I am surprised that you bothered to publish Nicholas Williamson's ill- informed letter (AJ 15.7.99). He has the audacity to suggest that Paul Hyett is on 'another planet' in terms of his view on architectural education. Thankfully, Hyett's feet are firmly on terra firma. Planet Earth, that is. Presumably Williamson has been in cyberspace for the last couple of years without access to Earth news.
It was never the intention of the 1997 Act to place sole responsibility for architectural education in the hands of the arb. The riba's long involvement in architectural education was well understood by those who drafted the Act. Practical ways of taking advantage of this experience but without 'fettering' arb's decisions is what is being worked out at present.
arb's primary responsibility is protection of the consumer; riba's primary objective is the advancement of architecture. When these overlapping but different positions translate into the validation of architecture programmes there is bound to be a creative tension. (Schools of architecture are never validated, Mr Williamson, validation is always related to courses, programmes or examinations.)
Turning the question of the riba's role in validating overseas, here Williamson really does show his ignorance. The riba only goes to an overseas school when invited by the school, normally through the relevant national professional body. Schools in countries like Chile, Russia and Switzerland are interested in their courses being recognised as equivalent standard to the riba Parts I and II. They see benefits in the process of being scrutinised by an external body and the international accorded to their academic awards. This is not harping back to the alleged 'glory days of the Empire', but much more to do with increasing globalisation, mobility of qualifications, and the inevitable advancement of free trade through the wto and gatts. The world certainly has moved on.
Professor George Henderson, Head, The Leicester School of Architecture