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Campaign group for 'architectural assistants' launched


Campaigners last week launched the Association of Part Two Architects (TAPTA), a new organisation to fight the profession’s ‘bias’ against architectural assistants

This latest bid to reform the part 1/2/3 architecture education system comes as the seven-year course faces pressure from government plans to raise students fees to £9,000 a year.

Workers yet to complete their Part 3 and join the architects register could benefit from a ‘certified architect’ title under the association’s proposed two-tier system, its first bid for reform.

Paul McGrath, TAPTA founding member,  said: ‘Our  greatest  injustice is  that  similarly  qualified  “architects”  from  certain  other  EU  member  states  can  enter  the  register  and  legally  call  themselves  an  architect  whereas  Part  2  architects  with  similar  qualifications  and  experience  obtained  in  the  UK  can’t.

‘Neither  the  RIBA  nor  the  ARB  properly  represent  our  interests  as  they  see  Part  2  merely  as  a  stepping  stone  to  Part  3  and  not  a  destination  in  its  own  right.’

According to a letter sent to Andrew Stunell, the government minister responsible for the Architects Act, architectural assistants are both ‘disenfranchised’ and vulnerable to oversees competition.

McGrath said: ‘We  need  to  come  together  and  challenge  the  ARB  over  this  discrimination.  Is  it  fair  to  ask  students  to  spend  six  years  of  their  life  studying  and  incur  tens  of  thousands  of  pounds  of  debt  simply  to  be  called  an  “assistant”?’

Ian Salisbury welcomed the move but said the association might complicate the education process when simpler alternatives are available.

He said: ‘Since 2004 the RIBA has known that “it is only a matter of time before a UK student, who has been denied registration on the grounds that he or she has not passed the Part 3 examination, yet who has been educated in the UK and achieved two years practical experience in the UK, successfully challenges such a decision on the basis that it is irrational to require a UK based student to possess a higher level of qualification and experience than is required of a non-UK based student or architect.” 

‘Anyone with Part 2 ought to be able to register with ARB, and there is nothing to stop ARB from accepting this.  Similarly there is no reason why the RIBA should not continue to require Part 3 in return for the title “chartered architect”.’

The government is close to a deal for a £9,000 cap on university tuition fees following a decision to reject recommendations for unlimited fees in the Browne Review, reports The Financial Times.


TAPTA letter to Andrew Stunell


For the attention of: Andrew Stunell MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

28th October 2010

Dear Mr Stunell

I write on behalf of the members of the Association of Part Two Architects in relation to the unjust actions of the Architects Registration Board (ARB) regarding the implementation of Directive 2005/36/EU and its apparent discrimination against citizens who have gained Part 2 status in the UK.

As the minister responsible for the Architects’ Act, I assume you are familiar with the academic and professional qualifications proscribed by the ARB in the education of an architect and there is no need to elaborate on the subject. I will also assume you are familiar with efforts to harmonise academic and professional qualifications for regulated professions throughout the EU.

What you may not be fully aware of is a sector of the architectural profession that are referred to by the somewhat derogatory title of ‘architectural assistants’ even though they are in the top 7% by qualification of the UK labour force. This is the target sector for membership of the Association of Part Two Architects. Currently this sector of the profession – which perhaps numbers 30,000 people – has no representative or democratic voice of its own. It is overshadowed by the considerable resources of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) who represent the views of Part 3 qualified architects and only Part 3 qualified architects; views which differ very considerably from those of the Part 2 qualified architect. This is a situation the Association of Part Two Architects intends to correct. Our first act is to write to you to point out what we see as blatant discrimination against Part 2 qualified architects practicing in the UK today.

The Association holds the view that EU citizens who have gained Part 2 status in the UK share a similar level of professional competence and academic achievement as some ‘architects’ who arrive in the UK from many other EU member states – but not all – with the intention of setting up in practice using the protected title of architect. Some register with the ARB, some do not. For reasons I will explain, blatant discrimination is directed towards the UK based Part 2 qualification (or blatant favouritism directed towards some ‘architects’ gaining access to the register from the EU) which is inherently unfair.

From the perspective of the Part 2 qualified architect, under the current system the ludicrous and unjustified situation can arise that an ‘architect’ from an EU member state can arrive in the UK and register with the ARB with fewer academic and professional qualifications than a UK trained ‘assistant architect’. There is even evidence to suggest both the ARB and the RIBA are aware of this inequality yet turn a ‘blind eye’ to the plight of a very highly educated sector of the architectural profession. This is one example of many acts of discrimination against the Part 2 qualified architect working in the UK today.

Based on the premise that Part 2 qualified architects are sometimes as equally competent as ‘architects’ who have joined the register from some other EU member states, other acts of discrimination include:

• Not being able to pitch for publicly funded commissions which expressly state an ‘architect’ is required even though other similarly qualified EU citizens who are eligible to refer to themselves as architects in their host state can; thereby putting the UK Part 2 qualified architect at a commercial disadvantage.
• Not being able to use the title ‘architect’ in a company name yet other similarly qualified EU citizens who are eligible to refer to themselves as architects in their host state can apply to the ARB for permission to do so.
• Being locked out of professional awards; for example the ‘architect of the year’ award yet being equally competent at designing buildings.
• An average salary discrepancy of at least £4,000 when comparing the Part 2 qualified architect with a similarly qualified ‘architect’ who is eligible to join the UK register of architects.
• A ‘Glass Ceiling’ to career progression. Architectural assistants are most definitely second class citizens in the architectural profession in the UK.
• Fear of prosecution by the ARB for referring to themselves as Part 2 qualified architects.
• Excluded from the right to free movement of labour within EU member states. As Part 2 qualified architects are not currently classified as ‘architects’ in the UK they cannot enjoy ‘free movement’ within a protected profession throughout the EU whereas a similarly qualified ‘architect’ from certain other EU member states can.
• Those who practice independently are effectively denied fair access to the profession as there is an ingrained assumption within the ARB and the RIBA that Part 2 is merely a stepping stone to Part 3 and therefore not treated as a destination in its own right.

To resolve the many acts of discrimination that currently exist, TAPTA propose that the current system of registration in the UK should be expanded into two, clear and distinct tiers – using existing academic and professional competency criteria – to provide a fair job description for part two qualified architects as ‘certified architects’. The premier tier would remain ‘registered architect’ which is equivalent to the current criteria of achieving Part 3 qualification.

We ask that you indicate your general support for this initiative and enter into consultation on how this could be achieved.

As further justification for supporting this initiative, a two tier registration system would bring a considerable number of people under the regulatory supervision of the ARB whereas currently they operate outside its authority. If as we assert, Part 2 qualified architects are equally competent and equally as professional as some ‘architects’ who have joined the register from some other EU member states but are less qualified than Part 3 qualified architects in the UK, a two tier system would instantly correct this imbalance. Not only would it correct a glaring injustice, it would leave the current ‘registered’ status totally unchanged. It would also satisfy claims from ‘registered architects’ that unregistered architectural consultants are undercutting their fees. A two tier system would clearly distinguish the difference in skill levels – and therefore financial remuneration – between a ‘registered architect’ and a ‘certified architect’ in a similar way to being able to distinguish between the skill set and salary of a GP and the skill set of a surgeon in the medical profession. It would also have the effect of increasing protection to the general public by further isolating those who have no qualifications to design buildings whatsoever yet claim to be able to do so.

On the basis that the ARB will continue to deny Part 2 qualified architects entry onto the register but allow similarly qualified ‘architects’ from other EU member states onto the register what objection could the ARB have to expanding the register on the basis of a two tier system? Is their primary purpose to protect the Part 3 status or to protect the public? If it is to protect the public then expanding the register must be an option; if it is to protect the Part 3 status then they must refuse to accept onto the register ‘architects’ from other EU member states who do not meet this strict criteria.

As the minister responsible for the ARB the Association of Part Two Architects is looking to you to provide guidance on what role the ARB has – if any – in removing the apparent injustices described above.

I understand that under EU Law the ARB cannot discriminate against certain citizens from other EU member states who comply with the requirements of Directive 2005/36/EU who want to join the register of architects in the UK by denying them access to the register. (As this might be one way to correct this injustice.) Yet it is left free to discriminate against UK citizens by denying similarly qualified Part 2 architects access to the register. Surely the ARB cannot have it both ways as it does now and it is incumbent upon you as the minister responsible for the ARB to provide a fair, just and meritocratic basis on how the term architect should be defined in the context of European efforts to harmonise competence and experience in the education of an architect. A consistent definition is also important when considering whether or not the protection of the title ‘architect’ should be retained or not and even more so if there are moves afoot to protect the function of the architect as well as the title.

The Association of Part Two Architects keenly awaits your response.

Yours sincerely,

Paul McGrath
On behalf of the members of the Association of Part Two Architects.

Copied to;
All Board Members of the ARB
President of The Architects Council of Europe


Readers' comments (6)

  • John Kellett

    Certified v. registered:
    Surely it makes more sense for 'registered architect' to refer to those with EU levels of qualification (RIBA part 2) and 'Chartered architect' to those with the higher RIBA part 3 level of qualification. The RIBA does of course cater for members with Part 1 and 2 as well as 3.
    Perhaps the ARB can then concentrate on the real abuses of title, the unqualified 'architectural designers' and 'architectural consultants', who mislead the public and usually provide a much inferior service. Bring on protection of function, whereby only those suitably qualified are permitted to design buildings, or parts of buildings (Chartered Structural / Services Engineers, Chartered Building Surveyors, Chartered Technologists, Registered Architects and Chartered Architects).

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  • what a waste of time! Most part 2 do not have a clue when they start in practice due to universities concentrating all studies on design. If you put the work in and work hard you can gain your part 3 in a year, this is what part 2 should be concentrating on.
    This certification will confuse not only the profession but clients and the public even more. Most clients and public have no idea what we do, they think an architect is what Kevin Mcloud is!! The RIBA should be doing more to promote architects and the role we can play in improving society and protecting our function and bring some respect back to the profession before our role becomes totally defunct!

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  • What a surprise Paul McGrath is not registered with ARB!! surely if a serious case was to be made it would be better coming from an Architect! but no we all got off our backsides and studied hard to gain our part 3!

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  • "The Association of Part Two Architects" cannot legally exist since there's no such thing as a "Part 2 Architect".

    I presume ARB will be descending with all its weight on this mis-use of title !!!

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  • Three anonymous comments from architects no doubt. I think you are missing the point the three of you. I am a part two with 4 years experience working in practice, recently made redundant due to the shambles that the profession has become, and can I get a job outside the UK to complete my part three? No, due to 'architects' and no recognition of part two assistant let alone finding a british based company that follows the RIBA mentorship regulations. 20 grand in debt and unemployed, scrounging at the door for experience to become registered, is that the way you want to encourage the UK profession to stand out as great architects?

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  • Who cares?! One could practice architecture without being an 'architect'. ARB only protects the title, not the function. Sounds like yet another unnecessary 'organisation' fighting an uncreative argument.

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