Our role in prescribing qualifications
Prescribing (recognising) qualifications in architecture
The Architects Act 1997 sets out the Board’s responsibilities regarding the registration of architects, which includes setting the UK standard of entry to the Register of Architects. In line with our duties in this area, the Board has agreed that individuals must hold qualifications and practical training experience which meet its Criteria at three levels: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The Criteria, in turn, set out the knowledge, understanding and abilities which an individual must have acquired on completion of each level, and prescribes (recognises) qualifications in architecture at each of these levels. On completion of all three qualifications, including the requisite practical training experience, an individual will be deemed competent to join the Register.
Institutions offering qualifications in architecture can apply to ARB for the first time and then, once a qualification becomes prescribed, to renew prescription on a regular basis. We operate an independent process through which we seek to determine whether a series of requirements have been met in order to secure or maintain prescription of a qualification. Once a qualification has been prescribed for the first time, or prescription has been renewed, the qualification is subject to an annual monitoring process to ensure that it is continuing to meet all of the Board’s requirements, including that students gaining the relevant award are continuing to meet the required Criteria. Whilst the process is robust, it is light touch in that institutions are encouraged to submit material which already exists and which they have had to prepare for other purposes.
We run a rolling programme in order to renew prescription of approximately 144 qualifications which are offered across 53 institutions. During 2015, the Board renewed the prescription of 20 qualifications offered by 10 institutions. In addition, the Board granted prescription for the first time to six qualifications offered by six institutions.
The number of qualifications renewed in 2015 was relatively consistent with most years, although the number of schools renewing prescription has fallen as a number of institutions have moved from a four-year to a five-year period of prescription. As part of an annual review which looks at making the prescription process more flexible, the Board extended prescription of 18 qualifications delivered by eight institutions.
In 2015, the number of new qualifications prescribed by the Board was higher than in previous years as some institutions have looked to expand their provision. An increasing number of new institutions, with no previous history of offering prescribed qualifications, are also seeking to provide ARB-recognised qualifications.
In 2015, eight planning meetings were undertaken at institutions which were looking to apply for or to renew prescription. The number of planning meetings has remained stable over the last few years. Planning meetings involve briefing an institution about our prescription process and offering advice in relation to the collation of an application. The feedback we have collected in the last few years indicates that planning meetings are always well-received and valued by the institutions which request them. They have the additional benefit of providing us with a valuable opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the institutions offering prescribed qualifications.
In 2015, 46 annual monitoring submissions, involving 118 qualifications, were received and processed. The average time taken to process an annual monitoring submission was 4.5 weeks. The annual monitoring process enables us to check that the qualifications the Board prescribes are continuing to meet our requirements. It also allows us to identify any potential issues at an early stage and to monitor them.
Feedback is collected from the institutions which seek or apply to renew prescription on an annual basis. This valuable information is then used to inform the development of the guidance material which underpins the prescription process.
Did the prescription process provide any additional value to the institution?
‘Yes. It facilitated an objective review and feed-forward process of the content of the courses.’
‘Yes, this has helped with the promotion of the course and students’ confidence in the course as well. It also helped to attract new lecturers and practitioners who are appointed to teach on the programme.’
‘Yes, it was a good way to reflect on what we do and how we do it. It is a dreaded process but a welcome one too.’
All the respondents stated that they felt that having sight of the Board paper before a decision was made was helpful, and all respondents agreed that they had been kept up-to-date with the progress of their application. All of the respondents also agreed that the Board paper provided an accurate summary of the institution’s application.
Our role in liaising with universities
University Liaison visits continue to form an important part of our work. These visits establish a useful and constructive point of contact between ARB and the schools/ institutions of architecture. In addition, they prepare students for what being in a regulated profession means by raising awareness of the responsibilities placed on architects by ARB’s Code of Conduct and Practice, along with an understanding of professional regulation and the qualifications and training required for registration.
The Prescribed Examination
The Prescribed Examinations are a method of verifying equivalence for those who do not hold UK-prescribed qualifications or qualifications listed in the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive. The majority of people who take the Prescribed Examinations hold overseas qualifications not recognised by ARB or the EU. Those candidates who successfully complete the Prescribed Examination at both levels are then eligible to progress to a Part 3 prescribed qualification and ultimately registration.
147 examinations were conducted in 2015, compared to 101 in 2014 and 83 in 2013. The overall pass rate for 2015 was 52%, compared to 57% in 2014 and 55% in 2013.
In 2015, 107 examinations were undertaken at Part 1, and 40 at Part 2. There were three appeals – all of which were referred to the Chair of Prescription Committee in line with the requirements of the procedure. These did not meet the criteria for referral to the appeals group and so were disallowed by the Chair.
Feedback was sought from all candidates who sat the Examinations in 2015. Many of those who responded felt that the criteria were difficult to understand and the Graduate Attributes that determine the differences between Part 1/Part 2 were difficult to differentiate. Whilst we have acted on some of the feedback provided and made improvements on our overall service standards, changes to the Criteria and Graduate Attributes will feed into the Review of Routes of Registration.
In 2015, following a recruitment exercise, the new pool of Examiners and Independent Examiners undertook training on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and its relevance to our examination process in ensuring fairness, consistency and in the giving of feedback to candidates. Points covered included the Public Sector Equality Duty of April 2011 and ARB’s responsibilities in promoting and monitoring progress under this duty.
Examiners reviewed a number of examples of real cases of intentional and unintentional discrimination within UK organisations and their outcomes. Examiners considered what developments might be made to the process of examination so as to make improvements in equality arrangements. Following the training, a number of action points were recorded, and some material previously circulated to examiners (identity documents, deed poll, marriage and International English Language Testing System certificates) are no longer circulated to examiners.