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What is RIBA Studio and how can it help those wanting to become an architect?

Learn more about this alternative hybrid route into the profession for students as well as how it can help practices.

04 July 2024

In the UK, the architecture profession is regulated, and you must register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to use the title ‘architect’.

The current route to registration (though changes are coming) involves completion of three qualifications - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 - and two years of practical experience. This is most often achieved through full or part-time study through an ARB-accredited course (for registration) and a RIBA-validated course (for RIBA membership).

While the majority of students still study full-time at university, there are an increasing number of alternative routes into the profession of architecture.

The arrival of architectural apprenticeships was welcomed as one alternate route into the profession six years ago. Especially for those unable to follow the more familiar academic path through schools of architecture discussed above.

Though, pre-dating apprenticeships by 150 years is the original non-academic route to registration, the RIBA Office-based Examination, which now lives on as RIBA Studio.

There are an increasing number of alternative routes into the profession. (Photo: iStock Photo)

Who can apply for the RIBA Studio route to architecture?

Programme Director, Dr Maria Faraone, says: “RIBA Studio, which is a partnership between RIBA and Oxford Brookes University, continues to open doors to people who never believed they might have access to the profession. Students have been as young as 17 and straight out of school, while others have started in their 50s.”

Maria suggests this route tends to appeal to those who:

  • thrive in studies while also practicing, which is very different from traditional education
  • are shifting from other subject degrees, from other careers, or professional work and would like to join the profession
  • may have financial responsibilities or be in carer roles and require a programme which allows them to schedule these life priorities with their architectural qualification progression

“Many of the RIBA Studio students are in a career transition. We meet lawyers, accountants, technologists, administrators and single parents who see a chance for a dream career without waiting until their children have grown up,” she adds. “The common denominator is that they will be employed by an architectural practice (minimum 24 hours per week under the supervision of a registered architect) and independently negotiate their contracts and salaries with their practice supported by their office mentor.”

Does RIBA Studio result in the same qualification recognition?

RIBA Studio offers the RIBA Part 1 Certificate in Architecture, which prepares students for the RIBA Part 2 Diploma. Both qualifications are currently prescribed by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). The Diploma Part 2 then leads to a progression into the Part 3 and completion of the registration process.

The programme is delivered and modules are assessed by the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University (where Maria is a senior lecturer). Everyone studying on the programme will be a student of RIBA and entitled to become a Student Member of the Institute.

The meetings, workshops and design exams are entirely online, enhancing the opportunity for architectural studies to be more accessible. Unlike apprenticeships, students do not have to be located near to a school of architecture for attendance, nor do they have to be British (all students pay the same course fees.)

RIBA Studio students can be based anywhere in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA), despite Brexit, and there is an ambition to take the Certificate Part 1 programme global in the future.

Read more about the different pathways to becoming an architect

RIBA Studio is primarily design and technology oriented. (Photo: iStock Photo)

What distinguishes the RIBA Studio Course?

Maria further explains that another important distinction of this route to architecture is that RIBA Studio is primarily design and technology oriented: “We are a design-led programme where students are encouraged to follow their own passions and develop into the kind of architects that sparked their interest to join the profession.”

How long does it take to achieve Part 1 via the RIBA Studio path?

Students will typically complete the Part 1 Certificate in four years, but the course can take relevant experience into account and some people have had an advanced standing offer to complete their Part 1 in two years. This is equivalent to the three or four-year full time academic route for Part 1 (depending on the course you attend).

Meanwhile, the Diploma Part 2 course is mainly made up of students who have completed a full time Part 1 course and who found themselves really enjoying the practice environment and wanting to remain.

Similar to the Certificate Part 1 they can negotiate contract and salaries based on their experience and capabilities.

What is the RIBA Foundation course?

For students who do not yet have a portfolio ready, or are not in an employed position, RIBA established the RIBA Foundation course. This successfully supports students in a range of creative fields including Part 1 level studies.

In this 34-week course students develop the skills and sensibilities to deepen their knowledge, confidence and understanding of expectations for Part 1 study.

Students also undertake salaried work experience in creative practice for a minimum of 200 hours (five weeks). They will also benefit from peer-to-peer sessions with current RIBA Studio students on the Certificate and Diploma courses.

“We found there was a gap we needed to bridge for people who could probably start the Part 1 Certificate, but who did not have a portfolio, or perhaps didn’t have the confidence or the professional network, so we created the Foundation,” says Maria.

The experience gives students a sense of what it feels like to be in practice and importantly to believe in the possibility of being part of it, Maria explains. For employers who hire students for this placement there is no long-term employment expectation on either side. However, if a practice goes on to hire a student full time it then makes them eligible to join the Certificate course.

What’s in it for practices?

RIBA Studio courses, and Foundation course and placements, offer great opportunities for practices that want to help break down barriers to entry to the profession.

For any practice that wants to play their part in increasing inclusivity or perhaps want to retain talented staff by supporting their ambitions, RIBA Studio is ideal, says Maria, because the support is there for practices too.

RIBA Foundation Placement opportunities

RIBA Foundation team can help Foundation students find a host practice, research which practices might be a good fit and undertake mock interviews.

RIBA Foundation is global, and currently has students from every continent on the course (unlike RIBA Studio Part 1 and 2 where students must be based within the UK/EEA regions).

Students can find out more about RIBA Studio and RIBA Foundation through Open Session webinars that take them through the syllabus, application process and the support relationships that are in place. The next Open Session takes place on 6 July 2024.

The next available admission point for the RIBA Studio Part 1 Certificate and Part 2 Diploma is March 2025, with applications accepted until August 2024.

The next available admission point for the RIBA Foundation is November with applications accepted until August 2024.

Thanks to Dr Maria Faraone, Programme Director, RIBA Studio.

Text by Neal Morris and the Practice Team. This is a professional feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas.

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