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ARB foreign fees rise is fully justified

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In response to your article 'ARB fuels foreign fees hike fury' and the letter from your anonymous correspondent about the ARB's new procedure and fees for examination (AJ 4.11.04), there are a number of factual matters that need to be corrected.

Firstly, the change in fees has partly arisen because, contrary to your correspondent's assertion that the examination procedure 'remains unchanged', a number of changes have been made to ensure a more robust and fair process for examining candidates. The procedure has never involved candidates being interviewed by a panel of ARB board members. Candidates are examined by a panel of examiners, from academia and practice, who are appointed, trained and remunerated by the ARB from funds raised by the examination fee. Among other things, the new process will involve additional time being spent examining each candidate, and independent examiners will oversee examining teams to assure consistency of standards and fairness.

Secondly, the amendments to the procedure were made after consultation with all schools of architecture, SCHOSA, the RIBA, RIAS, RSUA, RSAW, consumer groups and other statutory regulators. In response, the former RIBA vice-president for education, Jack Pringle, told us that the new procedures addressed the RIBA's concerns about 'consistency of decision-making, comparability with national standards and eligibility criteria'.

The procedures were approved by the board in open session, with papers giving details of the new procedure and the proposed fee being available to the press, the RIBA, SCHOSA and any other interested parties.

Thereafter, I wrote to all schools of architecture to inform them that the procedures had been approved by the ARB and of the new fee. The accusation that the ARB introduced the new procedures 'on the quiet' is absurd.

Thirdly, former RIBA president Paul Hyett, says that 'this move will seriously militate against people's right to work in this country, especially those trained in the UK'. This is nonsense. The procedure relates to eligibility for registration with the ARB for those with nonprescribed (normally non-UK) qualifications, and has nothing to do with anybody's right to work in the UK. That is a matter for government, not the ARB or the RIBA.

Finally, since 2000 the fee for examination by the ARB has been £375. This applied until 29 October. For applications received after this date, the fee is £998 per part for examination.

The examination fee is set on the basis that all costs to the ARB in running the process should be recovered. As ARB board member Nicholas Tweddell pointed out, there is no reason why the examination should be subsidised by current members of the profession through their retention fee.

Dr Jon Levett, head of education, Architects Registration Board, London W1

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