Architect courses may get redesign

October 22, 1999

Architecture degrees should be restructured into a seven-year system of credits, says a long-awaited report on education and training from the Royal Institute of British Architects this week.

The report proposes a new body for validating courses. It says Riba's role has been "thrown into doubt by rising costs and complications" introduced by the creation of the Quality Assurance Agency and the Architects Registration Board.

It proposes an independent "Architecture College" funded jointly by the institute and the ARB. Riba might also change its name to attract a broader membership.

The institute said the changes were necessary to "overcome a sense of disconnection between practice and academia".

The study, carried out for Riba by a team led by Sir Colin Stansfield-Smith, professor of architecture at Portsmouth University, recommends ending the three-part structure of architecture degrees, which feature five years of undergraduate study and two years of practice, and replacing it with a year-on-year credit accumulation system.

Riba says it needs to address growing diversity in the way courses can be delivered, the introduction of tuition fees, and demand for greater flexibility from students.

"The credit system should enable students to undertake a type and pace of award that suits them and allow the market to place value on different awards according to their merits," the report says.

The review team appears to have put its original plans for a full-blooded three-plus-two undergraduate and postgraduate course structure on the backburner following concerns raised by architecture schools that government funding would not be available for two years of postgraduate training.

The report says that "by 2002, Riba should have established postgraduate routes and specialist qualifications as part of and in addition to the seven-year credit framework."

Sir Colin said that "fundamental to the report" is the review team's universal support for Riba to be renamed the Royal Institute of British Architecture.

He said the name change is needed because architecture has now "become many disciplines and the rise of new specialisms continues to breed an even more fractured totality".

Urban design, conservation and sustainability are among fast-growing specialisms that have the potential to become fields in their own right, possibly even setting up their own autonomous institutions.

Sir Colin fears this could undermine the integrity of the whole architectural profession. He believes the name change would allow the institute to throw open its doors to emerging and allied subjects.

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