Report on delivery of the 2016 Business Plan

The assessment uses the traffic light system to record whether ARB has delivered.
green box ARB has successfully delivered the item of work to a satisfactory standard
orange box ARB delivered the majority of the item, or delivered only with partial success
red box ARB has not delivered the item, or performance has been unsatisfactory
Section A – Maintaining the Quality of and Access to the Register

Under the Architects Act 1997, ARB maintains the UK Register of architects. The Register identifies those who are entitled to use the title “architect” in business and practice as they have met the requirements for qualifications and competence. The Register is the tool through which potential users of architects’ services can find an architect and check that an architect is registered. It is also important to architects that they are identified as qualified professionals. The Register must therefore be accurate and accessible. The work which underpins the maintenance of the Register is wide ranging.


Improve the accuracy of the Register orange box


Develop the usability/access of the online registrant’s services area to maximise engagement. Highlight the value of ensuring architects keep their registration details up to date. To make the sites mobile friendly. Undertake an accuracy review of the Register, to ensure accurate and relevant information is provided to the public. Add Equality & Diversity fields to Registrants Services to enable those who haven’t provided data to submit it.


End of Year Assessment
89% of Change of Details requests were received through the online tool. 87% of Change of Details requests received online were processed within three working days. Development of systems was undertaken and the accuracy of the Register improved. Robust processes were put in place to thwart fraudulent attempts to Register. They resulted in one conviction under the Fraud Act.


Further promote and develop self-service processes, including the online registration portal and registrant servicesgreen box


• Promote further the benefits of the system.
• Provide clear guidance on the process at the point of enquiry.
• Respond to feedback on improvements to the system, and enhance systems where appropriate.
• Gather feedback on performance and delivery of our registration services.
• Review the accessibility of the system, its integration with back-office systems and develop accordingly.


End of Year Assessment
There was an increase in the number of applications received online, and the average time to process applications for registration fell. We provided clear guidance to applicants by introducing the ‘Find your route to Registration’ infographic. This directs people to the online route finder tool, and reached over 2,000 followers through social media.


Provide an efficient and effective service to all enquirersgreen box




  • Ensure our online resources are readily available and are easy to understand and use.
  • Act upon feedback to improve our service.
  • Publish feedback and follow up actions on the website.

End of Year Assessment
We received 352 feedback responses in 2016. Examples of changes made as a result of feedback include introducing clear step numbers at the top of the online application which inform the applicant how much progress they have made with the form; broadened guidance on what documentation is required before the individual starts an application; and clearer information around the fee structure and PII requirements. We are introducing a new email ticketing system to improve efficiency and enhance management information. We have liaised with The Architects Benevolent Society (ABS) to establish what assistance can be given to architects facing financial hardship. ARB staff have successfully signposted a number of architects to the ABS.


Undertake a fundamental review of the routes to registrationred box


Undertaking a review to:


  • Explore whether current arrangements remain fit for purpose and reflect current best practice.
  • Explore whether registration should continue to be qualifications-based and any implications for change at an EU and international level.
  • Consider whether alternative routes to registration would be viable and would widen access to the Register whilst maintaining standards of competence.

End of Year Assessment
Due to the on-going Periodic Review this area of work was put on hold, although stakeholders have been kept updated and preparations made for the start of the project.


Section B – Maintaining the Qualifications of Architects

Under the Architects Act 1997, ARB prescribes (or recognises) the qualifications required to become an architect for those who gain their qualifications within the UK. We also contribute to the scrutiny and review of those qualifications that are obtained in another part of the European Economic Area, and which seek to be listed at a European level. We therefore maintain systems for assessing qualifications against set Criteria. These Criteria are held in common with the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Quality Assurance Agency benchmark for architectural qualifications. The UK Criteria also reflect the minimum requirements across the EEA. We work closely with many other organisations and Member States to ensure that our systems are robust, fair and efficient and provide support to Schools and Institutions of Architecture, whilst ensuring that as a regulatory body, we have confidence that prescribed qualifications meet the Board’s objectives and Criteria.


1. To have engaged with institutions, students and other stakeholders regarding the prescription process and Criteria to inform, to obtain feedback and to promote an understanding of ARB’s role with regard to qualifications and to maintain a high quality service for institutions, students and EU Member box


To promote the availability of the following services and to meet all reasonable requests for:


  • feedback sessions;
  • planning meetings;
  • university liaison sessions;
  • regular liaison meetings with stakeholders;
  • speaking at relevant conferences/ forums;
  • providing support for those seeking to list qualifications in Europe.

To keep the Student Handbook and other areas of ARB’s website relating to prescribed qualifications up to date.


End of Year Assessment
We have held regular liaison meetings with our key stakeholders and issued letters to all institutions offering prescribed qualifications or which are seeking prescription. Staff have attended and spoken at various forums and 12 planning meetings for new and/or renewal applications for prescription were undertaken during 2016. We have received positive feedback from Professional Studies advisers and students who have organised/attended our university liaison sessions confirming that the sessions continue to be valuable and beneficial to students at all levels. We have continued to keep up to date with developments in Higher Education through the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), and liaised with our QAA contacts on a regular basis throughout the year.


2. On behalf of the UK and its capacity as the UK’s Competent Authority for Architects, embed the revised notification process within ARB’s procedures, and scrutinise and review European qualifications which are notified to the European Commission for listing under the box




  • Continue to embed the European Commission’s revised process for the notification of qualifications within ARB’s procedures.
  • Ensure that the European Commission’s deadlines for considering notifications are met on every occasion.

End of Year Assessment
We notified one title change and two newly prescribed qualifications. We have undertaken three planning meetings at institutions seeking to notify their qualifications to the European Commission (EC). 100% of the 37 European notifications were reviewed within the EC’s deadlines, and compiled with the review requirements in this area. We are continuing to contribute to the development of the pan-European guidance regarding the Commission’s revised guidelines for the notification of qualifications through the European Network of Architects Competent Authorities (ENACA).


3. If the review of the routes to registration requires adjustment to the ARB Criteria for the Prescription of Qualifications ahead of the current schedule, undertake a review of the box




  • Gather feedback on the existing Criteria for the Prescription of Qualifications.
  • Determine the structure and content of any revised Criteria for the Prescription of Qualifications.

End of Year Assessment
See A4 above. We have been unable to deliver this objective because of the outstanding Periodic Review



Section C – Maintaining the Standards of Conduct and Practice of Architects

Users and potential users of architects’ services need to have confidence in the standards set by us under the Architects Code of Conduct and Practice, and that we take appropriate action where architects fall below the standards expected. We will seek to raise awareness of the Code and how clients may use the Code to help them in their relationship with their architect, as well as raising awareness and understanding of the Code by architects themselves. We will investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence but will also seek to mitigate the risk of such situations arising.


Maintain awareness of the Code and steps that architects can take to mitigate complaintsgreen box




  • Provide advice to architects on preventing and handling complaints.
  • Maintain the frequency of relevant articles in the eBulletin.
  • Provide guidance to the profession on any changes to legislation or professional developments.

End of Year Assessment
Every eBulletin contained guidance on matters of professional conduct, and guidance was published on how to avoid disputes. Some 2,000 hard copies of the ‘Meeting your Architect’ form were distributed at three consumer shows in 2016, with a further 480 copies downloaded. Information on the revised 2017 Code of Conduct has been sent to all architects on the Register.


Ensure efficient processes which are fair to all in all aspects of complaints handlinggreen box




  • Review and improve all literature and guidance to ensure they remain compliant with best practice.
  • Integrate online complaints tool with ARB’s internal investigations portal.
  • Develop and increase the use of online feedback, and review and action where appropriate.

End of Year Assessment
All external facing guidance has been reviewed and where necessary updated on an ongoing basis. Feedback and resulting actions were reported to the Audit Committee and the Board staff periodically throughout the year.


Ensure the investigations process is running smoothly and offers a fair process to box




  • Ensure that the Investigations Panel and Professional Conduct Committee are adequately resourced and trained in best practice.
  • The Investigations Oversight Committee is provided with appropriate information and maintains strategic overview of ARB’s investigation processes.
  • Outdated Professional Standards database and IT system is replaced by a fit for purpose system.

End of Year Assessment
81% of Investigations Panel (IP) decisions were reached within 12 weeks; 50% of the four Third Party Reviews found no further action needed to be taken. There were no findings of ‘no case to answer’ at the PCC and the one High Court appeal against a decision of the PCC was successfully defended. A fully operational and paperless IT system for investigations was tested in order to be in place in 2017.


Review how ARB delivers its statutory obligations under section 14 to investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetencered box




  • Seek views from all stakeholders as to how ARB’s disciplinary regime might be improved.
  • Draft new rules and acquire Board approval for changes where appropriate.
  • Undertake 3 month formal consultation on proposed changes.
  • Publish new rules; provide training as necessary to those who deliver a service on behalf of ARB.

End of Year Assessment
We were unable to deliver this objective because of the outstanding Periodic Review and the possibility of legislative change


Appoint new Professional Conduct Committeegreen box




  • Undertake an open and fair recruitment exercise to appoint members of the Professional Conduct Committee.
  • Work with the Law Society in respect of it providing nominees.
  • Provide induction and training to new members as appropriate.

End of Year Assessment
The new PCC was appointed by the Board in July to start work in September 2016. All PCC members were properly inducted and trained before assuming their duties.



Section D – Raising Public Awareness of the Register and Helping Users and Potential Users of Architects’ Services to Make Informed Choices

We recognise that it is not sufficient simply to hold an accurate Register. To be of value, the Register must be accessible, and users and potential users of architects’ services must understand the distinction of the title “architect” and the importance of the Register in confirming an architect’s registered status. We therefore work to increase awareness of the Register, to inform the public about the qualifications and competence of architects and to alert members of the public to the Architects Code of Conduct and Practice. We also work to prevent the misuse of the title “architect” which may only be used by those on the Register.


Raise awareness of the Code with users and potential users of architects’ servicesgreen box




  • Ensure that the Code is embedded within all of the key communication documents published by ARB.
  • Publish articles throughout the year highlighting the benefits of using a registered professional.

End of Year Assessment
The new Code was agreed by the Board in July, and came into force on 1 Jan 2017. The new Code was emailed to all architects; flyers were published and distributed with the retention fee invoice.


Increase use of the online Register which will mitigate the risk of consumers being misled by those misusing the title “architect”orange box






  • Continue to increase awareness of the Register through social media
  • Develop a strategic communications plan to keep the Register topical and in the public arena.
  • Develop relationships/partnerships with relevant organisations/groups to raise awareness of the Register through advocacy.

End of Year Assessment
Social media referrals to the Register were up by 108%, and to the ARB website by 158%. Visits to the online Register have increased by 4%; however the number of individual searches has fallen by 2%. Staff attended three exhibitions in 2016 – Homebuilding and Renovating Shows in Birmingham and London, and Grand Designs in Birmingham. We have also met with key stakeholders to explore how they may be able to assist in raising awareness of the Register. We began a project to contact Local Authority planning departments.  We are asking them to include a link from their website to the ARB site to inform their constituents about the Register.


Encourage architects to promote their registered status to increase awareness and value of the Registerorange box




  • Explain to registrants the value of referring to their registered status.
  • Expand the secure area in which architects can have access to their details and embedded logo information.
  • Increase links to the ARB Register via websites.

End of Year Assessment
Visits to the logo download page for 2016 reached 2,807, only slightly up on 2015.

Section E – Corporate Functions

Consider the implications, both legal and practical, of amendments to the Professional Qualifications Directive (PQD)green box




  • Consider the outcome of the PQD legislative changes and determine where changes may need to be made to appropriate ARB policies, requirements and documents.
  • Take legal advice and advice from DCLG and BEIS where necessary.
  • Analyse and cost any necessary system changes for 2016 budget.
  • Engage in discussions with stakeholders and ensure understanding of the changes.
  • Ensure information is readily available.

End of Year Assessment
We met with BEIS/DCLG and the European Commission to learn more about the interpretation of the revised Directive. Stakeholders have been kept fully informed as more information is made available. We adapted the guidance we provide to UK institutions regarding the notification of their qualifications and streamlined the way in which we present our notifications. We complied with the relevant terms of the revised Directive.


Managing riskgreen box




  • Audit Committee regularly reports to Board.
  • Internal audit function appropriately resourced and monitored.
  • Maintain reporting cycle of risk register and risk strategy from staff to Board level.
  • Monitor delivery against performance indicators (bi-annual), the Business Plan (annual), ARB’s purpose and objectives (annual).
  • Ensure adequate reserves are maintained through review of reserves policy and maintenance of the policy minimum.
  • Effective reviews of policies to be considered in 2016.
  • Monitor the outcome of legal challenges for areas of improvement and trends, particularly where there may be a financial or reputational risk.
  • Consider implications and risk of any changes as consequence of the Periodic Review.

End of Year Assessment
At each meeting of the Board the high level risks were discussed. Each Board paper presented to the board includes a section on risk. New Internal Auditors were appointed with effect from 1 January 2016. They conducted a programme of audits, as agreed by the Audit Committee in 2016. Risks surrounding the growing demand for our services were discussed throughout the year. ARB has maintained its low risk status with the DCLG.


Maintain adequate and appropriately skilled staffing levels that are utilised effectivelygreen box




  • Ensure sufficient staff resources are maintained to deliver statutory functions and the 2016 Business Plan.
  • Maintain staff development budget and encourage flexible working, and interaction with outside organisations to further enhance knowledge, skills and engagement.
  • Continue to cultivate an environment that supports engagement and encourages team members to reach their full potential.
  • Ensure that pay and reward is competitive and attracts and retains high calibre staff.
  • Review ARB’s people strategy and key succession planning policy.

End of Year Assessment
Operational resource risks were discussed with the Board throughout 2016, resulting in an increased headcount. There were a number of cross-team task groups set up to deliver discrete projects throughout the year. A staff engagement survey was undertaken and reported on to the Remuneration Committee.


Deliver outcomes of the Periodic Review and maintain Government and Stakeholder confidencered box




  • Respond to outcome of review and develop an implementation plan, if appropriate.
  • Ensure there are sufficient resources in place, to deliver relevant outcomes.

End of Year Assessment
The results of the Periodic Review were not known by the end 2016


Efficient financial managementgreen box




  • Clear budget setting process agreed and understood by Board.
  • Regular monitoring of outcomes against budget, along with forward planning, horizon scanning and early warning alert mechanism of variances to the Board.
  • Prompt notification of fees.
  • Alignment of budget to Business Plan, including capital projects.
  • Provide three-year forecasts to capture longer term financial obligations.

End of Year Assessment
ARB’s work as set out in the 2016 Business Plan was delivered within the agreed budget.


Compliance with legal obligationsgreen box




  • Health and safety.
  • Employment requirements.
  • Data handling.
  • PAYE.

End of Year Assessment
There have been no identified breaches of legal obligations in this period. All requests for information under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act were complied within the statutory timescales. The Information Commissioner rejected a complaint about how ARB had dealt with a request for information.


IT strategy orange box




  • Keep under regular review the strategic IT development plan, maximising digital and self-service opportunities.
  • Understand the ongoing needs and vision for the organisation, including a strategy on continuous improvement and efficiency savings through technology.
  • Build further use of the organisations website and online tools/systems.

End of Year Assessment
Due to the failure of an exchange server the organisation was without email for two business days. Further IT solutions are being continually explored to improve performance, enhance efficiency and respond to feedback.


Communicationsgreen box




  • Develop and implement a plan to continuously improve our communications with stakeholders, including updating the layout accessibility and content of ARB’s website; developing our social media profile; and raising awareness of ARB and the Register of Architects.
  • Develop effective relationships with Consumer Organisations.

End of Year Assessment
Unique visits to the main ARB website rose by 7% and our social media audiences continued to grow. A review of the website was undertaken with a planned relaunch for February 2017. Regular meetings were held with key stakeholders. An Annual Report was published, setting out how we have delivered on our regulatory remit and providing key facts about the Register.


Continue our programme of efficiency and effectiveness reviews to improve the operation of the organisation green box




  • Review of ARB’s website, in an attempt to further promote self-service provisions.
  • Review processes to ensure duplication of effort, and ‘no value’ processes are eradicated.
  • Continue to review contracts to ensure value for money and on-going quality of service.

End of Year Assessment
The review of the website has been undertaken; the newly built website is due for launch in spring 2017. In late 2015 we undertook a series reviews and internal compliance exercises, e.g. against the Framework Agreement; against the General Rules etc. The required changes were implemented in 2016.


Explore and take up opportunities to work with stakeholders and partners to deliver ARB’s objectivesgreen box




  • Actively seek opportunities for working with others.
  • Build partnerships with others to influence the regulation of architects to protect consumers.

End of Year Assessment
We supported DCLG by sharing information about a survey they were undertaking into Building Regulations Approved Documents. We have held meetings with HomeOwners Alliance, TrustMark  and the Committee of Advertising Practice and continue to work together on matters of mutual interest. We have met with representatives from the Consumer Panels of the Committee of Advertising Practice and Ofcom to learn about their approach to regulating in the public interest. We assisted with the UK Inter-Professional Group’s (UKIPG) project to relaunch its website which has provided staff with a learning opportunity at a time when we are undertaking work on our own website. UKIPG provides us with an opportunity to share thinking on policy developments and best practice with other regulators.


Respond to, and advise on European legislation that affects the regulation of architectsgreen box




  • Monitor EU legislation in terms of ARB’s objectives / statutory functions.
  • Implement a communications plan to ensure architects are informed.

End of Year Assessment
We have responded to the European Commission’s consultation regarding the Services Directive and considered the implications of the proposals within it and how they could impact on ARB’s policies in the future. We have responded to several calls for information from Government regarding the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU.  We will continue to work closely with Government as they determine whether changes should be made to the Act.


To continue to improve governance arrangements within the organisationgreen box




  • Undertake a Board and Committee effectiveness review, and implement any review actions
  • Ensure the Board has sufficient, evidence based, timely information, in which to make informed decisions. 
  • Be alert to best practice in the arena of governance and recommendations on how to continually improve.
  • Induct new Board members

End of Year Assessment
An effectiveness review was undertaken at the end of 2015, the results of which were considered by the Board in February 2016 


Continue to review, develop and implement our equality and diversity action plangreen box




  • Review and amend the plan as required, introducing targets.
  • Collect and analyse Equality and Diversity data, and utilise the information to influence policy decision making.
  • Make the data fully available to assist others in their policy information gathering.
  • Undertake project to consider how to make consultations more accessible.

End of Year Assessment
A new feature has been developed and added to online services that enable architects to provide their E&D data confidentially at the same time as accessing other services. We have joined a cross-Regulation workgroup to develop a framework for measuring success against E&D objectives. We continued to meet with stakeholders and those with expertise in Equality & Diversity matters in order to learn and promote best practice.


Manage ARB’s reputation to ensure there is public confidence in the regulation of architectsgreen box




  •  Raise the profile of ARB’s role, in order to communicate the role of regulation.
  •  Strengthen our relationships in the regulation and consumer sectors.
  •  Gather feedback from those that use our services, to ensure we are offering relevant and accessible services in a way which adds value.
  •  Deliver a communication plan which raises awareness of the role of ARB, in particular the public Register of Architects.
  •  Communicate the value of using a registered architect to enhance public/consumer/client understanding.
  •  Attend relevant consumer events to raise awareness of ARB’s role and the public Register, through exhibiting and speaking opportunities.

End of Year Assessment
Stakeholders – We continue to maintain existing and build new relationships with stakeholders.  We meet with HomeOwners Alliance and TrustMark and a meeting with a new contact at Which? is arranged for early 2017.


Feedback – Feedback was collected and carefully considered, where possible changes are made to address issues raised.


Reporting – we have reported at mid and year end on KPIs


Exhibiting – We exhibited at two Homebuilding and Renovating Shows, one in Birmingham and one in London.  We presented a masterclasses at one of these informing the audience about the Register of Architects.  We also exhibited at Grand Designs Live in Birmingham.


Consumer data – We sourced and successfully trialled a consumer survey tool which enables consumers to vote on spot questions.  We plan to use this tool to build up consumer insight data which will enable us to improve information we provide to the public. Website sessions for the online Register were up by 4%, though the number of searches has fallen by 2%.




BEIS – Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy DCLG – Department for Communities and Local Government EEA – European Economic Area ENACA – European Network of Architectural Competent Authorities FReM – Financial Reporting Manual (Government document) PQD – Directive 2005/36/EC on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications PCC – Professional Conduct Committee