Exactly one year ago an important event took place. A gathering of seventy student delegates, organised by the Architecture Students Network (ASN), met to discuss the future of architectural education. Their meeting was sparked by the latest directive from the European Union which seeks to “establish more uniformity across Europe by aligning the time it takes to qualify”, making mutual recognition of the architect’s title easier between countries.
The ASN’s discussions concluded that the course content throughout the UK system of ‘Part I, II, and III’, and the duration of said course, urgently needs to be re-evaluated in order to reflect the changing needs of the profession - especially in light of the recent rise in tuition fees and associated university costs. Back then, a spokesperson for the ASN said that “it really felt like momentum for change has finally reached a tipping point.”
This week the central council of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), alongside invited students, academics, and architects, met at a special Education Forum meeting in London. The meeting was called for two reasons: to also respond to the European Union legislative changes to the Professional Qualifications Directive statute, and to formally assess the state of architectural education in the UK at a broader level.
As a result of these discussions, the council have agreed upon a set of proposals that “will modernise the education of future generations, widen the path towards inclusivity, and work to remove the obstacles [currently] faced by aspiring architects.” These recommendations have their origins in the RIBA Education Review, a two year programme designed to develop the agenda for changes in the structure, content and delivery of architectural education in the UK. According to the RIBA, “the review has engaged the RIBA Education Committee, the Standing Conference of Heads of Schools of Architecture (SCHOSA), progressive practitioners of architecture, and the statutory bodies responsible for architecture in the UK and Europe.
The recommendations that have been agreed upon are:
- A requirement for a minimum of two years of assessed professional practical experience (PPE) within, typically, a minimum seven year period of study
- An award that combines academic study and PPE leading to a level 7 Masters degree
- Academic credits available for one year of work based learning, with the option for students to study within a framework of four years full time study plus three years PPE
- A 300 ECTS credit programme compliant with the requirements of Bologna Agreement
- Access to the register of architects (ARB) and title of ‘Architect’ on successful completion of the integrated course
In essence, these recommendations would see the current tripartite system of Part I (post-Bachelor), Part II (post-Master), and Part III scrapped in favour of a leaner, more practically focused framework for study. Five full time years of study would be reduced to four, with three years of paid work (professional practical experience). Perhaps most significantly, students studying under this system would be granted access to the ARB register and therefore be allowed to use the title ‘Architect’ after successful completion of this course without the need to obtain Part III certification. In reality, this would mean that students could become Architects on average three years earlier than the current framework allows.
The next steps will be to discuss the implementation of proposals in consultation with all UK schools of architecture. Only if they agree can the system be formally put in place.