The RIBA's attempts to boost student membership have forced yet another increase in membership fees.
On Wednesday the RIBA Council agreed to give students free membership, a move that will cost every fee-paying member an extra £3 a year.
The decision opens the door for an extra 10,000 members and could swell the institute's total membership to almost 40,000. However, the free membership scheme will cost the RIBA £42,000, which includes an extra £5,000 earmarked to help student body Archaos.
Championed by RIBA president George Ferguson, the choice of funding for student membership may still come as a surprise to some. One of the earlier options included voluntary practice sponsorship, but it was feared that it would be too risky and was ditched when, according to an institute spokesman, the 'initial warm response had disappeared'.
Even so, Archaos was delighted by the news. A spokesman said: 'It has taken a while to get this through but we are obviously very happy.
We owe a lot to George Ferguson and would like to thank him.
'Free membership means there is one less burden for the students, and the use of the RIBA library is very important. The benefit to the RIBA will be more student influence inside the institute and a closing of the gap between academia and the practitioner, ' he added.
However, not everyone felt free membership was the best way forward. Councillor Richard Parnaby, senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, said: 'I think it is a generous gesture but how many students will actually realise they get free membership? If £50,000 was put into a student hardship fund it would give a much more powerful message.' At the same meeting the council also approved a reduction in membership fees for architects on maternity or paternity leave. The issue was hotly debated back in August (AJ 26.8.04), when councillor Chris Roche first put forward the motion that fees should be suspended for both new mothers and fathers.
The new reduced rate will come into effect immediately.