The RIBA has backed away from the proposal to force all corporate members to register with the Architects Registration Board.
At a council meeting last week, members agreed to defer a decision until the legal position could be clarified.
The development was praised as a 'wise and prudent decision' by Maurice McCarthy, a former RIBA honorary secretary, who had threatened to take the institute to court unless it abandoned what he called the 'unlawful' idea (AJ 17.5.01).
Council members were sharply divided over the idea proposed by institute secretary Roger Shrimplin, but doubts over the legality of the move and the precise wording of the motion led to calls to delay any decision until the next council meeting on 19 July.
Currently, non-practising architects such as academics are eligible to join the RIBA as corporate members, but Shrimplin argued that this caused 'confusion' in the minds of the public and that the institute should create a new membership category to accommodate them.
'Just because someone is no longer eligible [for corporate membership] doesn't mean they couldn't be a member in some other category, ' Shrimplin told the council.
Peter Smith, RIBA vice president for sustainability and a professor of architecture at the University of Sheffield, agreed and urged council members to push the motion through.
'Any member using the RIBA letters is, by definition, saying that they are an architect and I think we should agree on this today, ' he said. 'Academics should register, just like everybody else.'
But former president David Rock called the scheme 'ill-advised and not properly considered'. The institute was in danger of losing more than 800 paying members and £75,000 to £125,000 in revenue, he said, while policing the new policy would be difficult.
President-elect Paul Hyett said the policy was 'dangerous' and urged the council to delay taking a decision 'so that we can review this broad church of ours without misleading the public'.