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News: Stansfield Smith review

Review group urges major shake-up of education

Architectural education should continue as a five-year programme - but should change significantly in many other respects, says the long-awaited review by an riba committee chaired by Sir Colin Stansfield Smith. Out would go Parts I, II and III, to be replaced by 'certificates of achievement'; in would come a fourth qualification, to be called an 'advanced professional certificate of achievement'. Formal postgraduate qualifications would become more common (for example a masters degree in architecture and practice), and it would be easier to combine courses, undertake the qualification programme over a longer-term period, and specialise in different areas. Entry into the profession would be tougher and take longer, but there would be more routes into it.

Under the proposed model, the first of four layers of professional qualification would be achieved generally through a three-year course, but could be four if combined with planning or engineering, or five if it involved conversion from a 'non-cognate' discipline. The second level would involve a year's work experience and a one-year or three-semester MA/MSc in architecture or a variety of related subjects. The third layer is achieved after obtaining an March in one calendar year or three semesters, and two years of practice followed by examination. The fourth layer for an advanced certificate would take between three and five years.

Stansfield Smith said he hoped the vision could overturn the 'monolithic' nature of the profession, the 'disconnections' between practice and academia, and address the complacency he feels exists regarding attracting foreign students.

'Education is big business,' said Stansfield Smith. 'But there is a complacency that schools here will always attract students from the East when there is much more investment in places like Hong Kong and Singapore. We play an endgame here - go to Singapore and they're not playing an endgame - they're building new cities. We have to compete on qualitative terms.'

To do so, the review intends to create a situation where we 'look back in delight at education for practice in the twenty-first century in 2039' - the title of an open discussion on its contents which is to be chaired by review vice chair Helen Mallinson, as part of the consultation process, on 4 February at 18.30. The meeting will be followed the next day by an education forum looking in more detail at the review with some of the steering group. Ticket details tel: 0171 307 3678.

It was felt that the current framework, despite the original aims of the Oxford Conference, does not sufficiently encourage research. The proposed model integrates masters programmes into the mainstream of architectural education. Stansfield Smith wants a further paper on the issue: 'We're consumers of research, but we're very poor at producing it. We're trying to light the blue touch-paper for a lifetime's career.'

Another big issue in the review is validation, with the riba still validating 55 schools of architecture abroad. The review suggests the formation of a 'college' as a kind of extension of the joint validation boards, made up of 'distinguished members of the profession'.

Former director of education Chris Colbourne, who established the review for the riba in 1997, said that the current feedback from the government suggested that 'there is no threat to five-year funding but there is a threat to everybody's funding for everything'.

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