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A summary of changes to ARB’s role and to how architects will be registered and regulated

 

Executive Summary
The Architects Act 1997 is the legislation under which ARB regulates architects in the UK. In 2020 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consulted on changes to that legislation. MHCLG has now published the Government’s response to that consultation.

The response states the Government’s intention to introduce new roles for ARB through the Building Safety Bill, which is soon to be introduced in Parliament to take forward important changes across the built environment sector to improve public safety. The new Professional Qualifications Bill introduced on 12 May 2021 also introduces changes to ARB’s role that were consulted on by MHCLG. The Professional Qualifications Bill takes forward changes to the way in which international qualifications are recognised, following the UK’s Exit from the European Union.

MHCLG’s response to the consultation has confirmed the following changes to the way architects are regulated:

  • ARB will have the power to monitor the way architects manage their Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  • ARB will be able to publicly list disciplinary orders against an architect on the register, to help increase public confidence.
  • Architects will have an option to appeal certain disciplinary decisions made by ARB.
  • ARB will be able to introduce new charges to cover the cost of specific new responsibilities determined by the Government in future regulations.
  • ARB will be able to decide whether certain international qualifications can offer an equivalent level of architectural skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours necessary for practice in the UK, so that architects with those qualifications can join the UK register.

Below is a summary of the Government’s decisions following the consultation exercise, and outlines the changes that will be made to the Architects Act, what this means for ARB, and what architects need to know at this early stage. For further information on the Government’s policy changes and analysis of the consultation, please see MHCLG’s Government Response.

Competence and Appeals

Government decision
The Government will give the ARB the power to monitor and assess competence of architects throughout their careers in the forthcoming Building Safety Bill. In its government response, the Government noted the preferences expressed by consultation respondents for the system to avoid duplication with existing regimes set by the professional bodies, to avoid a “tick-box” exercise and to ensure that the breadth of the profession is taken into account. It also took note that respondents overwhelmingly supported that the practical aspects of practice (such as contract law, procurement, site inspections and project management) were part of any potential Continuing Professional Development criteria.

The Government believes it is right to implement a new appeal process to give architects disputing decisions made by the ARB resource to contest their decision. This should include the hearing of appeals to decisions relating to the removal of an architect from the register under the competence regime.

The Government believes that individuals should pay a fee (determined on a cost recovery basis) if their case is unsuccessful.

What does this mean for ARB and the way architects are regulated?
ARB will introduce a new regime for monitoring the way architects manage their Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Our new monitoring role will encourage architects to maintain and develop their competence to practise. It’s an opportunity to align architects with other professions, by looking at competence beyond the initial point of registration. The details of this monitoring system will be developed through the ARB’s Competence Review.

We intend our approach to be proportionate, genuinely helpful to the profession, and tailored by architects to meet their own individual development requirements. The new law will contain some provisions for the formalities of dealing with those architects who are unable or unwilling to meet the requirements of the new scheme.

Through our Competence Review, we are also preparing to share a new approach to the outcomes architects need to gain from their education and training, meaning, the competencies they need before they can join the Register.

We have not yet developed any concrete proposals. We will only introduce changes after we have shared our principles and invited feedback from architects and other stakeholders, and analysed the evidence gathered through that engagement and additional research.

The new legal powers are dependent on the Building Safety Bill becoming law. The powers re therefore not expected to come into force this year, but we are already making preparations in anticipation of the new legislation being passed. Given that any new scheme will likely require considerable engagement, consultation, preparation and piloting, it is unlikely to be in place for the whole profession before 2023.

What do architects need to know now?
Architects can help shape ARB’s work by taking part in the engagement and consultation exercises later this year. We will promote these through our usual communications channels; to stay up to date, stakeholders can follow ARB on social media or join ARB’s Architects Engagement Group.

Listing

Government decision
The Government believes that publicly displaying disciplinary orders against a registered architect will improve transparency, promote public confidence in the profession, and may deter poor professional conduct or incompetence. Therefore, Government will give the ARB powers to publish disciplinary orders against an architect on the register by the Professional Conduct Committee in the Building Safety Bill. The Government will work with the ARB to determine the length of time a disciplinary order shall be listed on the register. The Government thinks that the time the order is listed should take into account the severity of the order.

What does this mean for ARB and the way architects are regulated?
ARB will need to develop rules determining the lengths of time a disciplinary order will be listed against an architect’s name on the Register, and we will need to consult architects and other stakeholders before we determine those rules.

This work is dependent on the Building Safety Bill successfully becoming an Act, and establishing the powers ARB will need in order to publish the Register in this way. We will share updates on this work once it is under way.

What do architects need to know now?
Architects can help shape ARB’s work by taking part in the consultation exercise we will run once we are in a position to propose the rules. ARB will promote these through our usual communications channels such as our website and social media pages.

Fees

Government decision
The Government will introduce a power in the Building Safety Bill to extend the provisions for the ARB to charge for additional regulatory services. This will extend the currently limited list of chargeable services the ARB can administer, as set out in the Architects Act 1997. The Government also wishes to minimise the impact on the annual retention fee, if possible. This extended charging regime is intended to ensure the ARB has the resources it needs to deliver additional services – including implementation of Mutual Recognition Agreements or Memoranda of Understanding relating to the regulation of architects and the administration of the new monitoring of competence regime. As stated in the consultation, fees would be designed to recover full costs and not intended to make a profit.

The Government will implement this charging regime in future Regulations, providing clarity on the additional services for which the ARB may charge. This will mean that the ARB would only be able to charge for services listed in the legislation. The Government will also work with the ARB to further consider the question of charging for prescription (both domestic and international) as well as the variation in initial application fee depending on the route to recognition.

What does this mean for ARB and the way architects are regulated?
ARB will have the ability to introduce new charges so that the cost of additional services administered by ARB, including those the Government is introducing, can be met by on those who individually benefit from the service. This means the cost for those specific services will not borne by all architects through their registration fees.
ARB will work with the Government to develop the list of services. The Government will also consult on these proposals ahead of any future regulations.

What do architects need to know now?
There are no immediate changes to ARB’s charges at this stage. Further information will be shared once the Government implements any new charging regime in secondary legislation in the future. ARB will continue to share information through our usual communications channels such as our website and social media pages.

New Recognition System for International Architects

Government decision
The Government will legislate to amend the Architects Act 1997 to allow holders of qualifications which the ARB deems as equivalent to UK standards to enter the UK register. The ARB will publish the list of recognised international qualifications on their website.

Potential registrants will be required to demonstrate the compensatory measures prescribed by the ARB, such as training or tests, in order to ensure all individuals registering under this process are held to equivalent standards. These measures will ensure individuals joining the register are familiar with the content covered by a UK Part 3 qualifications, including UK regulations and the UK context. The ARB will determine the specific measures needed.

The ‘listed qualifications’ route provides the flexibility for recognising internationally qualified architects that will ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for international architects. It will help protect the supply of architects and ensure the UK architects sector continues to benefit from the varied skills and experience international architects bring with them. The Government noted the consultation respondents’ preference for reciprocity, so this route will be used primarily to implement reciprocal arrangements.

The existing Prescribed Examinations will remain in place for holders of qualifications that have not been deemed as of equivalent standard to UK qualifications.

What does this mean for ARB and the way architects are regulated?
ARB will need to decide which international qualifications can offer an equivalent level of architectural skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours necessary for practice in the UK. Noting the Government response, this will be primarily for reciprocal arrangements with counterpart regulators.

In some cases, potential registrants may be required to meet additional requirements as well as holding specific international qualifications, to ensure a consistent level of public protection – for example, to ensure international architects have a sound understanding of UK-specific regulations.

ARB is currently developing the principles that will guide this work and the decisions we’ll be making about international qualifications. We intend to publish these and invite feedback on them, making decisions and introducing any changes.

What do architects need to know now?
Once the Professional Qualifications Bill receives Royal Assent, ARB will look to put the legislation into operation swiftly. We expect this to happen at some point in 2022, but this will depend on the passage of the Professional Qualifications Bill through Parliament.

There are currently interim arrangements in place with the EU, following the UK’s recent exit. This means that those who hold European qualifications that were listed in the ‘frozen’ Annex V.7.1 and have access to the profession in the EU state that the qualification was issued (or an ARB prescribed Part 3) are still, at this point in time (June 2021), eligible to apply for registration in the UK. These arrangements will continue to operate until the new legislation is made law and the new way of recognising international (including EU) qualifications becomes operational.

Those holding Irish qualifications and have access to the profession in Ireland are eligible to apply for registration under the terms of the memorandum of understanding we have with our counterparts in Ireland, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. This agreement will continue to operate until such time as any new mutual recognition agreement between ARB and the relevant bodies within the EU has been developed, approved and implemented.

The Prescribed Examination route continues to operate for individuals holding international qualifications. More information is available on our website here.

Architects can help shape the development of the new way of recognising international qualifications by feeding back on the principles that we are developing once we publish them.

ARB will continue to share information through our usual communications channels such as our website and social media pages.