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Education: CABE could inject mediation and inspiration


There is an inevitability about the latest battle over education between the ARB and the RIBA - not so much about the ongoing (and healthy) debate over the extent to which architectural training should be 'vocational' rather than 'intellectual' as about the in-built law of bureaucratic institutions. As they become more established, they develop their own internal logic whereby self-preservation becomes just as important a goal as their ostensible raison d'Ûtre. Both the ARB and the RIBA derive status and power from their involvement in architectural education, which means that neither side is in a position to question the worth of their own role with any degree of detachment.

The time has come to invite a third party to mediate - and CABE could be a contender. On the one hand, it seems like lunacy to involve yet another organisation in what is clearly an overcrowded arena; on the other, it is possible to argue that CABE's involvement offers a means of streamlining existing relationships. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, which has governmental responsibility for the registration board, is one of CABE's sponsoring departments. This means that CABE's involvement in the current dispute could be seen as a more focused means by which the DTLR could carry out its existing responsibilities with regard to the ARB.

Given that CABE's primary concern is the quality of architecture and the built environment, it has a general and vested interest in ensuring that architectural education is inspired, rational and well organised. But it does not have links to any particular schools, and so has no incentive to promote any particular style which, by implication, could be seen to favour one school over another. The nitty gritty of academia is beyond its remit - therein lies its strength. Its task should not be to pronounce on the state and the future of architectural education, and certainly not to take any active involvement in validation, but to act as a mediator helping the ARB, RIBA and SCHOSA to arrive at a viable working relationship and to clarify exactly where the lines of responsibility lie.

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