consultation exercise involving architects, professional bodies, the government and the public.

It will need to be approved by the Arb board in September when it considers the 2014 business plan. A preliminary meeting this week suggested the idea will be contested, with some members strongly in favour and others questioning whether Arb could afford such a review without an increase in the retention fee.

“Any review would be comprehensive,” Arb registrar Alison Carr told BD. “There are an awful lot of ideas at the moment being generated by the education sector but that’s just one element. The review would be very wide and would start with questions such as: ‘Should there be wider routes?’ It’s not just about the profession but also about what the public want.”

The move follows a detailed report by the UK Architectural Education Review Group which found support for radical change.

Its recommendations, which include admitting people to the Arb register on the basis of equivalent competence rather than equivalent qualifications, was approved by the Heads of Schools (Schosa) in April.

Dickon Robinson, chairman of Building Futures at the RIBA and an independent member of the review group, described the Arb’s move as timely.

“The shape of architectural education has been relatively unchanged for decades and the world has moved on,” he said.

“The idea that you can’t progress to the register without a part I is completely outdated. It should be much easier to get into part II from other first degrees.
“If you have a first degree in engineering and then do part II and III you should be able to call yourself an architect. The profession would be enriched by having a broader base of people who started their academic career in another discipline.”

The expense of architectural education means shorter routes must be introduced, he said.

“Who cares how many years you have studied? That’s a very crude idea. It should be about demonstrating learning.”

Chris Platt, head of school at the Mac, welcomed a review and said the relationship between validation, prescription and higher education needed to be simplified.

“It’s a landscape fraught with inconsistencies. It’s right to be debating whether the system is still fit for purpose,” he said.

Roger Hawkins of Hawkins Brown warned the UK not to open its floodgates to foreign-qualified architects without insisting on reciprocal relaxation.

But he agreed that a review of the existing “Victorian” rules was necessary: “You have senior academic architects who are not registered because they haven’t got the right tick-box experience.”


Readers' comments (38)

  • Well, well, well! Who would have thought it.

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  • Gosh, do they mean that after 14 years of working in the UK as an Architect in all but name I'll finally be able to use the title that I worked so hard to get in Australia?

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  • grapefruit

    how does a engineering degree qualify you for a Part 2 course? most part 1 students can't get on a part 2 course, they have a portfolio and 3 years experience. or do you just start from scratch?

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  • One part of an architect's job is contract administration... what makes ARB think that a young foreign architect who hasn't taken the Part 3 course would be able to come here, call themselves an architect, maneuver through our planning system and deliver a project to British standards?
    There are reasons that several countries insist on "Architects" from other countries taking equivalent legal exams etc to ensure that they are up to the task.
    A British qualified architect still holds some weight across the globe (whether you agree or not, it is a throwback to when the education system was better and the profession was in a healthier state). Please do not dilute our title any more than the economy and ill informed politicians have managed to.

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  • We need tighter controls not less....
    Look at the problems the title of interior designers has. Some have worked hard for a degree but anyone off the street can call themselves one.

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  • The ARB should also reconsider their position regarding the large number of foreign students that course part I and part II in the UK and cannot register as an architect in their country of origin. The ARB regulates who can register in a foreign country with UK qualifications and currently you can only do so by obtaining part III, a course specific to the UK. Swiss students, for instance, after a three year degree and two year diploma obtain an academically recognized master and are fully qualified architects worldwide.

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  • Whatever ARB does will have to comply with EU requirements.

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  • So I very much much doubt that it will be allowed to admit non-EU architects - because all rules on the registration of architects are only be accepted if they apply equally to all EU Member States. Since it it to say the least unlikely that Germany, France, Croatia, Spain, Italy etc. will be happy to admit architects from all over the world, I am quite amazed that an impossible ideas like this is even allowed air time. But then ARB has never shown many signs of understanding the EU-wide nature of its activities.

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  • Scepticalaboutthewholething's comments concerning the UK's ability to register architects in the context of EU requirements are not correct. The "Pathways and Gateways" report details the requirements and is available at:

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  • Do these comments fall within the ARB's limited remit?

    I think they're on shaky ground here. It should be up to the profession and its educators to debate these issues, not a registering body.

    They're there to enact an act of parliament, not to debate/direct/dictate the course of our profession.

    They need to wind their necks in...!

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