ARB’s architecture education reforms took a step closer to implementation today, following the publication of a consultation report and the announcement of a new Commission to consider the requirements for practical experience as part of the education process.
In February 2023, following over two years of research and development, ARB consulted on proposals for a new regulatory approach to how architects are trained and educated. The Board’s proposals aimed to modernise the competencies required of architects to face emerging and future challenges, including the climate emergency, and improve the flexibility and innovation for universities and other types of learning providers. ARB also wanted the reforms to remove regulatory barriers, making its approach to quality assurance more proportionate and creating the flexibility for new routes to registration as an architect in the UK.
The consultation, which closed in May, received 672 responses from a wide range of organisations and individuals in education and in practice. ARB paid close attention to the range and detail of the feedback received. The consultation report details the key themes raised, and the Board’s decisions as a result, which are summarised below. A full report on the results is available on ARB’s website: arb.org.uk/consultations/results/education-consultation-results.
Alan Kershaw, Chair of the Architects Registration Board, said: “Today we take an important and positive step forward in modernising the way architects are trained and educated. We’re grateful to everyone who responded to our consultation: their views and expertise have helped to inform some significant modifications to our regulatory framework, which can only strengthen its implementation. It’s important now that the Board builds on the compelling feedback to further improve the proposals, which is why we’re establishing an independent Commission to review ARB’s practical professional experience requirements and develop new recommendations. The year-long Commission is a response to, and acknowledgement of, the key challenges of professional practice experience as identified through the consultation.”
Hugh Simpson, Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “The most important thing we’ve learned through this consultation is that our new competencies are a fitting update to the old criteria. The competencies received the highest level of support from respondents, so ARB can be confident that we’ve accurately described the role of the architect of the future, equipping future architects with the skills and knowledge they need to design safe buildings and environments and help to tackle the climate emergency.”
- Respondents showed high levels of agreement for each of ARB’s proposed competency outcomes, from 74% (professionalism and ethics) to 64% (research and evaluation).
- ARB will introduce the new Academic and Practice outcomes with some drafting amendments based on suggestions raised by respondents.
- The proposed new approach to accreditation, which includes the standards for learning providers and a transition timetable, also received a positive response with some useful ideas for improvement. More respondents agreed than disagreed with every standard, from education content (52% agreed and 19% disagreed) to human resources (43% agreed and 21% disagreed). On each standard, between 29% and 36% of respondents did not express a view. Students were more likely to agree (than disagree) that the standards would create a better learning environment; academics were more likely to disagree.
- ARB will publish the final version of the standards in autumn 2023 and will establish a stakeholder group to give agile feedback as the transition progresses.
New regulatory framework:
- Respondents shared mixed views about the proposed regulatory framework, with 40% agreeing that it would meet ARB’s aim and 43% disagreeing. Students were more likely to agree, as were architectural designers and consultants, academics less likely. More respondents agreed that the proposals will improve access (43%) than disagreed (36%). Groups currently underrepresented in the profession were more likely to agree with this view.
- There was little alignment in the concerns respondents expressed or the alternative framework they suggested; no single way forward would be supported by all stakeholder groups. One key concern was that it risked reducing professional standards, usually because ARB’s proposals for the practical experience element require further work, a point ARB acknowledges.
- ARB will make some important modifications to the regulatory framework before introducing it. This means ARB will accredit qualifications at Master’s level (Level 7, or Scottish Level 11) that meet the new Academic Outcomes and accredit practice qualifications which will assess the new Practice Outcomes. Universities and other learning providers will be able to design, and propose accreditation for, a range of new routes that could be designed in accordance with the new outcomes and accreditation model. These could include longer Master’s courses starting at undergraduate level or that provide a transition for those with degrees in related subjects, as well as the potential for courses to be delivered in new ways. ARB will cease accreditation of undergraduate degrees (at Level 6, or 9 in Scotland) in accordance with the principle of better regulation on proportionality.
- To address consultation feedback and strengthen the introduction of the framework, ARB will issue guidance clarifying that, to access an accredited qualification, students will need to demonstrate to Master’s providers that they have appropriate undergraduate qualifications or relevant work experience. ARB will also revisit proposals for practical experience, as described below.
- ARB will commission research to consider how best to evaluate the impact of its reforms, to consider the markers and data ARB can track to determine whether the changes, once implemented, improve the gender, ethnic and socio-economic diversity of those accessing education and training, and ultimately joining the profession.
Professional Practical Experience:
- The majority of respondents (60%) disagreed with the proposal to remove the minimum duration of professional practical experience (currently two years). ARB received a diverse range of ideas and concerns about the role of practices in its proposals, and the impact its proposals would have on them.
- The Board has decided to appoint a year-long independent Commission to develop new recommendations. The Commission, led by an independent Chair, will provide options and advice to ARB on the key challenges of professional practice experience identified through the consultation. It will be tasked with making recommendations to ARB on how to improve fair and consistent access to quality practical experience, and the recommended new minimum requirements for relevant experience. The Commission will be appointed in 2023 and report to ARB by the end of 2024. It will run alongside ARB’s overall timetable and won’t delay it.
- In the meantime, ARB will retain the existing two year minimum duration while continuing to consider short-term modifications like additional flexibility about the types of experience which are deemed relevant. This could include allowing time in practice as part of a Master’s-level qualification to count towards the minimum requirement in circumstances where it currently can’t.
NOTES TO EDITORS: ARB 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’
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