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RIBA considers slimmed-down council in major shake-up


The RIBA is contemplating radically changing the way its different membership classes are represented on council

The institute is investigating whether RIBA Council’s makeup should proportionally represent the different classes, and whether it should halve the number of councillors.

The move follows an earlier motion brought to council in March by RIBA ambassador for young persons Albena Atanassova which related to student voting rights .

Her comments led to a council representation review chaired by vice president for membership nations and regions Anthony Clerici.

Currently there are 61 seats on council, and Clerici said there was no intention to make council any larger, but one suggestion discussed at the meeting was to cut the number of councillors by half.

It was also suggested that students – who make up 30 per cent of RIBA members but have just 3 per cent of council seats – should have a greater representation and be able to stand for longer than the current single year term.

How are RIBA members represented on council?

Current RIBA council representation
 RIBA membership classesMembers  Council seats  
 President and past president  -  - 3% 
 Co-optees  -  - 2% 
 Affiliate members  641 2% 
 UK chartered members 23,272  56%  53  87% 
 International chartered members 4,239  10%  3% 
 Associate members 911  2%  2% 
 Student members 12,710  30%  3% 
 Total   41,773 100%   61 100% 

The suggestion to lengthen a student’s term on council was met with some caution. Head of Birmingham School of Architecture Kevin Singh worried that it could ‘lead to a certain type of student being able to take on the role’.

He added: ‘One year is too short to make a meaningful impact, but two years could be more appropriate.’

But student councillor Marie Braithwaite, welcomed the potentially longer terms. ‘I support three years on council,’ she said. ‘If there is a problem with practices and universities supporting students to attend council then the RIBA should intervene.’

Academic Flora Samuel added: ‘I am completely in favour of a reduced number of national councillors if it means more students could be involved. I would give up my place to allow a student to sit on council. We spend an insane amount of money on council and anything to reduce this is a good thing.’

The review is scheduled to present its recommendations to council in September alongside Atanassova’s deferred motion.

Changes to council would require amendments to the RIBA’s by-laws so we are unlikely to see any changes before the 2017 council election. 


Readers' comments (3)

  • Ben Derbyshire

    Just over two years ago, before I knew about the deeper financial issues surrounding The RIBA, when the Euro-zone and Grexit – not Brexit – were the issues of the day, I campaigned to join The RIBA Council on the ticket of ‘change’. I did so because I’d grown increasingly dissatisfied with the institute’s inability to represent my interests as an architect. I did so because I was frustrated with the corporate PR machine behind what was supposedly a charitable organisation. I did so because I found The RIBA’s fixation with the profession of architecture, rather than those practicing it, to be elitist and centrist.

    Change is no longer just necessary for The RIBA, it’s an overwhelming inevitability.

    I had originally sought change in order redefine and restore the fortunes of professionalism in a way that was fit for the information age, to earn merit and value from society in a meaningful way and reject the class-based privilege of the past. I had spoken of collaboration, research and building a body of knowledge and ethics that could act as a foundation for its future. And now today, I see that these issues have never been more essential to the future of our RIBA.

    The institute has managed itself into a corner with poor decisions about pensions and property, along with HMRC disputes that have left it with disproportionate fixed costs and insufficient room to manoeuvre financially. It has neglected to grow its membership (the very bedrock of its existence) or provide a competitive value offer during years of increasing national GDP. Instead, it has lost significant market share to ARB and now, with Brexit threatening wholesale change across the UK, our industry faces seismic shifts in investment, standards, regulation, planning law, procurement and government policy. But as our politicians struggle to form any kind of consistent plan, consensus or even coherent message about the future of the nation, The RIBA actually stands on the brink of a remarkable opportunity.

    Now is the time to create a slimmer, more responsive RIBA, an outward looking organisation able to make streamlined decisions and truly seize the day. Our RIBA should champion the real diversity of architects, rather than standard-plan-of-work architecture. It should make a single focus of promoting our innovative research, multidisciplinary collaboration, public and charitable service, overseas development, community enterprise and the myriad ways we can work to improve the design and sustainability of the built environment.

    Our wider post-Brexit Britain feels like a place of uncertainty, but we have nothing to fear and much to savour in the exciting changes that lie ahead. We can deliver on the ‘Advancing Architecture’ promise by having a stronger voice, a stronger membership and a stronger organisation with new ways of doing more for less. Our institute can be the impressive edifice that promotes architects by engaging, brokering, communicating multilateral networks and sharing resources with others to achieve better outcomes at less cost. We should champion architects, wherever and however they practice, elevating and celebrating the position of architects and architecture in our society.

    I congratulate Albena Atanassova, our student ambassador, for seizing the opportunity for change and many thanks to Ant Clerici, the seasoned vice president for membership, for responding in kind.

    Ben Derbyshire, Chair HTA Design LLP

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  • I have long held the view that RIBA regional chairs should sit on council as of right, and that all other councillors should be elected nationally. This mix of regional and national voting would strengthen the composition of council and encourage our best architects to play an active role in the affairs of the institute. It would also make slimming down quite easy.

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  • Chris Roche

    I agree that the size and nature of RIBA Council is in need of review, however unless carefully considered the unintended consequence would be a more powerful less accountable executive, dominated by London centric white middle aged males from AJ100 practices. Needless to say this would be regretable.

    Chris Roche Founder 11.04
    X-RIBA Council

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