Our role in prescribing qualifications

Prescribing qualificationsPrescribing (recognising) qualifications in architecture
The Architects Act 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 these levels. On completion of all three qualifications, an individual will be deemed competent to join the Register.

Institutions offering qualifications in architecture can apply to ARB for first time, or to renew, prescription. 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 qualification(s). 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’s continuing to meet the Board’s requirements, and 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 internal purposes.

We run a rolling programme in order to renew prescription of approximately 133 qualifications which are offered across 51 institutions. During 2014, we renewed the prescription of 39 qualifications offered by 16 institutions. In addition, we granted prescription for the first time to two qualifications offered by two institutions. The number of qualifications considered in 2014 was relatively consistent with most years, although fluctuations do occur within the renewal cycle from time to time depending on the periods of prescription granted. As part of an annual review which looks at making the prescription process more flexible, we also extended prescription of one qualification.

In 2014, 13 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.

In 2014, 36 annual monitoring submissions involving 97 qualifications were received and processed. The average time taken to process an annual monitoring submission was 4 weeks. The annual monitoring process enables us to check that the qualifications we prescribe are continuing to meet our requirements. It also allows us to identify any potential issues and/or problems 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.

‘I am a new head of school and I had not followed this process before. I found the information from ARB very clear and helpful.’

‘The prescription coincided with a revalidation suggested by our internal processes. This was helpful in that our documentation could be adjusted as part of the process.’

‘I would emphasise that the staff were very supportive in guiding my colleagues and me through the process.’

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
Our University Liaison Programme is now well-established and is offered to all institutions awarding prescribed qualifications. The programme aims to be informative for students as well as establishing a point of contact between ARB and students/schools of architecture.

The programme primarily takes the form of presentations or workshops for students and candidates on the role of the Board, the Code of Conduct and ‘professionalism’ led by the University Liaison Officer, Elaine Stowell. The content and format of the sessions will vary depending on the size of the group and the students’ stage in training and are designed in consultation with the professional studies adviser to suit the particular requirements of each school.

At all parts there is plenty of opportunity for discussion and questions and students are invited to contribute to surveys, working groups and focus groups which, in the past, have been helpful in influencing policy on practical training and changes to ARB’s website.

The prescribed exam
The prescribed exam is 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 exam hold overseas qualifications not recognized by ARB or the EU. Those candidates who successfully complete the prescribed exam at both levels are then eligible to progress to a Part 3 prescribed qualification and ultimately registration.

101 examinations were conducted in 2014, compared to 83 in 2013 and 135 in 2012. The overall pass rate for 2014 was 57%, compared to 55% in 2013 and 59% in 2012.

In 2014, 73 examinations were undertaken at Part 1, and 28 at Part 2. There were two appeals – both of which were referred to the Chair of Prescription Committee in line with the requirements of the procedure. One was disallowed by the Chair, and the other was passed by the Chair to the Appeals Group who upheld the appeal following careful consideration.

During 2014, we acted on feedback we received previously from candidates and examiners by producing a series of videos for candidates who said that they would like more information about the exam process and how to choose and reference materials. A further feedback collection exercise is being undertaken in 2015.

We undertook a full examiner and independent examiner recruitment exercise in 2014 to refresh the pool of examiners. This was to ensure that the Board’s procedures for prescribed examinations were followed and that the organisation was complying with relevant legislative requirements.