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"Unwise" architectural education reform plan could result in the "closure of schools" says RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects has stated its opposition to the Architects Registration Board's proposed architectural education reform plans that would scrap the current three-part structure.

Last week, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) formally responsed to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) proposal by stating that the new education frameworks would be a mistake that could result in schools closing.

"We consider ARB's proposal to remove the titles Parts 1, 2 and 3 to be unwise," said RIBA in the report.

Graphic of architecture education reform
ARB proposed a new set of frameworks for architectural education

ARB's proposal, which is named Tomorrow's Architects, would see the education and training system that currently exists as Part 1, 2 and 3 scrapped and replaced by a flexible framework that introduces different entry points and numerous career pathways for prospective architects.

In its response, RIBA said that removing the requirement for a five-year education programme could potentially reduce UK universities ability to attract international students, as five years is typically a global standard.

Loss of international students "will diminish the income of schools of architecture"

The report explained that for many universities, international students not only "enrich the educational experience", but also provide institutions with an "important income stream," which could ultimately result in the closure of schools as a result of loss of income.

"However, the removal of the requirement for a five-year education may undermine the ability for UK universities to attract international students since a five-year programme is the global norm," explained RIBA in the report.

"These students both enrich the educational experience of the student cohort and, notably, are an important income stream for universities. The loss of these students will diminish the income of schools of architecture and will likely result in the closure of schools."

RIBA welcomed the idea of creating an entry point into the Part 2 qualification. However, it believes that the proposal would reduce the value of the Part 1 qualification and undergraduate degree.

"We welcome the proposal of opening up an entry point at the start of Part 2, which will improve accessibility to the profession for a small number of people," continued the report. "However, RIBA believe that the proposed model undermines and undervalues an undergraduate degree in architecture."

"ARB's current proposals fall short of the radical changes that are needed"

In order to create an accessible, diverse and inclusive education system RIBA president Simon Allford stated that the barriers of entry must be lowered without compromising on quality.

"To create a truly accessible, diverse and inclusive register, we must lower the barriers (but not quality) and facilitate the growth of alternative routes to entry," said Allford in his response.

"These include apprenticeships, combined work and study models, flexible part-time routes, and a new accelerated model to enable a student to become an architect in five years."

Although RIBA opposed ARB's proposal, Allford explained it will continue to work with ARB alongside architecture schools and RIBA members to ensure that the education system is fit for the future.

"ARB's current proposals fall short of the radical changes that are needed to transform our education system," said Allford.

"It is vital that tomorrow's architects are equipped with the skills, competence and knowledge to address contemporary challenges, including the climate emergency and delivering a safe built environment – but ARB's proposed outcomes are just not good enough."

"We will continue to work with ARB, schools of architecture and our members, to stress our collective concerns and solutions, to ensure we have an education system fit for the future," he continued.

Earlier this year, architect and writer Eleanor Jolliffe wrote that the profession has become "hollowed-out" and architects are becoming "less vital."