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?to shunning non-EU applicant subsidies

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Inspired by articles and letters in the AJ (4.11.04) and a heated letter from our esteemed former RIBA president Paul Hyett (AJ 2.12.04), please let me explain.

Approximately 250 applicants apply to the ARB for registration from outside the EU every year. These applicants have to be assessed for competence before they are allowed to register. I am sure you will agree. Quite a few fail as they are judged below the standards required. Some are ill prepared, but with better preparation might have succeeded.

Some new procedures and requirements have been introduced to assist applicants and hopefully reduce incidents of failure. These include preassessment criteria, such as very detailed guidance for candidates to assist them understand the requirements and procedure, and a greater emphasis on the pre-assessment submission. We hope this will increase the success percentage and save some applicants the wasted time and the added burden of re-applying.

The new procedure has not increased the true cost to the ARB of each assessment by any significant amount. The change in fee is to reflect the true cost.

A policy shift. We have attempted to predict accurately the precise cost to the ARB of each application. This will be reviewed on an annual basis so as to restrict the fees charged to the minimum.

The ARB's costs include the interview process, involving three examiners from the assessment panel, made up of experienced architects who are neither staff nor board members. In addition, there are staffing costs. Each application for either Part 1 or Part 2 has been calculated to cost £998 (the equivalent cost for opticians is approximately £4,500, which includes a three-week course).

The real change here is in policy: that the ARB assessment fees to non-EU applicants should accurately reflect the true cost. Please explain to me why registered members should subsidise non-EU applicants to enter the register - are we really suggesting that the ARB should subsidise to the tune of £250,000 per annum?

Perhaps you might answer the following question: does the ARB have a right to decide who it should or should not subsidise? Were the ARB to make such decisions on who it will or will not subsidise, would it not be open to a greater criticism?

The ARB is a registration body, and I was voted on to the board with a manifesto calling for a reduction in its annual retention fee. I would like to think that most will agree with my position. I have been working to this end at all times.

Please advise.

Nicholas Tweddell, ARB board member, via email

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