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ARB and RIBA's historic partnership destroyed

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It is daunting to interfere with two such fragrant combatants as Barbara Kelly and Leonie Milliner: the former may or may not be right about the latter's inaccuracies.

Unfortunately, she introduces an inaccuracy of her own, which partly accounts for the current fracas. She states that Milliner is correct in claiming that 'the new arrangements will not transfer authority for the validation of courses to the arb' on the grounds that 'arb already has that responsibility, and has had it since the 1931 Architects Act.' But the former Architects Registration Council of the United Kingdom (arcuk), through its Board for Architectural Education (bae), had the responsibility for recognising examinations, the passing of which should entitle a person to registration, a somewhat different kettle of fish.

From the 1930s until the 1970s it happily chose to carry out that function - with no challenge to its legality - by inspecting the documents of schools' examinations at its office in London, while the riba continued with the long-standing validation system, which it had invented, visiting schools, reviewing courses and examinations, meeting staff and students, etc.

It was in the mid-1970s that the riba, recognising the element of duplicated effort for the schools and the somewhat arid nature of arcuk's approach, liberally minded as ever, made a decision to invite the registration council to carry out its examination recognition by having a representative on each visiting board. It was an invitation the council gladly accepted.

Thus a sensible co-existence obtained for more than 50 years, with no compromising of or challenge to either side's role. This positive situation was deliberately destroyed from the 1980s onwards by individuals who had given themselves the agenda of diminishing the riba's position in education, manipulating arcuk and its bae to this end and sowing the seeds of the conflict which continues. In the process, they so discredited the bae that it was specifically abolished by the latest legislation. It is at least debatable whether or not arb's present responsibility for prescribing qualifications could be interpreted with good will in such a way as not to clash with the riba's century-long responsibility for validation, the original, similar responsibility of the registration council.

What a contrast there is between those who maintained a harmonious working relationship in this field for both bodies during 50 years or so and the ferrets in a sack of more recent years!

Peter Gibbs-Kennett,

Bisley, Gloucestershire

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