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RIBA backs down over AA validation

The RIBA has overruled its own validation panel after it recommended the Architectural Association’s (AA) Part 2 course should only be given a ‘conditional’ endorsement.

The AJ has learned that the RIBA’s education top brass dismissed the panel’s findings – made following a visit to the London school in February 2007 – following pressure from AA director Brett Steele.

David Gloster (pictured), head of education at RIBA, said: ‘The director of the AA [Steele] requested the findings of the board on Part 2 be reconsidered, and the recommendation that the AA final examination be conditional reduced to a recommendation’.

The AJ understands that the six-strong validation panel – which carries out a validation on every architectural school once every four years – unanimously backed the decision of its chair Robert Hutson, to recommend that the AA receive ‘continued validation, with conditions’.

However, more than a year after the panel’s visit, a report on the state of the school is yet to be published, a situation that Gloster said was ‘unusual’ but was unavoidable due to ‘pre-arranged committee dates’.

Gloster also revealed that after further consultation, the original members of the review panel decided, this time by a majority vote, to accept ‘that the condition be amended to a recommendation’. He added that a report would be released in May or June.

But one head of an architectural school, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was ‘irregular that the report was not out’ and another source involved in the validation process added: ‘Still no report. You’re telling me there isn’t a problem?’

But AA head Steele denied that there had been any issues with the visit, claiming: ‘They [the panel] made it clear they enjoyed their time with us’.

It has also emerged that two other schools, Huddersfield and Oxford Brookes, have become entrenched in long-running validation procedures. Both have taken over a year to determine.

Under the RIBA review programme, institutions can be judged as deserving ‘continued validation’, ‘continued validation with conditions’ or in a worst-case scenario ‘withdrawn’ – effectively closing the school.

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