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How should Part 3 change? Stephen Brookhouse

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Course leader, professional practice in architecture, University of Westminster

More from: RIBA Part 3 debate

Traditionally, 24 months’ practical experience has been seen as the minimum period of experience required as part of your proof of competence. This is an old model of competence, with its roots in the master/apprentice relationship and ‘learning on the job’.

We have two systems that seem to operate almost independently – a set of criteria that would-be architects must show they meet and 24 months’ experience recorded on Professional Education and Development Resource sheets. An experience-based qualification that puts the onus on practice to deliver training in the workplace, supplemented by courses delivered by universities and the RIBA and assessed by the profession, has definitely served the profession well. The standard of competence is high and few newly qualified architects are subject to disciplinary procedures.

But Part 3 students do fail their final examination – usually not on their academic record but on ‘experience’.

If appropriate experience is difficult to get during the boom, what happens in a recession? We can either keep going as we have done and put the professional progression of a generation on hold, or set aside traditional models and focus on a competence-based examination that incorporates the ability to make decisions.

Perhaps the idea that we can rely on experience to ensure competence is under threat from the ever-changing conditions in construction and the drift towards specialisation. But would a competence-based examination that reduces the requirements for experience be acceptable to the public and the profession? In a sense it already exists, as we give credit for the spectrum of experience that exists today, not just the ‘brass plaque’ experience.

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