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Architectural education in the United Kingdom

After nearly a century of endeavour and negotiation which had been led by the Royal Institute of British Architects, a statutory Board of Architectural Education was formed under the Architects (Registration) Act, 1931. For the purposes of constituting the Board of Architectural Education the Act included a list of Schools of Architecture in the United Kingdom. The statutory Board was abolished in the 1990s, and when the Architects Act 1997 repealed the 1931 Act the statutory list of Schools of Architecture went with it.

The 1931 Act had come to be passed at the end of a century of development in educational provision and in the method of qualifying by examination. The 1997 Act was passed in the period after the United Kingdom had become one of the Member States of the European Economic Community, later named the European Union, an organization which, among other things, has required Member States to remove obstacles to the freedom of movement and establishment in respect of professional practice, employment, trade and business within the territories of the Union.

The method of qualifying by passing an examination which the RIBA had recognized as allowing exemption continued in the period when the 1931 Act was in force, and remained available under the later legislation.

By a further development, from 2007 a Chartered Member of the RIBA may apply for the registration of a Chartered Practice in respect of a business providing architectural services and comprising one or more Chartered Members meeting criteria for, and operating in accordance with, a prescribed scheme.

The historian will find some source material in the Archive which the RIBA has made accessible at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in books, periodicals and other publications of the period which have been deposited and retained in the British Architectural Library (of the RIBA). Another contemporaneous source of information, upon which the following is largely based, is provided by two editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh of 1910 and the fourteenth of 1929. These editions contain articles which conveniently indicate how examination, as a method of gaining recognition for the attainment of the specialist knowledge and skill required of a professional practitioner, had grown and had been thought of in the period leading up to the passing of the 1931 Act.

The term 'examination' (i.e., inspecting, weighing and testing; from Latin examen, the tongue of a balance) is used [in the article which followed] to denote a systematic test of knowledge, and of either special or general capacity or fitness, carried out under the authority of some public body.
The oldest known system of examinations in history is that used by China for the selection of officers for the public service (c.1115 B.C.), and the periodic tests which they undergo after entry (c.2200). The abolition of this system was announced in 1906, and, as a partial substitute, it was decided to hold an annual examination in Peking of Chinese educated abroad.
The majority of examinations in western countries are derived from the university examinations of the middle ages. The first universities of Europe consisted of corporations of teachers and of students analogous to the trade gilds and merchant gilds of the time. In the trade gilds there were apprentices, companions and masters. No one was admitted to mastership until he had served his apprenticeship, nor, as a rule, until he had shown that he could accomplish a piece of work to the satisfaction of the gild.
The object of the universities was to teach; and to the three classes established by the gild correspond roughly to the scholar, the bachelor or pupil-teacher, and the master or doctor (two terms at first equivalent) who, having first served his apprenticeship and passed a definite technical test, had received permission to teach...
Underlying the system of architectural education at present established in most Western countries is the assumption that architecture is one of the fine arts, and that the prime object of the training which the architect should receive is to equip him as a creative artist in building.
... for the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith; it being an art esteemed and encouraged in all enlightened nations, as tending greatly to promote the domestic convenience of citizens, and the public improvement and embellishment of towns and cities...
... it is generally agreed that the study of architecture should be preceded by a liberal education. As one of the fine arts, historically associated with the arts of painting and sculpture, and as the background of civilized society, it demands both for its practice and its appreciation some measure of general culture. The tendency today [1929] is, therefore, for schools of architecture in Europe, the British Empire and America to require from candidates for admission evidence of a broad non-technical education... Today architectural education in all countries is in the hands of practising teachers. Direct connection between the instruction given in the school and the experience of actual practice is thereby assured ...
From its foundation in 1835 the Royal Institute of British Architects has been the supreme controlling authority of the profession throughout the empire. At no time, however, has the RIBA itself undertaken the teaching of architecture. But by setting up, in the latter half of the last century [19c.], a centralized system of examinations when no professional tests existed in the country, it performed a notable service in raising the general level of professional knowledge. Through its board of architectural education it has now delegated to certain approved schools the task of qualifying candidates for admission to the institute, only maintaining its own centralized examinations for students not seeking entry through scholastic channels.
Robert Gordon's Colleges, Aberdeen; Edinburgh College of Art; Royal Technical College, Glasgow; University of Liverpool; Architectural Association, London; University of London; University of Manchester; McGill University, Montreal; and the University of Sydney.
School of Art, Birmingham; Royal West of England Academy, Bristol; University of Cambridge; Technical College, Cardiff; Leeds College of Arts; Leicester College of Arts and Crafts; Northern Polytechnic, London; Armstrong College, Newcastle-on-Tyne; University of Sheffield; Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, Southend-on-Sea; University of Toronto; and Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay.
The advancement of architecture and the promotion of the acquirement of the knowledge of the Arts and Sciences connected therewith;
The systematic improvement and broadening of knowledge and skill and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties in the course of a Chartered Member's working life.
a formally-established business providing architectural services and comprising one or more Chartered Members which meets criteria for, and operates in accordance with, a scheme prescribed by the Council, or a board to which the Council has devolved responsibility.


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