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letters I was a candidate and think ARB is doing fine

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Perhaps you might permit me a personal comment on three of the contributions to the 'arb debate' in aj 20.1.00 - Katherine Shonfield, Caroline Hutton and Peter Gibbs-Kennett. In doing so I declare my interest as a head of school, ex-riba councillor and ex-member of arcuk's board of education (simultaneously!) and a small practitioner (those who know me may take the last description literally). I am also a member of the riba/arb Joint Validation Panel.

I hasten to assure Katherine Shonfield about the interviews for the chief executive's post. In doing so I have to reveal that I was the only architect in the final shortlist of five candidates. There would have been a total of four 'interviews' if I had survived the process and been invited to meet the whole board. As it was, I had three perceptive and intelligent one-hour conversations with the headhunters (18 October), arb chair Barbara Kelly (23 November), and the interview panel (29 November) - a perfectly reasonable procedure for a £70,000 job with fun attached. Indeed the formal interview allowed me presentation time before responding to key issues raised by both lay and architect members of the panel. I enjoyed detailed conversations on all three occasions, and felt fairly dealt with and content with the process - though not content with the outcome, of course.

Caroline Hutton seems unfair to Barbara Kelly. Read the 1997 Act, Ms Hutton, and contemplate the difficulties of inheriting the arcuk/riba battleground of the 1980s to which Peter Gibbs-Kennett refers.

With the publication of the Esher Report in 1983 (which proposed the closure of the Belfast, Huddersfield and North-East London schools), riba Council prevaricated and fence-sat, unwilling to challenge weak government attempts at manpower-planning. At the time, the only forum available for debating the issue fully was the arcuk Board of Architectural Education. Inevitably, educational issues tended to polarise the two bodies.

The salvation was the agree-ment to form the Joint Validation Panel which now (until July 2000) oversees validation of courses and schools. Being on the panel in the last two years has been a bit like being part of the rope in a tug of war.

arb and the riba have had long discussions (including their respective solicitors) trying to formulate a jointly acceptable modus operandi under the new act. The riba (quite rightly) wanting to oversee education for the profession and arb (also correctly) concerned about its power under the new act to share validation with another body. That the parties are now close to agreement (I think) deserves credit.

I applied for the job partly for the same reason that I am now standing for election to the board. Not to perpetuate division but to offer whatever help I can to the process and, in particular, to bring knowledge of the real issue to the debate - the unrelenting reduction in resources to higher education by both this government and the previous one. The energy expended in argument between the two bodies might be more usefully spent in trying to ensure that some schools of architecture survive to be validated by 'anyone'.

Professor Peter Jacob, head, School of Architecture and Landscape, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

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