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RIBA and RIAS fall out over 'cavalier' plans for new RIBA suffix

A row has broken out between RIBA and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) over ‘rushed’ plans to allow Part 2 students to use the ‘Associate RIBA’ suffix

RIAS president Iain Connelly has written (see attached letter) to his RIBA counterpart Stephen Hodder telling him that the planned introduction of the suffix was ‘entirely financially driven’ and would ‘undermine the profession, the RIBA and our partnership agreement’.

Connelly went on to say that the decision was ‘inappropriate for an organisation that is supposed to act in the interests of its members and can only result in public confusion.’

The RIAS represents the largest group of architects outside London and in a letter that went out to its 4,000 members today (6 December) Connelly accused RIBA Council of ‘disregarding around 10 per cent of its [the RIBA’s] membership’s wishes’.

‘The measure,’ wrote Connelly, ‘has been rushed through your council without due care, consideration or consultation. To treat over 10 per cent of your membership this way seems at best cavalier.’

Connelly also described the vote as being ‘forced through… despite significant dissent’.

But RIBA president Stephen Hodder denied that the measure had been forced through claiming: ‘The proposal for an associate member’s affix is a direct response to feedback from the most comprehensive review in 25 years of all RIBA members - including our members in Scotland - and reflecting what the majority of the profession want.

‘The membership review has been discussed by RIBA Council, which includes member representation from Scotland, on three separate occasions; the RIBA Vice President Membership and Director of Membership & Profession presented the review proposals directly to RIAS in August 2013, in addition to the regular contact the RIBA has through our formal joint membership committee.

‘It will be a matter for discussion at the Five Presidents’ meeting at the end of January.I will be giving Iain Connelly’s letter proper consideration and responding to him directly in due course,’ added Hodder.

But RIAS secretary Neil Baxter hit back: ‘Sadly Stephen has been wrongly advised with regards consultation with RIAS. No such consultation has taken place.’

Previous story (26.09.13)

Profession hits out at shake-up of RIBA membership categories

Architects have hit out at the RIBA’s plans to shake up its categories for student membership and warned the ‘highly complicated’ proposals could confuse clients and bring down the value of RIBA 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 suffix Associate RIBA 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.’

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