Architects play a crucial role in creating a built environment that is safe, sustainable and where everyone in society can live well. As the professional regulator, ARB’s main function is to ensure all those who are on the UK Register are competent. We do this in a number of ways, but this consultation is about a fundamental overhaul of the regulatory framework for the education and training of architects. This means we are proposing to change the way in which we ensure those who study and train in the UK have demonstrated the necessary competencies to become architects.
This consultation is the culmination of over two years of detailed policy development, including focus groups, surveys, events and in depth conversations with stakeholders. Our research and engagement have demonstrated that change is needed if regulation is to enable the continuing innovation within the Higher Education sector and if the UK is to sustain its reputation for excellence.
UK architectural education is globally respected and attracts students from all over the world, but the regulatory framework is inflexible and hasn’t changed in over fifty years. Learning providers need a framework that allows for flexibility and innovation and helps students achieve the competencies required to face emerging and future challenges, including the climate emergency. We’re also aware that whilst the current regulatory framework for education has produced thousands of excellent architects, it’s created significant barriers to some people becoming architects at all. We’ve heard that the cost of education and the requirements for work experience create barriers for people from less affluent backgrounds or without existing networks in the profession.
In 2021 we proposed that the most effective approach would be to move away from the traditional, three-part qualifications structure and for ARB to set a new framework based on educational outcomes, or the competencies required for registration. By doing so we want to enable learning providers to innovate and develop new routes to registration including the expansion of work based and apprenticeship style models. This means moving to a new framework in which our regulatory focus is on what an individual must know, what they must be able to do, and how they must behave, rather how and what they are taught. We held a public survey on our proposed approach: 65% of respondents agreed that the existing structure of Parts 1, 2 and 3 needs to change (with only 17% disagreeing) and 80% agreed that we should move away from a rules-based approach of the Criteria to an outcomes-based approach. Read our vision for education here, and the results of our survey here.
In this consultation we set out our detailed plans and invite your feedback through our consultation portal. We want to know whether you think our proposals will deliver our aims and whether we can strengthen them.
- The regulatory framework for educating and training architects will change from the current approach (Parts 1, 2 and 3) to require only two accredited qualifications. This flexible framework will introduce new entry points and enable a range of pathways for future architects. See below for a summary of the new framework, which is based on Academic Outcomes (equivalent to a Masters or Level 7 qualification) and Practice Outcomes (demonstrated by a qualification gained through professional practical experience).
- Qualifications accredited by ARB will need to be designed based on new learning outcomes, so that they are based on what architects can do, not what they are taught. The outcomes will replace the current Criteria. They are based on five core competency domains (such as Design, and Professionalism and Ethics) which cover important elements of architectural practice, such as environmental sustainability, fire and life safety, and equality and diversity. See below for the competency outcomes that architects will have to achieve through ARB-accredited qualifications.
- Clearer and stronger standards will be placed on universities and all learning providers delivering ARB-accredited qualifications. See below for the standards that universities and all other providers offering ARB-accredited qualifications will have to meet.
- ARB will introduce a new proportionate and risk-based quality assurance of qualifications, overseen by a new Accreditation Committee. See below for the Rules that will govern this new committee, to replace the Prescription Committee.
If our proposals are approved, anyone setting out to become an architect from September 2027 onwards will have to be trained and educated through our new, improved framework and assessed using the new learning outcomes.
Please note: The consultation for Tomorrow’s Architects opened on 8 February 2023 and closed 10 May 2023. The results of this consultation, including a full consultation report and next steps have been published and are available to read here.
A new regulatory framework
An ARB accredited undergraduate degree in architecture will no longer be a requirement for you to become an architect.
Many students will still acquire a BArch, but you might instead have a different degree, or relevant professional experience.
ARB sets outcomes and accredits
You will need a qualification that meets ARB’s Academic Outcomes from a provider accredited by ARB. This would be equivalent to a Masters or a Level 7 qualification. Other types of qualifications – such as those that cover Levels 6 and 7 together, or those based on apprenticeships – could also be accredited under this framework.
At the end of this stage, you must meet the Academic Outcomes set by ARB.
ARB sets outcomes and accredits
You will need a qualification that meets ARB’s Practice Outcomes. This qualification (e.g. the diploma or certificate) is accredited by ARB and is given by an awarding body.
At the end of this stage, you must meet the Practice Outcomes set by ARB.
Architects holding qualifications accredited by ARB (and therefore meeting all Academic and and Practice outcomes) can join the Register.
ARB will be assured that they can demonstrate all Academic and Practice Outcomes.
The new regulatory framework for education
Our proposed framework for educating and training architects moves to an outcomes-based approach in which our regulatory focus is on what an individual must know, what they must be able to do, and how they must behave, rather than how and what they are taught. The new framework is more flexible and is based on two points at which we would continue to have regulatory oversight, meaning we would set requirements at two stages only: 1. Academic Outcomes that could be achieved through a master’s degree or equivalent, and 2.Practice Outcomes that could be achieved through professional experience.
Removing the regulatory requirement for accreditation for undergraduate degrees means that, to embark upon the path to becoming an architect, people could have one of a range of different undergraduate degrees rather than a specific, accredited degree in architecture. Some people may not have a degree at all, but be able to demonstrate professional experience that a learning provider deems appropriate and sufficient to enable them to achieve the learning outcomes. We’ve spoken to organisations that offer apprenticeships and we think our new framework will work well with an apprenticeship model.
We believe that this approach will widen access to the profession. Not only will students with relevant experience or qualifications be able to access a masters level qualification without having to ‘return’ to the start of an accredited undergraduate course, but it will allow learning providers to use their expertise to design courses that meet the diverse demands tomorrow’s architects will face.
Moving to an outcomes-based approach to professional practical experience means that we are no longer requiring a minimum of two years of employment in architecture. This will improve flexibility so that future architects can gain experience in ways that work for them. It will also help them focus their professional experience on what they need to be able to do in order to qualify as an architect. We know that there are wider problems with the availability of employment. ARB can’t solve all structural issues on our own, but we can improve our model to help make our requirements more achievable. This consultation will help us understand whether we’ve done that.
The image below shows how this framework could open up new pathways people might take to be able to qualify as architects. At the top, it shows how we will regulate at two key points, through setting academic and practice outcomes. You can read those draft outcomes in the next section below. These outcomes demonstrate what it is to be an architect at the point of registration, so it’s crucial that we get them right, and that there’s enough flexibility for innovation and development in the future.
Through our consultation, we’re particularly keen to hear your views on the new framework regarding:
- whether the new, wider range of entry points will improve accessibility into the profession;
- whether the move to outcomes will help to improve innovation and flexibility for learning providers;
- any funding or wider resource implications (in any part of the UK) as a result of our proposal to accredit only at two points or the setting of new competency outcomes.
- whether this new regulatory framework is compatible and will work well with apprenticeships and other work-based qualifications that may emerge in the future.
Our draft outcomes outline the threshold competencies required for registration as an architect. Competence is defined as a professional’s ability to carry out their role successfully, having the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours necessary to achieve this. In our proposed new structure, skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours are defined through five competency areas:
- Professionalism and Ethics
- Research and Evaluation
- Contextual and Architectural Knowledge
- Management Practice and Leadership
The outcomes need to accurately reflect the competencies required of architects and the skills they will need to face current and future challenges, such as the climate emergency, emerging technologies, and the importance of fire safety. Before finalising these draft outcomes we commissioned research and engaged with experts to ensure that the outcomes are accurate and represent modern thinking. We have also carried out extensive and continuous engagement with learning providers to ensure the outcomes are deliverable within an academic setting.
Through our consultation, we’re particularly keen to hear your views on:
- whether the outcomes successfully define the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours required of an architect at ‘day one’ (i.e. to join the Register);
- whether the outcomes, as drafted, will enable learning providers to develop detailed curricula;
- whether any of the outcomes need changes – please note the number of each individual outcome in your response
- whether anything is missing.
Standards for learning providers
Our new draft standards set out the requirements learning providers must meet these if their architectural qualifications are to be accredited by us. It is our job, as the regulator, to provide assurance to the public about the quality and consistency of delivery of architectural education across all accredited institutions and courses. We know from our research that the best institutions are providing a high quality learning environment that helps students to develop into highly skilled professionals. But we know from feedback that this experience and quality is inconsistent and that in some instances, the learning experience for students must improve if we are to enable tomorrow’s architects to thrive and rise to societal challenges. In particular, we see emerging and growing evidence of challenges faced by female students and those from a minority ethnic background. The standards focus on the following aims:
- that students being awarded the qualification will have met the outcomes;
- that there are sufficient resources in place to deliver the qualification; and
- that there is an organisational culture that will ensure consistent quality and support students.
Taken together with the Competence Outcomes, these help to ensure that someone who has completed ARB-accredited qualifications has the practical experience required to join the Register of Architects. The standards will be supplemented by an Accreditation Handbook, which will set out in more detail the types of information learning providers should produce, so that we can accredit their qualification. In advance of the Accreditation Handbook being prepared, alongside each standard is an Explanatory Note which details the types of information it is likely that learning providers should share to demonstrate compliance. The process by which accreditation of qualifications will be awarded is set out in the Accreditation Rules, which you can see below.
Through our consultation, we’re particularly keen to hear your views on:
- whether the standards set appropriate expectations for learning providers;
- whether the standards will support learning providers in meeting the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion;
- whether anything is missing.
Rules and governance
To support the new education and training structure, we also need to update our regulatory processes. We have received consistent feedback that the current ‘prescription’ process is bureaucratic and not sufficiently focused on assessment of quality. Our own experience is that the current model does not enable us effectively to identify areas of concerns in a way that is proportionate and risk based. Government policy changes will enable us to develop a replacement for it.
We intend to establish an Accreditation Committee to replace the existing Prescription Committee. The new Accreditation Committee will operate differently, with formal delegated powers from the Board to take decisions on accreditation of qualifications. Their work will be underpinned by a new risk-based approach which will enable ARB to avoid placing unnecessary burdens on learning providers where the risk of failure to comply with the new standards is low, and a more effective use of quality assurance mechanisms.
The new accreditation process will have two components: assessment of new qualifications (whether from an existing or new learning provider), and review of any existing qualifications. There will be no renewal process, as accredited qualifications will have no expiry date. Instead, there will be periodic reviews, informed by data and proportionate to the risk assessment.
Advice from learning providers is that when seeking to establish a new course, it takes at least 18 months to make the necessary business case to the relevant decision-making body within an institution, recruit staff, and complete the local governance arrangements. We therefore propose the following model:
- STAGE 1: Initial notification stage (two years before the first cohort of students begin the qualification)
- STAGE 2: Assessment and review stage (with visits from ARB)
- STAGE 3: Conditional accreditation decision by Committee
- STAGE 4: Full or formal accreditation after first cohort of students are assessed by external examiners
This new process is explained in more detail in our draft Rules, here, and through the Terms of Reference for the Accreditation Committee, here.
The new Rules would come into force as soon as the Board approves the new competency outcomes and the new standards for learning providers, and the Government’s policy changes take effect. We intend for the Accreditation Committee to commence in autumn 2023 and take immediate responsibility for the standards for learning providers (once approved).
Whilst consulting on the Rule changes necessary for the governance of the new educational structure and accreditation process, we have also taken the opportunity to consult on other changes to our General Rules. Many of the changes concern the move to a new educational structure and accreditation process. Others include:
- changes to the way in which Board and Committee members are paid;
- the delegation of certain functions to appropriate ARB colleagues;
- the designation of a Senior Independent Board Member; and
- the change from 60 days to the more proportionate 14 days for an architect who has not paid the retention fee to be introduced back onto the register following their re-entry after a suspension order.
Through our consultation, we’re particularly keen to hear your views on whether you believe the new approach will improve the quality of education and training, and whether the Rules accurately reflect our proposals. We would also welcome any feedback respondents would like to share on the General Rules changes summarised above.
Stakeholder feedback has been consistent that they would welcome clarity about the period of transition from the current requirements to new requirements. There is support for implementing the new structure as quickly as is practicable and safe. We are therefore proposing to set a deadline of September 2027 for teaching to have commenced on new Level 7 masters qualifications (i.e. qualifications which have been mapped to the new learning outcomes). This takes into account feedback from learning providers that it will take a minimum of two years to develop a course. The last cohort of current Part 2 qualifications would therefore begin in September 2026. All existing qualifications would have prescription extended to September 2027. Through our consultation, we’re particularly keen to hear your views on whether the timetable for transition is practicable, or whether there are specific issues we should consider further.
You can learn more about transition arrangements on the interactive slider below, or you can download a timetable here.