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Profession hits out at shake-up of RIBA membership categories

Architects fear ‘highly complicated’ proposals could confuse clients and bring down the value of RIBA membership

Architects have hit out at the RIBA’s plans to shake up its categories for student membership.

The new system, approved by RIBA Council last week, introduces extra membership categories for graduates – distinguishing between Part 1, 2 and 3 students – and allowing Part 3 students to use a newly introduced ‘AssociateRIBA’ affix after their name.

Architects have called it ‘highly complicated’ and fear the proposal could confuse clients and water down the value of the RIBA.

RIBA past president Owen Luder, said: ‘The use of an affix AssociateRIBA will create uncertainty with the public and be abbreviated to ARIBA which will cause problems and be very difficult to monitor.’

Central Saint Martins head Jeremy Till added: ‘It is confusing, hierarchical and self-important, just when the profession needs to be the exact opposite of those.’

Harriet Harriss, senior lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brookes University agreed: ‘There is always the risk that diluting the RIBA brand in this way actually diminishes the status of a fully qualified, professional architect and creates ambiguity as to their remit.’

Meanwhile, some students have also voiced fears over the move. Hannah Fothergill, a Part 3 student working at Bennetts Associates Architects, commented: ‘The majority of first-time or inexperienced clients wouldn’t know the difference between the ARB and RIBA and could mistakenly assume a Part 3 student with AssociateRIBA after their name was a qualified architect.’

A spokesperson for the ARB said: ‘We look forward to talking with the RIBA to ensure that the public is clear about who is entitled to use the term “architect”, which is a protected title in law.’

The membership changes come as the RIBA struggles to balance its books, having announced a £300,000 deficit in its 2012 annual report.

This has prompted some to ask whether the changes are aimed at rustling up funds.

Paul Gray, of Sheffield-based Grayscale Architecture, described the shake-up as ‘a nonsense’ and ‘an excuse to seek additional funds’.

Current associate membership costs range from £60 to £236. RIBA chartered membership currently stands at £256, and £393 for those who have been qualified for more than five years. The RIBA is yet to announce costs for the new membership categories. They are expected to be discussed at the RIBA Council meeting in December.

Tom Dollard, of Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects thinks the new membership categories are a good idea, suggesting additional funds could be used to further engage the profession. He said: ‘Yes, it [the RIBA] will make money out of a larger membership base, but this should be re-invested into the RIBA’s remit of representing the profession and “building a brighter future for architectural excellence”.

‘The RIBA needs to use this extra money to increase support to younger members through a variety of means – promotions, exhibitions, education, events, competitions, networking, discounts on insurance, larger discounts on RIBA enterprises and use of the RIBA buildings.’

RIBA membership



Readers' comments (6)

  • You refer to my concern about the changes in membership structure and particular the use of the affix Associate to advanced students who are not fully qualified. When I was told that at the Council meeting that the members in the membership survey had voted for that change - I said they were wrong as they had not thought through the implications. It also depended on how the question was asked. I am afraid the changes are there to increase income, are of doubtful value to the majority of members and most importantly will increase the confusion that already exists with the public as to who are properly and fully qualified architects. Owen Luder PPRIBA Nationally elected Council member.

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  • Paul McGrath

    I applaud the RIBA for taking this necessary step. It is long overdue. As a 'qualified' Part 2, having never considered joining the RIBA, I will now be doing so at the first opportunity. Where previously for me at least, 'student' membership had no credence the suggested changes give some recognition for a minimum of 5 years study. Having a post graduate qualification immediately puts you in the top 5% of the population (by qualification) and it has always struck me as ludicrous the architectural profession unlike some other professions, gives no recognition at all to highly qualified graduates who do not go on to register.

    It is a great shame that a vocal minority of 'registered' architects see this as a loss or a dilution and not an attempt to embrace people who play an important role in the wider architectural profession and in architects offices around the country. This type of protectionism does nothing to prevent the accusation that professions are elitist.

    This change now gives the non-registered the opportunity to support the profession through meaningful membership of the RIBA and I hope the RIBA will represent the opinions and well being of the non-registered. I assume the ARB will resist the use of the affix Associate RIBA by those who are not on the register and trust the RIBA will be robustly promoting the wider benefits of its decision. Far from confusing the public, this decision will further isolate the truly unqualified from tarnishing the reputation of the architectural profession. When all is said and done, you will still need a very high level of qualification and integrity to join the RIBA and that is what the wider public will clearly understand.

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  • I do not agree with Owen (for once!). The construction world is changing, the role of the architect is changing, routes into architecture are changing (with many taking 10+ years to qualify), and many people other than chartered architects are enjoying and interested in architecture. I do not think that the RIBA should look backwards and think that what has been before is the only way to go forwards.
    The RIBA should clearly develop its role for the 21st century and welcome in a wider and more diverse membership, both to celebrate it's thought leadership as the knowledge hub for the industry and to put architects back into the forefront of the industry. If the RIBA needs to educate the world it can only do so by being active and inclusive. This does not diminish the role, function or status of its chartered members, which can only be enhanced by the prospect of more people in government, public bodies and other parts of the industry knowing what we do.

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  • Paul McGrath

    I applaud the RIBA for taking this necessary step. It is long overdue. As a 'qualified' Part 2, having never considered joining the RIBA, I will now be doing so at the first opportunity. Where previously for me at least, 'student' membership had no credence the suggested changes give some recognition for a minimum of 5 years study. Having a post graduate qualification immediately puts you in the top 5% of the population (by qualification) and it has always struck me as ludicrous the architectural profession unlike some other professions, gives no recognition at all to highly qualified graduates who do not go on to register.

    It is a great shame that a vocal minority of 'registered' architects see this as a loss or a dilution and not an attempt to embrace people who play an important role in the wider architectural profession and in architects offices around the country. This type of protectionism does nothing to prevent the accusation that professions are elitist.

    This change now gives the non-registered the opportunity to support the profession through meaningful membership of the RIBA and I hope the RIBA will represent the opinions and well being of the non-registered. I assume the ARB will resist the use of the affix Associate RIBA by those who are not on the register and trust the RIBA will be robustly promoting the wider benefits of its decision. Far from confusing the public, this decision will further isolate the truly unqualified from tarnishing the reputation of the architectural profession. When all is said and done, you will still need a very high level of qualification and integrity to join the RIBA and that is what the wider public will clearly understand.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Point of information:
    Has anybody noticed that you can't use any "RIBA" affix unless you are also ARB registered (and you can't be ARB registered without Part 3 of course) because "RIBA" contains the word "architect" and hence you'd be advertising yourself as an architect.
    This has been confirmed by the ARB who pointed me to the High Court case of Jones Vs Hellard (see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/law-report-unregistered-architect-could-not-use-friba-1151110.html).

    So the proposals to use affixes would encourage the bestowed to commit an offence (as does the current FRIBA if the person isn't ARB registered).

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  • Paul McGrath

    If you check the membership of the RIBA, I think you will find there are many 'Honorary Fellowships' of the RIBA who are entitled to use the initials Hon FRIBA after their name who are not registered architects. As far as I know the ARB have chosen not to test the validity of this through the Courts. Therefore, the ARB should surely take a pragmatic view of the affix RIBA with those who have an architectural qualification.

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