RIBA’s Director of Education and Learning, Dr Jenny Russell, reflects on ARB’s proposals for education reform and calls on RIBA members to respond to ARB’s current consultation.
In February, the Architects Registration Board (ARB) launched a three-month consultation, Tomorrow’s Architects, seeking feedback on their proposed reforms to architectural education.
Presented as the end of Parts 1, 2 and 3, ARB have declared that they are making radical changes to architectural education. Personally, I’m not sure that they are.
ARB are proposing the removal of the requirement for a ‘prescribed’ or ‘accredited’ Part 1. This will enable those who are already registered in other countries and those who already have professional experience or a related degree, to enter the route to registration further along the journey than at present. RIBA welcomes this. As we presented in our Education White Paper, released in January, we believe that the register must be accessible, not only in this way but from a number of different routes, and we encourage the growth of apprenticeships, flexible part-time routes, combined work and study models, professional examination routes and programmes with integrated, academic credit bearing professional experience. In addition, we are keen to see the development of a 5-year integrated and accelerated pathway (which includes the required practical training) as an additional fast-track route.
However, by declaring the removal of the internationally respected Parts 1, 2 and 3 (co-held with and introduced by RIBA), ARB is undermining our education system. The UK architectural education system is held in high regard internationally. From talking to our international members, this approach has caused concerns that the system is being radically altered and compromised.
ARB have unfortunately, not made clear that they still see the five year academic route as the primary path to the register and so, while the headlines have presented a radically changing system, it is perhaps not entirely the case.
With regards the Part 1, it is valued, by RIBA and the wider academic community. It not only provides students with a degree compatible with other institutions and therefore makes it easier to move to a different school for Part 2, but, more importantly the Part 1 degree is the place where a student develops three-dimensional thinking and problem solving – processes that are critical to the profession.
The concerns that we hear from students more often relate to practice than to education. With experience primarily being undertaken in private practice, this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the education process to reform – but it is necessary.
If our education system is to be improved, we must find a better way to ensure that students have access to the necessary experience required to access the register. In order to do this, architecture practices must recognise their role in the training of future generations, and non-traditional practice-based routes must be encouraged and supported.
The UK’s architectural education system produces graduates, who enter employment after five years of study, with the title of ‘architectural assistant’. Other regulated professions such as structural and civil engineering or quantity surveying enable graduates to practice under their titles upon graduation – we suggest that architecture students too, should be able to call themselves an architect on graduation. ARB could place restrictions on these graduates – perhaps under license, while they undertake a Part 3 or equivalent, but give the students a comparable authority alongside peers from other built environment professions.
ARB have presented a new set of outcomes which they will require students to meet to access the register – something the RIBA has already done. Our Themes and Values for Architectural Education, outlined in The Way Ahead, were developed to provide a useful framework for Schools of Architecture to address shortcomings. We will use our response to the consultation to implore that ARB adopt these overarching themes and values and lay out an appropriate breakdown of core competences and skill sets under each. This would align the RIBA and ARB systems, which must be a shared objective.
Architectural education is something about which I am passionate, and I fully understand how difficult many of these issues are to address without consequence, either from a regulatory, institutional or education position. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address them. We are fully committed to working with ARB to find meaningful solutions to these issues.
These reforms are the biggest in a generation. They will affect current and future students, those who employ graduates and those who work with them. It is vital, therefore, that as many voices as possible are heard.
We are in the process of preparing our response to the consultation and have been discussing this with stakeholders and members. We are keen to hear feedback on our key positions which can be found below.
And finally, I’d like to encourage you or your practice to respond to the consultation which closes on the 10 May 2023. Only by responding will ensure we have a world-renowned architectural education system, competent graduates and a diverse and inclusive architecture profession.
If you have any thoughts on our proposals, get in touch with our education team on email@example.com.