Our role in registration
Maintaining an accurate, up-to-date Register is mandated by Section 3 of the Architects Act 1997 and sits at the heart of ARB’s role. Our small, dedicated registration team undertakes a number of tasks in this regard. The team carefully processes applications for registration as well as exam applications; dealing with enquiries covering a whole range of matters related to the different routes to registration and updating the Register on a daily basis to reflect the information provided to us.
Elements of the team’s work are complex and varied, relating to matters of regulatory policy and UK and European Union law, with staff members participating in European forums and meeting with other regulators to share best practice. Accuracy and confidentiality are key to the registration team’s work, which involves handling and recording a significant amount of personal data.
Joining the Register
At the end of 2015, the total number on the Register of Architects stood at 36,678, with the overall split between male and female registrants remaining at 75% male and 25% female.
New admissions to the Register in 2015 climbed to 2,279 in 2015. This is the highest ever number of new admissions in a single year since the present Act came into force. Of these 42% were female and 58% were male. This continues a trend which has seen the percentage of female architects growing slowly through new admissions.
ARB’s regulatory functions are funded by registrants through the payment of an annual retention fee. The fee is a registration fee, not a membership fee and as such architects are paying to be part of a regulated profession, rather than for the services associated with a membership body.
Consequently the Board is mindful that the organisation delivers its regulatory purpose and that the fee covers this in a way which is proportionate and justifiable.
The 2015 retention fee was due on 31 December 2014. It was the second year that the end of December due date had been applied. The Board made this decision to bring the payment and registration periods into line with one another to provide the consumer with clarity regarding an architect’s registered status. Up to 2013, architects could pay the fee covering the period from January to December at any point up until the end of March. This was impacting on our duty to deliver an accurate Register, as it meant that for several months of each year the Register was inaccurate, containing people who had not paid the fee required to be part of a regulated profession.
The Board decided to set the 2015 retention fee at £107, a small increase of only £2 on the 2014 fee; the modest increase was to fund planned work for the year including additional costs related to ARB’s offices. In September 2015 the Board also decided to hold the 2016 fee at £107.
Reinstatements and readmissions
We undertook substantial efforts to communicate the retention fee deadline including issuing email reminders and social media messages. We received significant support for our social media messaging from our stakeholders, including representatives of professional bodies and the trade press. Our strategy was very successful with retention fee messages being shared with over 40,000 Twitter users.
As a result of these and other communications, 95% of registrants paid their fee on time. The number removed for non-payment of the 2015 fee was 1,824, down on the 2014 number of 2,043. The professional bodies supported us by informing their members of the payment due date.
Architectural publications ran stories about the number of architects removed; nonetheless these were balanced in tone and included the points we highlighted in our press release.
We also established a staff task group, who reviewed the feedback received in relation to the retention fee collection exercise. This group instigated a number of reforms which improved the 2016 fee collection exercise.
Online systems continue to represent an essential part of our registration offer. In 2015, 98% of applications by the UK and EU routes were made online. This is an increase on the 2014 numbers of 96% for UK applications and 95% for EU applications. The online application system enables applicants to submit both their application data and scanned copies of supporting documentation electronically. This facility enables us to automate elements of the application process whilst cutting down on the paperwork coming into and leaving the office thus enabling us to contain costs and drive down application turnaround times.
In 2015, we implemented the following improvements to our online offer:
- The retention fee payment site was redeveloped to be mobile friendly.
- The equality and diversity questionnaire was added to our registrants services portal to allow people to complete their equality and diversity data, confidentially and securely. It also meant that the information could then be added directly to the database.
- We continue our work to maintain the accuracy of the Register. With this in mind, the eBulletin was redesigned so that each architect receives a personalised message setting out the latest publicly available contact details we hold for them, this has led to a substantial increase in the number of updated contact details we are receiving.
Feedback from new admissions
Feedback on our registration function helps drive future improvements. For example, in 2015 the feedback we received in relation to the 2014 retention fee collection highlighted issues which we have since been able to rectify for future years. These included resolving a problem relating to a small number of registrants’ direct debit instructions. Additionally, we created reminder tools such as text messages and downloadable calendar alerts to meet the needs of busy architects.
We review and value all the feedback we receive, and, where possible, we make changes to improve our services for the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]