Why students didn’t vote in the RIBA election – and what to do about it

crop-Simeon Shtebunaev (3)

Turnout was ‘pitiful’ but the next election could be won or lost on campuses, argues Simeon Shtebunaev

For the first time this summer all RIBA members had the opportunity to vote for the president. Not to attribute the meagre 6.7% turnout of newly enfranchised student, associate and affiliate members to apathy would be disingenuous. The council seat reserved for an associate is also empty. So why does such a hard-won right appear to have flopped at its first go?

The low general turnout in the presidential election (13.2%) points to a trend which has been true for decades: the RIBA doesn’t occupy as central a space in the lives of architects as it likes to think, whatever stage of their development.

Students, associates and affiliates are as able as full chartered members to grasp that the major debates deciding the future of architecture and construction – such as digitalisation, unions, government policy, external and international influence – are not necessarily led by the RIBA. And they are responding accordingly.

This is as much of an issue of external communication as leadership since the RIBA is indeed around the table in most of the debates.

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