Our role in registration
Our aim is to ensure that an accurate and up to date Register is available at all times to enable the public to make informed choices. Before allowing anyone onto the Register they must have met certain minimum standards and confirmed they will have suitable and adequate professional indemnity insurance in place. They must also declare any criminal convictions.
Applications from people wishing to come on or off the Register are processed on a daily basis with each application undergoing detailed review. Enquiries from the profession and the public are dealt with face to face, over the telephone, via email or via the online chat facility. The intention, when dealing with any application or query, is to provide a courteous and efficient service in a timely manner.
Members of the public can search the online Register to find architects in their area or to check if an individual they are considering using is an architect.
Joining the Register
By the end of 2014 the number of architects on the Register passed the 35,000 mark; the exact number of registrants at the end of 2014 was 35,157. New admissions to the Register during 2014 stood at 1906, the highest number since ARB was established by the Architects Act 1997.
During 2014 we received one fraudulent application. This was discovered during the thorough checking process carried out on all applications at the point of receipt. This system involves checking every single new admission against university pass lists and liaising with universities about queries.
In response to the fraudulent application, legal steps were taken which resulted in a successful prosecution. The incident demonstrates the effectiveness of our robust verification process which ensures that the Register only contains appropriately qualified individuals.
In July 2014, we released the following press release about this case.
On Wednesday 16 July 2014 in London, Westminster Magistrates found Mr James Peter Hindley guilty of intentionally attempting to register as an architect with the Architects Registration Board by fraudulently creating and falsifying documents.
Mr Hindley of ‘theCAVE Architecture & Design Ltd.’ based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, submitted an application to register in January 2014. Among the qualifications upon which Mr Hindley relied, he supplied evidence relating to a Bachelor of Architecture (‘BArch’) he had received from Manchester Metropolitan University.
It became apparent to ARB that the documents he had submitted were false and that it was a deliberate attempt to become registered as an architect in the UK by fraudulent means. This is a criminal offence under section 7 of the Architects Act 1997, and one which ARB duly prosecuted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 16 July 2014.
The Court found Mr Hindley, who failed to attend the hearing, guilty of one Count of breach of Section 7(1) of the Architects Act 1997. He was fined the sum of £1,000, the maximum amount that could be imposed for this offence. He was also ordered to pay costs to ARB of £2,079 and a victim surcharge of £100 was imposed.
The Court imposed the maximum fine possible and expressed its concern that the public interest was at risk from those not appropriately qualified seeking to become registered architects.
Karen Holmes, ARB’s Interim Registrar, said, “We have in place a robust process by which all applications for registration are carefully scrutinised to ensure that only those who are appropriately qualified are entered on to the Register.”[/pullout]
The Annual Retention Fee
As the Register grows and ARB becomes more widely known this inevitably leads to greater demand on our resources, which in turn increases our costs. We are mindful that these costs are borne by registrants, through the annual retention fee. We work to achieve efficiencies whilst at the same time ensuring that we meet our statutory objectives, and that our work is of the highest of standards. We seek to mitigate future cost increases by providing online systems which enable self-service through improved technology. Such improvements in technology require investment but, as the Register grows, they are essential to maintaining and improving the services we offer. Feedback from the users of our services shows high levels of customer satisfaction regarding our online systems with 93% of UK applicants and 97% of EU applicants who gave us feedback saying they were satisfied with the functionality of our online portal.
The 2014 retention fee increased by £6.50 to £105. The deadline for payment of the 2014 annual retention fee was 31 December 2013. This was the first year that the December cut-off date was applied following a public consultation. The Board adopted this deadline 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 protect the public 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. One of ARB’s key statutory functions is to maintain an up to date Register and so the Board took the decision to change the payment date to ensure that it delivered on this key element of its role.
Reinstatements and readmissions
Despite taking considerable steps to inform architects of when their retention fee was due, unfortunately we had to remove a significant number of architects (2043 people) for non-payment of the 2014 fee. We recognise the objections of those who were removed but the Architects Act 1997 requires us to maintain an accurate Register. As with the statutory regulation of other professionals (such as doctors, nurses and dentists) the regulators role, including the maintenance of the Register, is funded by an annual retention fee and continued registration is dependent upon the payment of that fee.
Architects who are removed for non-payment and who wish to rejoin the Register must pay an additional fee. This is set by the Board to fund the removal and reinstatement process. The Board is committed to ensuring the reinstatement charge is accurate and proportionate, as such the use of online systems in this area enabled the Board to reduce the reinstatement fee payable from £40 in 2013 to £30 in 2014. The Board is also committed to ensuring the additional work created by the removal and reinstatement process does not place a burden on those who pay their fee on time.
We continue to seek ways of improving the way in which we communicate the fee deadline so that we strike the appropriate balance between adequately reminding architects about the due date whilst being mindful that the majority who pay on time find numerous reminders frustrating.
The success of online systems and our commitment to efficiency
By the end of 2014 our online application system had been running for over two and a half years. Our online offering has been a significant area of success with 85% of all applications for registration received online in 2014, an annual increase of 5%.
Over the last two years, the introduction of the online systems has enabled the streamlining of the application process internally, leading to reduced targets in all application areas. For example, for UK applications the Key Performance Indicator was revised from 30 working days to 15 working days.
In 2014 we implemented the following improvements to our online systems:
- The Professional Indemnity Insurance section of the online application forms was amended to reduce any confusion regarding which section needed to be chosen by the applicant to speed up processing times.
- In response to user feedback a registration route finder was created and added to the website in October 2014. The route finder was designed to provide clear information to enable people to find out for themselves, which route to registration applied to them. By the end of 2014 almost 800 people had already used this new tool.
- Towards the end of 2014 the online application portal was amended to allow applicants the option to pay the following year’s fee in advance. The benefit of being able to do so means anyone applying to come onto the Register at the end of year can be safe in the knowledge that their annual fee for the forthcoming year has already been paid and so ensuring that those who have just been added to the Register are not removed for non-payment.
Feedback from new admissions
Over 95% of applications from new admissions via the main routes to registration were made online. Many provided feedback on the navigation and functionality of the online application system. This feedback is essential to us as we work to further improve our online systems to reduce turnaround times and keep costs low.
- 96% of all those applying via the UK route applied online.
- Navigation – Of the applicants who gave feedback on the process, 95% who applied via the UK route found the portal easy to navigate of which 50% found it extremely easy.
- Functionality – Of the applicants who gave feedback on the process, 95% of the applicants who applied via the UK route were satisfied with the functionality of the online system of which 65% were extremely satisfied.
- 95% of all those applying via the EU route applied online.
- Navigation – Of the applicants who gave feedback on the process, 95% who applied via the EU route found the portal easy to navigate of which 36% found it extremely easy.
- Functionality – Of the applicants who gave feedback on the process, 95% of the applicants who applied via the UK route were satisfied with the functionality of the online system of which 50% were extremely satisfied.