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Major steps in education, education, education

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Three key proposals concerning architects' education were passed by council last week. It approved the new Part 3 examination, which will, said education vice-president Paul Hyett 'aim at minimum standards and uniformity' and will clearly identify what is the UK-specific knowledge. With the 'domain specific exam' which covers UK specific legislative knowledge comprising only 15 per cent of the total, the rest is clearly fitting architects to work anywhere in the world.

Although this was not specifically spelt out at council, this approach should remove barriers to international recognition in both directions - showing just how well-fitted a Part 3 qualified British architect is to work elsewhere, and providing a relatively small hurdle that a well- qualified foreign professional would have to jump. With the current controversy over recognition of British qualifications in the us, the new Part 3 will put the British in an even better position to claim that they are not being obstructive.

The rebirth of the office-based examination was the second leg of the tripod, with the award to Oxford Brookes of the franchise to run the examination. Hyett explained how important he felt this was, both to recreate the standard from which all other examinations have exemption, and to create opportunities for those unable to follow a full-time university course.

Professor Peter Smith welcomed the course and foresaw a possible huge expansion. 'Of the 60,000 architectural technologists,' he said, 'a lot would like to convert to architects. Maybe other places will have to be franchised to cope with the load.' Robert Adam was enthusiastic that office- based learning will 'enable the riba to deal more effectively with the expansion of gnvqs.'

The third leg, the commitment to make sustainability a key part of education was also, not surprisingly, passed. Peter Smith, one of the riba's great proponents of environmental design, warned that at present there is 'almost a total dislocation between building scientists and studio tutors' over sustainability, with it often dismissed or even excluded in studio work.

Only Professor Roger Stonehouse was more cautious. After declaring himself 'a believer in sustainability', he warned that the riba is becoming 'more and more New Labour', and said 'a cultural shift has got to take place. We can set up a series of requirements that are not going to be met.'

Hyett could not resist a dig at the arb while warning about the effects of global warming: 'The world will be on a meltdown and they know all about meltdowns,' he said. But he hailed the day as 'historic' for education.

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