Dezeen Magazine

Simon Allford elected next president of the RIBA

RIBA "exploring" university code of conduct in response to Bartlett report

RIBA regularly reviews courses and is considering a code of conduct for academic institutions says president Simon Allford, in response to an investigation exposing a toxic teaching culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Allford stated that the institution "recognises our own role in upholding standards", following calls from architects for the institute to review its accreditation process.

"We are continuously reviewing our course monitoring and validation processes," Allford said in a statement.

"Indeed we are currently exploring a new Education Code of Conduct for validated institutions, similar to the RIBA Code of Practice for Chartered Practices."

UCL response is "cold comfort" for victims

Allford stated that The Bartlett, which is part of University College London (UCL), failed in its responsibility of creating a safe learning environment for its students.

"Every educator and education provider has a duty to support the wellbeing and safety of their students, as well as their academic development, and have effective mechanisms in place to eradicate unacceptable behaviour," he wrote.

The investigation, issued last week, exposed an "unforgivable" toxic culture continuing for decades at the Bartlett. In response, UCL said it was taking immediate action and removing members of staff. However, Allford suggested its reaction was not adequate.

"This report identifies extensive failings which have been acknowledged by the university who have made the commitment to taking immediate action," he wrote.

"This, I am well aware, will be cold comfort to those who have suffered."

The Bartlett is recognised as one of the best architecture schools in the world. It is ranked first in the UK for architecture by the QS World Rankings.

The report was written by legal consultancy Howlett Brown after UCL appointed the company in October 2021 to investigate allegations of discrimination raised by its alumni.

Crit process must be "properly managed"

While uncovering a history of bullying, harassment, racism and sexual misconduct at the institute, it also published a series of recommendations including a review of its crit process.

Allford said the school must ensure these assessments are carried out constructively.

"Like other creative disciplines, architecture education relies upon critical appraisal of students' work, but this needs to be properly managed," Allford reflected.

"All universities must regularly reflect on whether they have the right teaching and assessment methods in place and transparent and robust processes in place for students and staff to address any concerns."

ARB to meet with Bartlett

Following the publication of the report last Thursday, the Architects Registration Board's (ARB) chief executive Hugh Simpson also published a statement.

Simpson described the report's findings as "deeply concerning" and claimed the statutory body is arranging to meet with the school to assess if its requirements have been violated.

"We have written to the Bartlett to seek an urgent meeting so we can be assured that necessary changes to culture will be made," he wrote.

"We will also wish to discuss with them whether any of our regulatory requirements in relation to accreditation of courses have been breached, as well as the need for any architects employed by UCL to meet the Code of Conduct and Practice at all times."

The ARB said it will consider disciplinary action against any staff on its register who have breached its codes.

It also highlighted the need for "professionalism and ethics" in architecture education, but also in the wider industry.

"Many of the issues raised in the Bartlett's independent report go beyond culture in architectural education and training to much wider questions about professionalism and culture in the sector as a whole," Simpson concluded.

"Not only will professionalism and ethics sit at the heart of our review of education and training, but they will also be central to our policy development for CPD and the review of the Code of Conduct and Practice which will begin later this year."

UCL has since issued a statement saying that it welcomes the ARB's response and shares its concerns.

"We welcome the Architects Registration Board's response to Howlett Brown's independent investigation, and share their concerns," a UCL spokesperson told Dezeen.

"We have invited practising architects, sector bodies, other education institutions and advocacy groups to join us at a series of roundtable events where we will lay out the issues and tackle them collectively. We will be transparent about this process and will share our progress."

Last week, many architects who responded to the report on social media claimed that the findings could apply to other architecture schools.

"No surprises about toxic culture at the Bartlett," tweeted Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor, a former Bartlett student.

"The most unpleasant crit I've ever been in was at the Bartlett," he added.