The Architects Registration Board has announced the appointment of Professor Sir Chris Husbands as Chair of its Professional Practical Experience (PPE) Commission. Through its work, the Commission will investigate the challenges faced by architecture students in the UK in seeking opportunities for suitable PPE, and make recommendations to ARB to help improve the quality of training experience for architects. The Commission forms part of ARB’s efforts to reform how architects are trained and educated, in order to modernise the competencies required of architects to face emerging and future challenges. ARB’s reforms aim to remove regulatory barriers to becoming an architect in the UK, whilst upholding the profession’s high standards in order to protect the public.
ARB has also appointed architect and educator Felicity Atekpe as a member of the Commission. Two further Commissioners will be appointed, including an employer of architects and a lay member.
Alan Kershaw, Chair of the Architects Registration Board, said:
“The Board is establishing an independent Commission to make recommendations to ARB on how to improve fair and consistent access to quality practical experience, and on new minimum requirements for relevant experience.
“We’ve heard that the requirements for work experience create barriers for people from less affluent backgrounds or without existing networks in the profession. Although there are limits to ARB’s statutory powers in this regard and the issues are multifarious, the Board has set up this Commission so that we can take a leading role on how the challenges are addressed.
“I’m delighted that Professor Sir Chris Husbands and Felicity Atekpe are joining the Commission. Between them, they have a wealth of experience in education and the architecture sector, and I’m confident that they’ll develop recommendations to support ARB in reforming regulation to help future generations of architects establish their careers.”
As an educationist, academic, public servant and university leader, Professor Sir Chris Husbands has decades of experience in the education sector. Chris recently stepped down from his previous role as Vice-Chancellor for Sheffield Hallam University. As the Chair, he will oversee the Commission’s recommendations on how to improve fair and consistent access to quality practical experience and recommend new minimum requirements for relevant experience.
Felicity Atekpe is an Associate Professor and Director of Practice and Design of Practice at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. Her academic research includes innovative pedagogies, which address the role of education, ethics and alternative routes to qualification and equitable urban landscapes. She has more than 20 years of experience as an educator and in her current role she provides academic design practice leadership for programmes across the Bartlett.
Professor Sir Chris Husbands said:
“I am greatly looking forward to chairing the Professional Practical Experience Commission. So many young professionals continue to face barriers in gaining vital practical experience in architectural work, leading to a challenging road towards qualification. ARB’s data shows that certain groups remain underrepresented, and that the nature of practical experience contributes to this problem. The Commission will play an essential role in improving access to the architects’ profession in the UK. I’m looking forward to meeting as many students, academics and employers in the sector as possible, to gain a thorough understanding of the challenges and prepare recommendations to ARB that can make a real difference.”
Felicity Atekpe said:
“I’m delighted to be joining ARB’s Professional Practical Experience Commission. I believe this presents a real opportunity for us to shine a light on some of the hurdles faced by students during their professional practice experience. I am excited to draw on my own experiences as an architect, researcher, and educator to develop new ideas for how to dismantle these hurdles, and to help level the playing field for all seeking to join the profession – whatever their background.”
In February 2024, ARB will launch an open call for evidence to support the Commission’s work. The call for evidence will be open for six weeks and will be announced on ARB’s website. The Commission will complete its work within 12 months and will report its recommendations to ARB along with a suggested roadmap for implementation.
The Terms of Reference for the PPE Commission are available here.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is an independent professional regulator, established by Parliament as a statutory body, through the Architects Act, in 1997. It is accountable to government. The law gives ARB a number of core functions:
- To ensure only those who are suitably competent are allowed to practise as architects. ARB does this by approving the qualifications required to join the UK Register of Architects.
- ARB maintains a publicly available Register of Architects so anyone using the services of an architect can be confident that they are suitably qualified and are fit to practise
- ARB sets the standards of conduct and practice the profession must meet and take action when any architect falls below the required standards of conduct or competence
- ARB protects the legally restricted title ‘architect’
ARB’s education reforms and professional practical experience
In 2023, ARB consulted on proposals for a new regulatory approach to how architects are trained and educated. As part of its reforms, ARB proposed removing the minimum two-year duration of PPE, but determined through the consultation that this would not necessarily address the problems that arise for those looking to gain the required experience. ARB therefore committed to revisiting its proposals with the support of an independent Commission.
The work of the PPE Commission aims for ARB to take an inclusive approach that reflects the diversity of the built environment sector, and the professionals and students within it. The Commission will be funded by ARB, which will provide the secretarial, technical and other support required by the Commission to carry out its work effectively. Through ARB, the Commission will engage with architecture students, recent graduates, educators, architectural firms, professional bodies, and other relevant stakeholders.
The Commission will conduct a comprehensive review of the current landscape of practical experience opportunities available to architecture students across the United Kingdom. This will include:
- Reviewing the effectiveness of existing mechanisms for securing practical experience and identify any gaps or challenges faced by students.
- Evaluating the quality and availability of practical experience for students from diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented groups and individuals with disabilities.
- Identifying best practices from within the UK and abroad and investigating potential collaborations between academia, the architectural profession and other relevant stakeholders.
- Analysing whether changes to the regulatory framework or legislation would improve the quality of practical experience available to students.
- Considering the role of central funding for architectural training in the context of meeting the Government’s objectives in relation to sustainable development, building safety and levelling up.
Professor Sir Chris Husbands Biography
Professor Sir Chris Husbands’ main expertise lies within education policy and improvement, particularly in policy in relation to teachers and teaching in school. His achievements include chairing the independent Skills Taskforce on UK vocational education and training policy between 2012 and 2014 and being knighted for services to higher education in the 2018 Birthday Honours. He is also Chair of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), served as Board Chair of the Higher Education Statistics Agency and the Doncaster Opportunity Area Partnership Board until October 2022.
Felicity Atekpe Biography
Felicity Atekpe is an Associate Professor and Director of Practice and Design of Practice at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. In her role, she provides academic practice leadership for all accredited and non-accredited programmes. She is also the founder of White Table Architects, a practice which specialises in sustainable design, interiors and architecture and landscape. Her academic research includes innovative pedagogies, which address the role of education, ethics and alternative routes to qualification and equitable urban landscapes. Felicity has 20 years’ experience as an educator and has taught and examined at various institutions across the UK and Ireland.
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