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Fellowship takes a leap backwards

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We recently reported the results of a survey in which a substantial majority of riba corporate members said they would like to be called 'fellows'. In most professions you only become a fellow by dint of excellence, experience or longevity. It is assumed that a fellow is at least one cut above a regular member, so perhaps it is not surprising that architects should wish to give themselves an easy leg-up the professional ladder, even if by so doing they devalue the status to which they aspire.

This desire for a name upgrade comes at an odd time. The riba has in effect abandoned its role as a disciplinary body, preferring to leave this to the Architects Registration Board. It is considering scrapping Part I of its own education regulations, and therefore abandoning visiting boards for university degree courses. It recognises that the registration board will have the final say on what constitutes a qualified architect, ie what the Part III examination should comprise. As for Part II, that will surely be reduced to a one-year qualification, unless the new riba education director is prepared for a long war of attrition (she is certainly young enough to undertake it). The institute is considering giving away its drawings and special collections to a new trust, which it is thought would more easily attract funds.

One can argue about the merits and demerits of all these changes, but it is as well to keep the big picture in mind. And the big picture is the riba's view of itself: either a learned society to which all with an interest are welcome, or something more than that - partly (not party) political, partly educational, partly cultural, and as far as possible self-regulating. It would be an irony if the less it became, the greater the demand from members for a newly inappropriate professional nomenclature. This idea, at least, should be dispatched to the back of the filing cabinet.

Paul Finch

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