ARB’s £9k charge to architecture schools an ‘unwelcome shock’, says RIBA

Echoing the responses of numerous academics to news of the new fee earlier this month, the institute branded the move an ‘unwelcome shock’ that would place an ‘unexpected financial burden’ on schools.

The fee, which must be paid by each ‘accredited learning provider’ on 1 January, is expected to net the regulator an extra £550,000 a year.

On top of this, the board said it would also be charging a fee of £3,000 for each new qualification applied for by the schools and a review fee of £2,000 for ‘a renewal of each existing qualification’ when the ARB conducts ‘a periodic review of the qualifications at a particular learning provider’.

The ARB, which is leading a major shake-up of architectural education, said that without the new charges, the ‘costs of accrediting qualifications would fall on the architectural profession through their annual retention fee for registration’. That fee was recently increased to £199.

Reacting to the decision, the RIBA’s chair of board, Jack Pringle, said: ‘As an advocate for architectural education and schools of architecture, this compulsory new blanket fee has proved both an unwelcome shock and unexpected financial burden – especially to smaller learning providers and those already struggling financially.

‘Any fee must be proportionate, and we fail to see how the reported £550,000 revenue to ARB will help to directly support and improve architectural education and the student experience.’

Pringle added: ‘We will continue to petition ARB on matters relating to educational reform, and to work with schools of architecture and our members to deliver an education system that is diverse, inclusive, and provides the best possible learning.’

The ARB’s announcement had already been met with ‘shock’ and ‘disappointment’ by universities, with one academic saying the annual amount would be ‘crippling’ for their small architecture school.

Carl Meddings, programme leader for MArch Sustainable Architecture at Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) said the proposed introduction of fees had come ‘out of the blue’. He told the AJ: ‘There has been zero consultation on this issue, which is disappointing from our regulating body, who have been so diligent in consulting on other matters recently.

‘There are nuances that have not been aired or tested. [A blanket fee] is both inequitable and flies in the face of ARB’s own proposed mission to widen access to the profession.’

Kevin Singh, head of Manchester School of Architecture and a member of the Standing Conference Of Schools of Architecture (SCOSA), told the AJ it would be ‘inevitable that some schools will struggle to afford this’ and was disappointed there was ‘no proposal for the fee to be means tested’.

Meanwhile, Swansea School of Architecture senior lecturer Ryan Stuckey described the fee introduction as ‘a crippling cost to a small school like ours at Swansea’.

In its email to schools, the ARB said the fees had been introduced to recover the cost of its education activities, ‘including the work of the new accreditation committee, which includes visits, and the management and administration entailed in quality assurance and decision-making’.

This independent committee overseeing the new approach to course quality assurance will replace the former prescription committee, which had advisory powers only.

Until now the costs of ARB’s accreditation work has been borne by the fee income from individual registrants ‘through the registration and retention fees’ which roughly totals £7 million a year.

An ARB spokesperson told the AJ: ‘ARB’s reforms to initial education and training include clearer and stronger standards to be placed upon all institutions delivering ARB-accredited qualifications, and a new proportionate and risk-based quality assurance of qualifications. This will include visits to institutions which will bring us into line with best practice among professional regulatory and standards bodies.’