Maintaining high standards in architectural education and encouraging progressive patterns of academic delivery are fundamental priorities of the RIBA. It has a vested interest in ensuring that students are given the best opportunities to excel in their academic study, and are well prepared to contribute to relevant, modern practice.
The RIBA does not claim to perform a Quality Assurance Assessment role through its validation process. Instead, visiting boards to schools of architecture represent opportunities for both the RIBA and the universities to consider the focus and direction of their academic provision, and demonstrate confidence that this is relevant to the needs of architectural practice, clients, and society. As a board cannot carry out a visit unless expressly invited by a school, the RIBA in fact lends an independent perspective, and is ultimately the supporter of architectural education.
The RIBA totally disagrees with the AJ’s criticism last week, which suggested that its validation procedures are ‘untrustworthy’ (Leader, AJ 13.03.08). The RIBA validation process has the facility for the recommendations of a visiting board to a school of architecture to be reviewed, when required. This has happened with a number of schools in the past, and forms an intrinsic part of RIBA procedures in ensuring the appropriateness of conclusions reached by visiting boards. Notable recent examples, mentioned in the AJ’s news article (AJ online 13.03.08), include the University of Huddersfield in October 2001 and Oxford Brookes University in March 2003.
The decision on the Architectural Association’s (AA’s) revalidation cannot be made public until finally ratified by both the RIBA’s validation and education committees later this year. The decision to amend the condition on the AA’s Part 2 course to a recommendation was made by the education committee, which voted by a majority for this, and those original board members who also decided by a majority to amend their own findings. It was therefore a consensual process, conducted with the co-operation of the original visiting board.
The RIBA acted as arbiter during these consultations, and has full confidence in its validation procedures and visiting-board members. The intention of revising the outcomes of the AA visiting board was to underpin the consistency of the validation process, ensure parity in outcomes, and set national standards acknowledging and promoting richness and diversity in architectural education. The AJ’s article seeks to sensationalise a long-standing part of the RIBA’s remit, casting doubt on the independence of the process and suggesting the existence of a ‘boys’ club’ with potentially damaging consequences for this important dialogue between the profession and schools.
David Gloster is the RIBA’s head of education