RIBA vice-president for education Paul Hyett claimed last week that the majority of architecture schools in the UK are guilty of discriminating against ethnic minorities by relying on A levels as the principle entry criterion.
Speaking to an audience of predominantly black architects at the Stephen Lawrence debate, Hyett said: 'One or two schools are actively encouraging ethnic minorities but I believe that other schools positively discriminate against them . . . on the basis of using A level results [to determine admissions].
Is it really necessary to have three grade As to do architecture? Absolutely not.' He added that he would prefer greater use of interview, portfolio and general background information because, he said, poor inner-city areas which achieve the worst academic results also have the highest proportion of ethnic minority students.
'People are doing better in law and medicine and other professions than they are in architecture.
This is unfair, it is morally repugnant, it is a waste of resources and it is a time bomb, ' he declared.
Just six per cent of new students in the academic year 1999/2000 came from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or West Indian backgrounds.
The head of the Portsmouth University School, Wendy Potts, hit back at the remarks: 'It is not fair to say that. Schools do not only use A levels, we also take into account GNVQs, BTECs and Foundation courses.' But the latest figures from the RIBA show that three quarters of new students accessed courses through A levels or Scottish highers and that the average grades for access to university were one A and two Bs.
Chairwoman of the Society of Black Architects Caroline Osewe said: 'I'm not sure I agree with him [Hyett] because there is a large academic element in the courses.' The head of the Architectural Association, Mohsen Mostafavi, said: 'It would make more sense for schools to have a broader agenda for admission. But we have to be careful not to suggest that ethnic minorities are not getting good grades.'
Hyett was speaking to an audience of architects at a debate on the motion, 'Is architecture in Britain hideously white?' At the event Alex Reid, one of Hyett's rivals for the RIBA presidency, called for one place on every RIBA committee to be reserved for ethnic minorities. In a straw poll the proposal was backed by a majority of the audience. After the debate Reid said he would also allocate one place for women and one for people under the age of 40.