I share the frequently expressed view that the RIBA and the ARB should discuss their concerns in private rather than seek to score points through letters to the press. Nevertheless, comments on RIBA validation in the letter from Dr Jon Levett, ARB head of education (AJ 20.1.05), require a response.
In his last paragraph, Levett suggests that the current ARBrun assessment panel process, based on 45-minute interviews, is somehow more rigorous than the RIBA's process of validating schools of architecture on the basis of a two-day investigation of full degree programmes.
The ARB has acknowledged that there are shortcomings in its existing assessment panel process. The need to add an extra layer of quality assurance has been the key justification in the move to its new 'examination' process, with its grossly inflated fees.
By contrast, the RIBA has been organising visiting boards to schools of architecture for over 80 years. We are not a statutory body, so there is no obligation on schools of architecture to invite us to undertake validation, but more and more are doing so both in the UK and internationally. I suggest they do so because our process, particularly since the ARB ceased its involvement and we took full control of it in 2003, is seen to be both rigorous and fair.
We are not in a position to respond to the specific figures quoted by Levett because we have not yet been supplied with the outcome of recent assessment panel interviews. The cases that we do know about suggest that, when we have our next liaison meeting with the ARB, there will need to be as much hard thinking on its part as on ours.
Dr Chris Ellis, acting director of education, RIBA