Our role in registration
In the UK architects are regulated by law, namely the Architects Act 1997. This piece of legislation requires us to maintain an accurate, up-to-date Register. This work is delivered by our skilled registration team who carefully process applications for registration to ensure that the individuals we register are appropriately qualified to use the title. The team’s role also includes ensuring architects’ details are updated, managing the examination process, and handling enquiries relating to a range of routes to registration.
The team includes several very experienced members of staff with expertise in matters of regulatory policy and UK and European Union law who participate in European forums and meetings with other regulators to share best practice. The team handles a significant amount of personal data and so accuracy and confidentiality are key to their work, which focuses on ensuring that the Register is as accurate as possible at any given moment.
A growing Register
By the end of 2016, the total number on the Register of Architects had increased to 38,511, up from 36,932 in 2015 (). The number of women on the Register had increased by 1% since the previous year. The male/female split was 74% male and 26% female at the end of 2016, a small change from the 75% male and 25% female at the end of 2015.
New admissions to the Register in 2016 climbed to 2,507. This is the highest ever number of new admissions in a single year since the present Act came into force. Of these, 44% were female and 56% were male. This continues a trend that has seen the percentage of female architects growing slowly through new admissions.
How regulation is funded
In September 2015 the Board decided to hold the 2016 retention fee at £107. It was also held at £107 for 2017.
The annual retention fee, paid by all registrants, funds ARB’s regulatory functions. The fee is a registration fee, not a membership fee and as such architects are paying to be part of a regulated profession, rather than for the services associated with a professional body. Whilst the fee is paid by architects, once it has been collected it becomes public money because it finances an activity that is undertaken in the public interest. Consequently, the Board is mindful that the organisation delivers its regulatory role and that the fee covers this in a way which is proportionate and justifiable.
The 2016 retention fee was due on 31 December 2015. It was the third year that the end of December due date had been applied. The Board made the decision to bring the payment and registration periods into line with one another to ensure that it was delivering an accurate Register. Prior to this architects could pay the fee at any point up until the end of March but this had the effect of creating a three-month time lag when the Register contained the names of some people who had not paid the fee required to be part of a regulated profession.
Communicating the retention fee
We work hard to communicate the retention fee deadline to prompt registrants to pay on time. This communication exercise involves striking a difficult balance between sending sufficient reminders to get the message across without sending so many that it becomes a nuisance. In response to feedback on this matter we have used technology to ensure that reminder emails and text messages are only sent to those who have not paid at the time that the reminder is circulated. Social media, particularly Twitter, is an important tool in disseminating these messages. We received significant support for our social media messaging from our stakeholders, including representatives of professional bodies and the trade press. Our strategy was very successful and in the last week of 2016 our retention fee messages on Twitter achieved over 19,000 impressions, over twice that in 2015. The professional bodies also helped us by informing their members of the payment due date.
The efforts made to communicate the fee had an impact, with 96% of registrants in 2016 paying the fee for the coming year on time, compared to 94% in 2015. Consequently, the number removed for non-payment of the 2016 fee was 1,433, down on the 2015 number of 1,809.
The number of registrants removed for non-payment of the retention fee is a matter of public record and thus it is an annual feature covered by the architectural publications. In 2016 these publications once again ran stories about the number of architects removed, nonetheless these were balanced in tone and included the points we highlighted in our press release.
We established a staff task group in 2015, who reviewed the feedback received in relation to the retention fee collection exercise. This group instigated a number of reforms which improved the 2016 fee collection exercise and built on its successes in driving down the number of architects removed for non-payment in 2017.
of Registrants paid their fee on time
Re-joining the Register
We continue to use technology to enhance our service-user offer. Our application portal has proved very popular with 98% of applications by the UK and EU routes being made online. This is in line with the numbers from 2015. The online application system provides a number of benefits: it enables applicants to submit both their application data and scanned copies of supporting documentation electronically, and the portal enables us to automate elements of the application process whilst cutting down on the paperwork coming into and leaving the office. This has allowed us to contain costs and drive down application turnaround times.
We also use technology to provide information and advice to those who use our services. Our registration route finder has proved popular as have our online videos for those applying for the prescribed exam.
2016 saw 98% of applications made online
Equality and diversity data
We started to collect equality and diversity (E&D) data from registrants in 2012, with those who were joining or re-joining the Register being asked to make a submission. Following this, an E&D survey was sent out to all registrants in 2015. In 2016, we enhanced our online services to enable registrants who have not yet provided us with this information to submit it at the same time that they make other updates to their personal details. When we reviewed the E&D data in February 2017 we had collected data for 47% of the Register, up from 35% of the Register at the end of 2015.
Maintaining an up-to-date registered address
Architects are obliged under the Architects Act 1997 to provide us with an up-to-date registered address so that we can ensure the Register is accurate. In 2016 we undertook a project to contact 620 architects whose ARB post had been returned to us to clarify the status of their address. We managed to resolve issues for 562 of these but unfortunately, despite extensive efforts to make contact, in November 2016 58 architects were removed from the Register under Section 11 of the Act for failing to keep an up-to-date registered address.
The value of feedback
We regularly collect feedback from those who use our services, including those who have applied via the online application portal, those re-joining the Register and Prescribed Examination candidates.
The feedback we receive helps inform future developments, for example, in 2015 the feedback we received in relation to the 2014 retention fee collection highlighted issues that we have since been able to rectify for future years. These included resolving a problem relating to a small number of registrants’ direct debit instructions. Additionally, we created reminder tools such as text messages and downloadable calendar alerts to meet the needs of busy architects. Some of the comments received during 2016 addressed the tone of the statutory notice and reminders saying they felt that our tone was harsh. These comments have been taken on board and taken forward by a project group looking at the tone of ARB’s correspondence.
Responses received in 2016 indicated that 70% of those applying for registration used the Route Finder tool to access their online form, with 95% saying that the tool met their needs.
Online services are a key part of our offer, enabling applicants to access our services at a time and place which is convenient to them. Feedback received during 2016 from those who have used the online application facility has been very positive, with 98% of the applicants who responded stating that they found the system easy to use. 93% of those who responded were satisfied with the service standards overall and 89% were satisfied with the speed in which their application was processed and they were entered onto the Register.
Examiner and Independent Examiner recruitment
We successfully recruited 17 new Examiners and three Independent Examiners for the prescribed examination process. We made efforts to contact as wide and diverse a range of architects as we possibly could, advertising in a number of online and hard copy publications and through a range of social media groups. The appointments were confirmed by the Board in February and our new team members are now in operation.
The Prescribed Examination
We have acted on much of feedback received in 2015 relating to the guidance documents and have introduced more detailed guidance and videos to assist in communicating the process more clearly and effectively. The feedback received in 2016 is being used to inform improvements to the examination pages on the website and we are currently exploring possible ways to reshape the pages to allow for better navigation of the guidance material.
A project team has also been set up to look at the way in which we communicate our work to maintain the Register. This group has been tasked with reviewing all the guidance and videos and making changes to the guidance where appropriate.
Achievements of the Registration Department
Registration worked hard in 2016 to create efficiencies in processes. This resulted in better performance against several key performance indicators, including the processing of EU applications, despite a rise in the number of applications being processed. The team also reaped the benefit of work to communicate the retention fee due date. These efforts contributed to an 18% decrease in the number of architects removed from the Register in early 2017, despite the Register being bigger.