Our role in recognising qualifications

Setting standards for qualifications

A key element of the Board’s regulatory role is to set the UK standard of entry to the Register of Architects. In practice this means that the Board requires individuals to hold qualifications and practical training experience which meet its Criteria at three levels: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The Criteria, in turn, set out the knowledge, understanding and abilities which an individual must have acquired on completion of each level. Those following the UK route to registration must pass all three qualifications, including the requisite practical training experience in order to be deemed competent to join the Register.

We operate an independent process through which we determine whether a series of requirements have been met in order to award prescription of a qualification. Universities and Schools of Architecture submit applications for prescription for individual courses and the Board’s Prescription Committee assesses these and makes recommendations to the Board regarding whether prescription should or should not be awarded for a course. The Board then considers the recommendations before making the final decision on whether a qualification meets the standards required.

As a regulator we keep a watchful eye on the qualifications we recognise to ensure that educational standards are maintained and those graduating from the courses have achieved the required level of competence.

Annual monitoring submissions – After a qualification has been prescribed for the first time, or prescription has been renewed, the qualification is subject to an annual monitoring process to ensure that it is continuing to meet all of the Board’s requirements so that we can be certain that students gaining the award are continuing to meet the required Criteria. The process is rigorous, in the sense that we must review a range of information to make a robust decision. It is also proportionate and avoids placing undue burden on the institutions, encouraging them to submit material that already exists and which they have had to prepare for other purposes.

In 2016, we received and processed 46 annual monitoring submissions, involving 120 qualifications. The annual monitoring process enables us to check that the qualifications the Board prescribes continue to meet our requirements. It also allows us to identify any potential issues at an early stage and to monitor them. The average time taken to process an annual monitoring submission was 4.5 weeks.

Renewal of prescription – Once a qualification has been prescribed, institutions offering qualifications can apply to renew prescription on a regular basis. The programme by which institutions renew prescription of their qualifications is a rolling one for over 150 qualifications, offered across 53 institutions. Courses are usually prescribed for a period of four years but on occasion shorter or longer periods are requested and a number of institutions have moved to a five-year cycle. During 2016, the Board renewed the prescription of 21 qualifications offered by nine institutions.

First time prescription of qualifications – In addition, four new qualifications came on line with the Board granting prescription to four institutions. One of these was an institution with no previous history of offering prescribed qualifications.

Planning meetings – For those institutions that are considering applying for prescription for one or more of their courses, we offer support in the form of planning meetings. In these meetings we brief institutions on our prescription process and offer advice on how to collate an application. In 2016, we took part in 12 planning discussions with the number of meetings remaining stable over the last few years. Year on year we have received positive feedback regarding these meetings with institutions indicating that they valued the support offered. Planning meetings also provide us with a valuable opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the institutions offering prescribed qualifications.



What universities say about our work

We collect feedback from the institutions applying to renew prescription on an annual basis, these valuable insights are then used to inform the development of prescription guidance materials.

This year, six institutions provided us with feedback on the process.

None of the respondents expressed any particular concerns regarding the mapping of their qualifications to the General Criteria:

“Very straightforward. At the moment we have LOs (Learning Outcomes) that are the same as the General Criteria, although we are under pressure from the University to change this at our next internal validation. This may make it more difficult.”

“It was fairly easy but time consuming to map the ARB criteria with the qualification General Criteria, since we have completed the same exercise with the RIBA criteria.”

“I am familiar with the General Criteria so found this process relatively easy.”

All the respondents agreed that they found the advice from staff helpful throughout the process. One respondent stated:

“(We) found the ARB staff extremely helpful, professional, efficient and courteous throughout the entire process. Any questions/queries raised by us were promptly and constructively responded to, without exception. They were also good at reminding us of key dates and deadlines for the various stages during the periods of prescription, which we might otherwise have overlooked, by accident.”

Regarding the advice given in the Good Practice Handbook:

“The Good Practice Handbook is very comprehensive and is well complemented by the planning meeting.”

“No urgent or major changes are required in our opinion.”

Our role in liaising with universities

University liaison visits involve a member of staff, from the qualifications department, presenting a session about ARB’s role and what regulation means to students enrolled on prescribed courses. We offer these visits to all providers of prescribed courses across the country and an excellent uptake rate has been established. These visits provide a useful and constructive point of contact between ARB and the schools/institutions of architecture. They also prepare students for what being part of a regulated profession means by raising awareness of the responsibilities placed on architects by ARB’s Code of Conduct and Practice, along with an understanding of professional regulation and the qualifications and training required for registration.