Consultation results and next steps
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.
Our 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. We wanted to remove regulatory barriers and make our approach to quality assurance more proportionate, and create the flexibility for new routes to becoming an architect in the UK – having heard that the cost of education and the requirements for work experience create barriers for people from less affluent backgrounds or without existing networks in the profession.
The public consultation was open between February and May 2023. We received 672 responses that demonstrated a wide reach across different roles, regions and respondent characteristics. We read every response and analysed the key themes and trends.
The Board has discussed the analysis and considered the next steps alongside the aims of our reforms and our statutory remit, and has made the following decisions:
- We had the highest support for the competencies, so we are confident they accurately describe what future architects need to know, understand and be able to do. The new competencies are a major step-change from the criteria, a truly modern approach with a sharper focus on safety, climate change and inclusion. We’ll make some drafting amendments based on useful feedback, and publish the final versions this autumn.
- Our new approach to accreditation, including the standards for learning providers and transition timetable, also received support and useful ideas for improvement. We will publish the final version of the standards this autumn. We will establish a stakeholder group to give us agile feedback as the transition progresses.
- Important modifications will be made to the regulatory framework before we introduce it, to make sure it upholds standards whilst also removing bureaucracy and opening up the potential for new routes to joining the Register of Architects. Respondent views on the framework were mixed, but those who disagreed were not in alignment about an alternative. We will issue new guidance to learning providers about the appropriate learning and experience of those seeking to access the new Masters qualification. Our proposals do not negatively impact student access to funding.
- We will revise proposals for professional practical experience. We have learned through the consultation that removing the minimum duration will not address the problems that arise for those looking to gain the experience, and could have the unintended consequence of weakening the standards of the architects’ profession. We will consider short-term modifications like additional flexibility about the types of experience which are deemed relevant. We will appoint an independent Commission to develop new recommendations for the Board. We cannot solve all the problems with practical experience, but we want to take the lead in helping to improve access to it, and the experience of future architects. The Commission will help us identify how best to do that. It will run alongside our overall timetable and will not delay it.
What we proposed
- Our draft Academic and Practice outcomes outlined the threshold competencies required for registration as an architect.
- In our proposed new structure, skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours are defined through five competency areas: Professionalism and Ethics, Design, Research and Evaluation, Contextual and Architectural Knowledge, and Management Practice and Leadership. Each outcome would be assessed to a different level based on a development of ‘Miller’s Triangle’ (knows, knows how, shows and does).
What we heard
- There were high levels of support for each of the competency areas, ranging from 74% agreement for Professionalism and ethics, to 64% for Research and evaluation.
- We received a range of views about the content of the competencies and the number of them, along with suggestions for additional competency outcomes.
- The most common topics people expected to see more of were building technology, safety and sustainability.
- We also received feedback through our engagement meetings that some of the language used to express the outcomes candidates must demonstrate (e.g. ‘knows how’, ‘shows how’) could be better aligned with current academic terminology.
What we have decided
- We will introduce the new Academic and Practice outcomes with some drafting amendments based on suggestions raised by respondents. This means we will accredit qualifications at Master’s level (Level 7, or Scottish Level 11) that meet the new Academic Outcomes and accredit the practice qualification which will assess the new Practice Outcomes.
- We will remove some duplication from the outcomes, clarify the outcome that a student must achieve to be considered competent, and adapt the language to better reflect architectural practice.
- We will make key topics that sit across the competency domains (such as building technology and construction, safety and sustainability) more visible.
- ARB’s existing current guidance for learning providers on safety and sustainability will be retained, but we will provide clarity on its status and how it relates to the core competency outcomes
What we proposed
- We proposed that the regulatory framework for educating and training architects should change from the current approach of accrediting at undergraduate, master’s and a professional diploma. We published a summary of the new framework in which we will accredit qualifications at Masters (Level 7, and Level 11 in Scotland) and also accredit a practice qualification, such as a diploma, which will assess practice competency outcomes.
- This flexible framework was intended to enable a range of pathways for future architects to be developed.
- It was also intended to remove regulatory bureaucracy and improve proportionality.
What we heard
- There were mixed views about the proposed regulatory framework, with 40% agreeing that it would meet our aim and 43% disagreeing. Students were more likely to agree, as were architectural designers and consultants, but academics were less likely to.
- More respondents agreed that our proposals will improve access (43%) than disagreed (36%). Groups currently underrepresented in the profession were slightly more likely to agree with this view.
- When we analysed the reasons people disagreed with the framework, we found that there was little alignment in the concerns people expressed or the alternative framework they suggested. In terms of alternative suggestions, 12% of respondents wrote that we should continue to accredit undergraduate degrees and 4% wrote that we should stop the reforms altogether.
- One key concern (raised by 14% of respondents in their written feedback) was that it could reduce standards; the reason given for this concern often related to our proposals for the practical experience element.
- Another concern raised was funding, and whether our changes would have adverse financial impacts on students and on learning providers.
Students were more likely than any other group to agree with our proposed framework. Academics or architect academics were the most likely to disgree (66%).
What we have decided
- We will make some important modifications to the regulatory framework before introducing it.
- Our consultation has not identified another viable framework that would deliver our vision. Our regulatory role is to assure ourselves of the competencies of those joining the Register, in a proportionate way that enables innovation, and the arguments to allow students to enter a Master’s-level qualification from alternative routes remain strong.
- This means we will accredit qualifications at Master’s level (Level 7, or Scottish Level 11) that meet the new Academic Outcomes and accredit the practice qualification which will assess the new Practice Outcomes.
- This approach would accord with the principle of better regulation on proportionality, in that ARB would only be intervening where necessary and appropriately to the risk posed, and that the administration and costs incurred in those interventions are minimised. While undergraduate degrees (at Level 6, or 9 in Scotland) across the UK will remain regulated by the Higher Education sector, they will no longer be accredited by us. As a result, the reduced bureaucracy will result in reduced costs for both learning providers and the profession, which must ultimately bear the financial burden of ARB’s activities.
- It is our hope that 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 that could start 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.
- To address consultation feedback and strengthen the introduction of the framework, we 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.
- To address concerns that the changes could lower standards, we will revisit our proposals for practical experience, as described below. It is absolutely crucial that our reforms maintain educational standards and the integrity of the Register.
- Our proposals do not impact on the financial support made available to students. Discussions with UK and devolved governments have reassured us that our proposals will not change the funding status of students, meaning in future, those with a non-ARB accredited undergraduate degree (at Level 6, or 9 in Scotland) in architecture will still be eligible for the same student loans at Master’s level. We will keep this situation under review.
- Students with a non-cognate degree (that is, a degree for a subject that is unrelated to architecture) may not be eligible for a student loan at Master’s level. This is no different to the current funding model, but it could potentially limit funding access. We will explore further the impact on access to student funding for related or joint degrees through the guidance we intend to develop for learning providers, and we will look at undertaking research, too.
- We will commission research to consider how best to evaluate the impact of our reforms, to consider the markers and data we 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
What we proposed
- We proposed moving to an outcomes-based approach to professional practical experience which would mean that we would no longer require a minimum of two years of employment in architecture.
- Our aim was to improve flexibility so that future architects can gain experience in ways that work for them. It was also intended to help them focus their professional experience on what they need to be able to do in order to qualify as an architect.
- We acknowledged wider problems with the availability of employment. ARB cannot solve all structural issues on our own, but we tried to improve our model to help make our requirements more achievable. We said that we wanted the consultation to help us understand whether our proposal would do that.
What we heard
- The majority of respondents (60%) disagreed with our proposal to no longer require a minimum of two years of employment in architecture. One in ten said they found it unclear.
- We learned through the responses that removing the minimum duration of experience will not address the problems that arise for those looking to gain the experience, that it may create further uncertainty for employers and students, and that it could have the unintended consequence of weakening the standards of the architects’ profession.
- We also received a broad range of ideas and concerns about the role of practices in our proposals, and the impact our proposals would have on them. In their comments, respondents discussed the challenges of getting this right.
Only 28% of respondents agreed with our proposal to remove the minimum duration of professional practical experience.
What we have decided
- Our proposals for professional practical experience will be revised.
- We 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 cannot.
- We will appoint a Commission with an independent Chair to 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.
- We cannot solve all the problems with practical experience alone, but we want to take the lead in helping. The independent Commission will bring stakeholders together to help us achieve that.
Accreditation and transition
What we proposed
- Our consultation included proposals for a new proportionate and risk-based quality assurance of qualifications.
- We proposed clearer and stronger standards to be placed on universities and all learning providers delivering ARB-accredited qualifications. We published the draft standards that universities and all other providers offering ARB-accredited qualifications will have to meet.
- Prior to this consultation, new legislation was passed by Parliament, enabling the Board to delegate accreditation/prescription decisions to a Committee. This governance change has been planned for a number of years to speed up and improve the quality of decision making. We published the draft Rules that should govern the new Accreditation Committee. We also published related changes to our General Rules for consultation at the same time.
- We published a draft transition timetable as part of the consultation. It showed that, if our proposals are approved, anyone setting out to become an architect from September 2027 onwards would have to be trained and educated through our new, improved framework and assessed using the new competency outcomes.
What we heard
- 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.
- As with the draft competencies, we read some useful drafting suggestions about how we could improve the language and clarity of the standards.
- Students were more likely to agree (than disagree) that the standards would create a better learning environment; academics were more likely to disagree.
- The most common view expressed about our transition arrangement (as raised by 116 or 17% of respondents) was that we should be clearer and offer more detail about our plans.
- We read different opinions about the optimum speed of transition (60 respondents said it was too rushed and 17 said it was too slow). There were no common suggestions as to what a more achievable timetable would look like.
More respondents agreed than disagreed for every standard.
What we have decided
- We will implement our proposed changes to the accreditation of qualifications.
- We will proceed to finalise the proposed standards, with some drafting changes based on detailed suggestions. The updated standards will be published in autumn 2023.
- We will also produce a handbook for providers that will contain guidance on how the standards can be met. Alongside this, we will be establishing an Education Transition Reference Group to maintain engagement with the sector as the transition progresses.
- We will publish a roadmap setting out the transition timeline and how it may affect different cohorts of students. We will also improve the information we have published so that it is clearer.
To learn more about transition arrangements, you can download a timetable here.