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New European standard 'will diminish architectural quality'

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The Architects Registration Board's control of the standard of newly qualified architects is under threat from a European initiative on education, RIBA president Marco Goldschmied warned at last week's ARB board meeting.

He claimed that plans floated by fellow board member John Wright to create a pan-European Part 3 standard could trigger a drop in quality and hence a reduction in the level of protection which the ARB can offer consumers.

The ARB insists that it will fight to maintain high standards, but Goldschmied said it is quite likely it will lose its battle. If this happens, he said the RIBA would maintain its own Part 3 and effectively take over the ARB's current role of guaranteeing the quality of qualified architects.

'There is a possibility that the ARB could be forced to lower its standards to comply with the Europeans, ' he said. 'The RIBA would then, paradoxically, maintain standards on the ARB's behalf.

The ARB would not have a role in Part 3. It's quite ironic and it brings home the whole question of sovereignty in Europe in a real way.'

Goldschmied also said that as a guarantor of quality, the RIBA brand would have greater impact with the public than the term 'registered architect'.

The comments follow Goldschmied's concern over the quality of architects in Europe, where, he said, only Austria and Italy have an equivalent to Part 3. But Wright rubbished the suggestion that a pan-European approach to professional standards would lead to a dumbing down.

'There's a mythology about high standards in the UK when frankly they are pretty bloody low, ' he said. 'He [Goldschmied] just doesn't understand there are people like the Austrians and Germans who are militantly trying to raise standards.'

ARB's international committee agreed to encourage the centralised qualification last month.

At the same meeting, Goldschmied tore into the quality of university education and declared that there are some schools in the UK 'that should never take another student'. He brandished a confidential report, thought to be about the architecture department at the University ofWestminster, which he said showed how universities are failing. He also attacked the stress on Eganstyle changes putting the way in which architects form part of a team above design.

'I think schools should train people to design things first, ' he said. 'It is absolutely pointless to design ugly things efficiently.'

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