About Architects Registration in the UK


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"Many topics affecting the future of architecture are undergoing policy development."  Some of these are more or less directly relevant to the Register and the Architects Act as shown in the table below.  This is offered for the information of inquirers and policy-makers.  See also "A useful 21st-century function" and "An Analysis of the Act" (printable version)


The Architects Act – Issues, explanations, and suggestions for resolution

Section and Title




s.1  The Board


Prudence and economy

It is the duty on any public corporation to act with prudence and economy.

1. Current activities and procedures should be examined in terms of necessity and economy and omitted or revised accordingly.


The Board is accountable only through the Courts.  The Privy Council take responsibility only for the appointment of members, while the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister merely 'supervises' the Board.

(c.f. AARUK)

At the Board Meeting of 7 September 2006 the chairman issued a scoping paper outlining alternative approaches to grievances over decisions of the board.

1. The Board's policy of openness and accountability should be published, reviewed, and made to be effective.

2. There can be no reason why the board should not set this matter as a priority, leading to the appointment of a private ombudsman.

Schedule 1 Part I


The Electoral Scheme is inoperable.

(q.v. AARUK)

Electoral Scheme approved by the Privy Council is not used.

Obtain report on suitability of STV. Propose adoption of ERS rules rather than ad hoc rules.

Electoral Scheme Rule 2.

Returning Officer is also the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer

Conflict of interest where candidates take issue with Board Policies (q.v. AARUK)

Returning Officer should not be the CEO. (May have implications for splitting function of Registrar and CEO.)

Electoral Scheme Rule 5.5 claims to require candidates to undertake to abide by the Board Members’ Handbook (q.v. AARUK)

Handbook was devised a guide and is unsuitable as a set of rules. It incorporates the Nolan Principles and duties of confidentiality.  The reach of the purported duty of confidentiality has been questioned in terms of these Principles.

All parts of the Board Agenda to be published. Reasons to be given on the paper for keeping papers and decisions confidential. (This is usual practice under Nolan Principles)

Schedule 1 Part II 

(as amended by

S.I. 2004 No. 655)

Professional Conduct Committee

Conflict of interest

The PCC has frequently imported Board Policies into its decisions rather than consider each case on its merits.  This seems inevitable when Board members are able to decide conduct cases. The Chief Executive says that there can be no criticism as Parliament itself has permitted this.  However, even parliament is not allowed to contravene the European Rights Convention, particularly Article 6.

Although Board members must be appointed to the Committee, they should not be called to decide cases that may involve issues of Board policy ("Nobody should be a judge in his own cause")

Schedule 1 Part III Committees

Handbook claims to impose a level of confidentiality that is inappropriate in degree and kind.

Board members are not entitled to attend Committees unless invited. Committee work is confidential.

Revise Board Members’ Handbook. All Board Members should have free access to committee papers and to attend (though not to participate unless invited)

s.2   The Registrar 


The Board shall appoint the Registrar

In the past, concern has been expressed about the appointment process although on the appointment of the Registrar in July 2006, a Committee of Board members including elected members was convened.

Decide on and confirm the new Registrar's duties and terms of Reference, and ensure that this is published.

The Registrar may be a contractor

This was canvassed in the 1994 DOE Consultation.

At every appointment, the option of external consultancy should be considered. 



The Board shall fix the remuneration and other benefits of the Registrar

The full Board has not been involved in this before.

The remuneration and other benefits of the Registrar should be published.



The Registrar is provided with powers under the General Rules that are inappropriate for an officer.

The Registrar (as Chief Executive) should not be permitted to decide on the extent of his/her/its responsibilities under General Rules Rule 4.iv(b).

(c.f. AARUK)

1. Amend the Rules so as to ensure that the Board decides the extent of the Registrar’s authority.

2. Drop the title “Chief Executive”.

s.3 The Register


 The prime function given to the Board under the Act is to maintain and publish the Register of Architects.

 The Board is required to publish the current version of the Register annually and to provide copies on payment of a reasonable charge.

Although in an era of electronic information the general imperative is for immediate information, which Board has followed in an exemplary way, no cost-benefit analysis conducted is known of that provides evidence of actual benefit.

The Board also publishes ancillary information including what it refers to as "Recent News" and "PCC Decisions and Penalties" that includes references to individual persons on the Register and even to some whose names have been removed.  The observation has been made that data processing in relation to individuals on the Register may be unlawful under the Data Protection Act if objection has been made.

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis in respect of electronic publication of the Register.

Obtain legal advice from Counsel of the lawfulness of data processing with Counsel instructed by a solicitor independent of advice previously given to the Board.


Certificates of Registration (and cards?) are issued to those who request them.

Such certification is needed only in exceptional circumstances (such as registering in another EU country)

Only issue certificates when specifically requested. Stop issuing cards.

s.4 Registration : general

s.4(1)(a) Prescribed qualifications. Prescription adopts a "quality assurance" approach. There is considerable anxiety that the effect of the prescription process reaches beyond "qualifications", in effect to the validation of courses.  As the approach is one of "quality assurance" perceptions have arisen that

a) there is a reduction in the quality of the courses (that is quality in its ordinary rather than in the QA sense), and

b) variety between  courses is diminishing and homogeneity is becoming the norm. 


A further difficulty has arisen in 2006 by the Board prescribing qualifications before the first intake of students. (q.v. AARUK education)

(See next)

Examination of submission is superficial and leads to arbitrary decisions.

Prescription is carried out by examining a vast amount of material that the institutions submit. Prescription recommendations are made by officers to the Board after the papers have been read by two Prescription Committee members only. At a Board meeting, on a poll of such a decision 16 months ago, only two Board members admitted to reading the papers thoroughly, one being the chair of the Committee.

Abandon the costly, unwieldy and ineffective prescription process. Prescribe courses that are validated by the RIBA and after consulting under s.4(3)


(In effect this will ensure that chartered membership of the RIBA and the other chartered bodies will be sufficient to qualify for entry onto the register. The RIBA are promoting this through the application for an RRO.)

Overseas courses not being prescribed

Students (including Commonwealth students) with qualifications from RIBA validated courses are not being registered.

1. Prescribe courses outside the United Kingdom if validated by the RIBA and after due consultation.

2. Allow these prescriptions to be back-dated.

RIBA Part III.  EC Law requires only RIBA Part II standard

The Board has long known that requiring Part III from UK candidates is susceptible to legal challenge owing to inconsistency with EU law. As approximately 30% of registrations are now from other EU countries, the higher entry threshold for UK candidates is manifestly unfair. (q.v. AARUK)

Drop RIBA Part III as a prerequisite for Registration.


(NB This is not a suggestion that the RIBA should also lower its entry standards or continue in the practice of doing so. Nor is it our role to suggest that this issue needs to be addressed by the RIBA and the whole profession)


ARB's own examinations. ARB is not empowered to conduct examinations under the Act and appears to do so only by straining the meaning of the Act. (A mere reading of this section of the Act explains.)

The examinations are expensive and the results appear to be highly inconsistent when benchmarked. (Information from De Montfort University)

Allow the examinations to revert to the RIBA after consultation.


Prescribed examinations. (The RIBA examinations Parts I and II are at present run under franchise by Oxford Brookes University, but the RIBA retains full control over these qualifications.)

 It is difficult for candidates that have qualifications from schools that are not prescribed to become registered.

Prescribe examinations that are contracted to and validated by the RIBA after due consultation.

s.5  Registration: EEA qualifications


ARB as "Competent Authority". It appears that the ARB may have assumed it is the competent authority for the purposes of European legislation, while not being so appointed.

The ARB expends a great deal of money in dealings with the Architects Council of Europe, and in particular influencing its policy.

Invite the Government to appoint the ARB as the UK competent authority making it clear that this for the purpose of facilitating the administration of mutual recognition of qualifications only. All policy involvement should revert to the RIBA.

s.9  Competence to practise


ARB is developing a scheme whereby it is intended to ensure that those on the Register maintain professional competence.

The extent of the monitoring that ARB may wish to undertake has not yet been decided. However, the 2006 Business Plan (no longer published on ARB's website) stated and the 2007 Business Plan states that ARB wishes to provide assurances to the public that those on the register are competent to practise, which is beyond its remit. (q.v. AARUK)

The Board is under no compulsion to inquire into this matter and should only do so if there is evidence

a) that demonstrates a need, and

b) that demonstrates that the proposed remedy will be effective.

The Board should then carry out a Regulatory Impact Assessment and a cost-benefit analysis.

If the board then prescribes the amount of recent practical experience to be gained, and that amount is gained, then the board may not make further inquiry concerning competence to practise and no attempt to do so should be allowed.

Maternity and other long-term leave. ARB is developing a policy of requiring those absent from the register for a period exceeding two years to prove their competency on their return.

This is prejudicial including against those taking long-term maternity leave, those who work overseas, and some academics.

Entry onto the register is qualification-based. The Board should only require a demonstration of competency if they receive credible evidence of incompetency.

Automatic testing for competency. It has been suggested that all registered persons should satisfy the Board of their competency (“re-validation”) every five years.

This involves a presumption that those on the register are not competent to practise unless able to make a convincing demonstration to the contrary.

There is nothing in the Act from which such an inference may be drawn.

The policy, if ever it is brought forward, is likely to fail a Regulatory Impact Assessment and a cost-benefit analysis. It should nevertheless be opposed.

s.13 Code of Practice


The Code includes imperatives whereas it can be no more than guidance. (Standard 8 – PII)

Under Standard 8.3, the requirement to hold insurance is stated as an imperative (irrespective of risk). “Guidelines” state a mandatory minimum level of cover and there is a requirement to provide evidence of insurance. The Act as a rule-making power does not enable the Board to legislate for others, and by s.13(4), prohibits the use of the Code as a regulatory instrument. (q.v. AARUK)

The Code should be revised so that it is clear that it informs only of the standards that are “expected” of those on the register. Any words or acts or decisions which purport to create a duty to the Board should be removed or avoided.

The Code imposes duties to report. (Standard 10 – the Whistleblower clause)

Those on the Register are obliged not only to report their own failings to the Registrar, but also those of others.

Such requirements have been long-held to be repugnant in a civilized society that deplores devices that encourage vindictiveness.

Delete Standard 10.

s.14 Professional misconduct and incompetence


The Act is specific with the steps that must be taken in bringing a charge against a registered person.

Although the Board’s Investigation Rules and Professional Conduct Committee Rules are operable, the practical failures, incompetence, injustices and inefficiencies had led to widespread criticism.

The process of bringing a registered person to the Professional Conduct Committee should be reviewed.

Investigations Rules. The Investigations Committee is comprised under Rule 4 of two lay Board members (of whom one acts as chairman), and one architect member.

As the lay members can have no expert appreciation of the conduct expected of architects, and, more particularly, their level of competence, it is perhaps unsurprising that an architect member who has given an account of the process has ridiculed it. 

In practice the Investigation Committee does not meet. Views are exchanged and decisions reached using email.

The Investigations Committee should never act unless it has the benefit of expert advice. The rules should be amended so that a report is obtained on every case (other than those which can be dismissed out of hand) from an architect inquirer, and so that the complaint and the report are then considered by a committee on which there is a majority of architects.

The Investigations Committee should then meet to consider cases before referring them to the PCC.

Investigations Rules. The wording of Rule 14 in some circumstances apparently permits the Registrar to withdraw a report from the PCC at any time "before the conclusion of the hearing". Once the Investigations Committee's report has reached the Professional Conduct Committee, this rule becomes incompatible with section 14(2) of the Act. By its provisions an accused person has the right to have a charge heard without it being withdrawn and reconsidered by the Investigations Committee. (NB. On 5 December 2006 the Professional Conduct Committee rejected such an application.)  The Investigations Rules should be re-written by a lawyer qualified and experienced in administrative law with a view to provide a procedure that is intra vires.

Investigations Rules.  The wording of Rule 16 deals with the consequences of a report being reconsidered under Rule 14.  

From the wording it may be inferred that there is an expectation that the Professional Conduct Committee will be influenced in its decision by the findings of the Investigations Committee. This could obviously be used in a way that is oppressive to an accused person.

This is unjust because the Investigations Committee does not hear evidence from the accused person.

The Investigations Rules should be re-written by a lawyer qualified and experienced in administrative law with a view to provide a procedure that is both transparent and just.

s.15 Disciplinary orders


Consistency of penalty

From an examination of penalties imposed it is clear:

a) that the PCC have allowed board policy to influence the severity of the order.

b) that consistency is wanting.

(q.v. AARUK)

1. An analysis of the PCC’s decisions should be made so that decisions based on extraneous material can be exposed.

2. Members of the PCC including any appointed by the Law Society should be given training so that they are familiar with the principles of natural justice.  The course material should be published.

3. An analysis of the functions of the Clerk to the PCC should be undertaken so as to demonstrate that his office is free from an undue influence of the Board.

s.20 Use of title "architect"


Failure of the Board to act.

The Board has been informed by officers that these prosecutions are the exclusive responsibility of officers. However, the Board has been criticised for being ineffective.

The Board should ensure that the activities of the officers are accountable in all business.

Charges for providing information to prospective companies and LLPs. For a limited period from 1 August 2006 the Board has made charges for providing information under s.20(4) with respect to the registering of companies and LLPs under the Companies Act. Questions were raised concerning the lawfulness of these charges, and the practice has since stopped. (q.v. AARUK) The Board should make certain that it may lawfully make charges for providing this information.  
s.23 Rules


Rules may be made generally for carrying out or facilitating the purposes of the Act. The ARB has published General Rules

Rules have been made which exceed this prescription, namely:

a) That Rules have been made that inhibit elected members from acting openly and accountably to their electors.

b) That Rules have been made outside the purposes of the Act that place duties on registered persons that are elected to the Board and which cannot therefore be construed as being relevant to professional conduct.

1. The Board Members’ Handbook (which has not been published on the ARB website) should remain as a handbook for the guidance of members. The undertaking of elected members to abide by it as if it were comprised of mandatory rules should be rescinded.

2. The Policy on Matters to be discussed in Open and Closed Sessions of Board Meetings should be revised in accordance with the Nolan Principles.

3. The Code standards should be re-written so as to eliminate any purported duty to the Board. (q.v. AARUK)


Revised: 11/09/06 (ss. 2, 20); 02/04/07 (s.14); 09/10/07 (updates including to links)