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Supporting the next generation of architects

A note from RIBA President Alan Jones following recent surveys highlighting experiences of architecture students and graduates.

11 March 2021

From the RIBA President

In the last few weeks, two significant surveys (linked below) have highlighted the experiences of architecture students and graduates working or looking for work in practice.

I am deeply concerned about the appalling accounts of exploitation and discrimination that have been surfaced, and want to take this opportunity to briefly set out:

  • How to access support if you are impacted by or aware of unacceptable practice.
  • The requirements and responsibilities of RIBA members in regard to these issues.
  • Areas where progress can and should be made.

Firstly, I encourage anyone who has experienced unprofessional or unethical behaviour to report it. Where this involves a RIBA member or chartered practice, a complaint can be reported to professional.standards@riba.org and would be investigated in line with our published Codes of Conduct and Practice and Disciplinary Procedures.

The RIBA takes seriously its leadership and example-setting role on behalf of the architects’ profession and the wider construction industry, with a focus on setting standards for all our members. The RIBA Code of Practice, for example, requires all Chartered Practices to provide employees with fair, equitable working environments. RIBA Chartered Practices must have an employment policy in operation, which includes a requirement that all staff within the practice are paid at least the Real Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation.

It appears these standards are not always being upheld, and the RIBA is committed to taking action - we are looking at our requirements, support and assessments, to make impactful improvements.

We are currently piloting The Compact – a new ethical framework to enhance students’ experience in the workplace. The Compact, which was delayed by six months by the pandemic, draws together obligations which all parties – employing practices, schools of architecture, employee students and graduates, must meet, with a focus on improving practical experience outcomes. It provides greater clarity and transparency in the contract between practices and graduates, including standards for pay, agreement of hours worked, support, productivity and arrangements for overtime. The new Compact will absorb the previous RIBA practice/graduate employment contract and includes a requirement for no unpaid work.

We expect requirements of The Compact to become a mandatory component of the Chartered Practice requirements from 2022, and form part of the RIBA school of architecture validation procedures from the 2021/22 academic year. We will provide guidance for practices in how to implement it, in due course and in good time. The RIBA also provides online resources, guidance and live events that support our student members’ transition into the workplace.

We are planning a review of the employment guidance we provide for practices. More detailed requirements could be added, including in relation to flexibility and overtime worked beyond core contracted hours. This would be subject to member consultation.

Whether we are a practice leader, educator, student, graduate, team leader or colleague, we all have a role to play in nurturing talent and supporting an inclusive, effective and impactful profession, that presents long-term career prospects for all.

If you have any concerns or queries about these issues, please email info@riba.org.

Professor Alan Jones

RIBA President

Future Architects Front – Open Letter

RIBA President response to the Future Architects Front

AJ Architectural Assistants survey

RIBA Journal article on fair pay by RIBA President

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