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'Culture change' in store for architecture schools. . .

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RIBA's new honorary vicepresident for education, Alan Jones (pictured), has hit out at the lack of 'professionalism' currently being taught by architecture schools in the UK.

Jones, who hopes to become elected to serve for a term as full vice-president next year, said that a lack of skills in everyday technical areas - and even spelling - was a major problem which needed to be sorted for the good of clients and the profession.

'I'd like to get over my message to schools to see the advantage of being more professional, ' he said.

'You have to get respect and that comes through knowledge, skill and professionalism. The star mentality is to always want to run before you can walk, but the most important thing is to be competent and skilled in your job. There definitely needs to be a shift.'

Jones is concerned about a lack of focus on process and knowledge about getting buildings built, and feels that much of academia concentrates more on 'architecture for the sake of studying architecture'. But, at the same time, he does not want to be overproscriptive on style: he wants the personalities of schools such as the Bartlett to flourish but the apparent energy in them to be 'slightly redirected'. 'It's about wackyintelligent rather than wacky-stupid', he said.

Jones, an ex Michael Hopkins and David Morley Architects staffer whose practice features in New Architects 2, now teaches in Belfast. He considers his appointment as honorary vice-president to be an endorsement of the system in Northern Ireland but is also concerned that there is an oversupply of architecture graduates for the profession, and that not enough schools employ architects as their heads.

But while Jones agreed with the ARB's survey in August (AJ 6.9.01), in which the education system was found severely wanting on a number of issues - such as its ability to train adequately for life as a sole practitioner - he believed that it included 'quite clearly loaded questions'.

'They were trying to get a remit from the profession, ' he said. And he is concerned that the ARB wants to seize the initiative over education matters. 'They had a certain agenda there. Obviously there's a concern that the registration fee will go up the more they consider to be their remit.'

ARB boss Robin Vaughan agreed that students were not being adequately taught crucial business skills, but said there would be 'no quick fix' in turning round education - it was a responsibility both parties had to drive forward.

However, he robustly defended the survey carried out by Perry Nicholls. Vaughan said it was 'nonsense' to suggest there was an agenda, and that the profession had quite clearly signalled its 'sobering' view of the standards of education, but both the RIBA and ARB had to turn things around.

'It'll be a big culture change, ' he said.

The board, now with a new head of education in Dr Jon Levett, is to talk to the schools in a meeting on 6 November and then draw up an action plan. And it will be prioritising 14 problem areas.

These include the schools' failings on things such as financing projects, managing client relationships and business skills.

Jones, meanwhile, is to press the institute to speed up its processes on education matters to keep pace with the ARB and make it 'lighter on its feet'. And he also wants to see schools looking to train their unit heads in the skills of teaching, in contrast to the practitioners who are simply 'thrown into the deep end'. At Queens in Belfast, for example, Jones said he even gets an actress friend to come in and advise on voice projection for presentations of future schemes to clients.

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