Our role in registration
Maintaining the UK Register of Architects is a key feature of the work of the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Only people on the Register are legally entitled to use the name ‘architect’ in business or practice. Under Section 20 of the Architects Act 1997, the title ‘architect’ is protected. It can only be used in business or practice by people who hold the required levels of education, training and experience needed to become an architect and who are registered with us. Members of the public can check the online Register to find architects in their area or to check if an individual they are considering is an architect.
Joining the Register
The success of online systems and our commitment to efficiency
2012 saw the introduction of the online registration system. The numbers using this facility increased dramatically in 2013 with nearly 1,300 applications received online.
In last year’s annual report, we outlined the work we had been doing to develop a safe, efficient and convenient online service for joining or rejoining the Register. This aspect of our online systems complements our existing electronic processes for paying the retention fee and for updating personal details that appear in the online Register of Architects. In particular, we have worked hard to promote the ease and convenience to architects of paying their fee online, and the fact that almost 12,000 architects chose to pay their fee by this method is a measure of success in this area. It also means that the architect receives instant confirmation of receipt of their payment and a pdf certificate of registration, leaving no doubt that their payment has been received.
When we were developing the online registration application system, our ultimate aim was to provide a service that would drive down timelines and make registration and re-registration as quick, easy and accessible as possible in a secure environment. We wanted to offer applicants the flexibility to begin an application, save it if needs be, and then come back to it at the point in the application where they left off. Because the system was developed to be fully electronic, applicants need to have a facility to upload the required supporting documents, rather than submitting an electronic application and sending the documents to us by other means; and they need to be able to make the relevant payment online once their application is complete.
The system we have delivered achieves all of these aims, and this is supported by the feedback we have received from users of the service, which has been very positive and complimentary with some good ideas for improvements and enhancements to the system.
Positive feedback about the registration system – Here is what our applicants said about the new systems:
- “Simple to use”
- “Very fast and intuitive”
- “I found the online application easy to use and understand”
- “I think that the online application system is very efficient”
- “I found the process very user-friendly and wasn’t complicated”
- “It took approximately 10 minutes to complete”
Positive feedback from applicants/registrants – The diligent and professional approach of the registration team has been noted by applicants and registrants who have commented on the prompt and informative service provided:
- ‘Thank you so much for the update and even more, for your help and advice.’
- ‘All received – that was incredibly quick! Thank you.’
- ‘Thank you for letting me know (about my application for Registration) – it’s much appreciated. Additional thanks for your diligence in sorting my application.’
- ‘It has been a pleasure to have been cooperating with the Registration Team, your assistance – invaluable.’
The Prescribed Exam
The Act places on the Architects Registration Board (ARB) the responsibility for prescribing the qualifications and practical training experience required for entry to the UK Register of Architects. The Board also has a duty to ensure that those who apply for registration without prescribed qualifications have an equivalent standard of competence to those who enter the Register with prescribed qualifications. The Board’s opinion is that a person may be of an equivalent standard of competence if they hold qualifications which are equivalent to the prescribed qualifications. For those without prescribed qualifications from Schools of Architecture, the Board prescribes examinations, under section 4(2) of the Act, at two key stages – commonly called Part 1 and Part 2.
The number of prescribed exam applications has decreased compared to last year’s equivalent period. Indications suggest the economic downturn may have been a significant contributing factor. The Board was mindful of the economic impact on those wishing to take the prescribed exam. Consequently, the decision was made to seek efficiencies, by streamlining examiner training whilst maintaining quality, in order to hold the self-financing examination fee for the year.
Retention fee increase
The Board made a decision to draw on its reserves in order to keep the fee as low as possible for registrants during a time when it recognised the economic downturn presented challenges for everyone connected with the building and construction industry. As a result of prudent budgeting and financial management the fee had remained at the same level – £86 – for both 2009 and 2010. The fee was reduced by £6 for 2011, and this £80 fee was held for 2012. At the time that these decisions were made, the Board acknowledged that it would be unable to continue holding the fee at this level without it impacting on the delivery of ARB’s statutory duties.
When it came to setting the fee at £98.50 for 2013, the Board took a number of factors into account. The level of reserves was falling below the Board’s policy of holding four months’ operating costs. The Board also needed to ensure that there were sufficient funds for discharging the other elements of ARB’s regulatory activities. The Board was determined to keep the increase to as low a level as possible to avoid placing too much of a financial burden on architects, and even at £98.50, it is still one of the lowest fees paid by any professional.
Retention fee – revised payment period and timeframe
As well as an increase to the fee, the Board implemented a new cut-off point for payment of the annual fee. Once the changes are fully implemented, all retention fees will be paid by 1 January in the calendar year for which the fee is due. The Board consulted on the proposed changes and agreed that the payment period should be reduced from 90 days to 60 days. The driver for amending the timeframe for payment was to ensure clarity of the Register for consumers and a fairer process for all.