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Introduction by David Gloster, RIBA Director of Education


Education and the RIBA

Education has always been central to the RIBA and, parallel to the practice of architecture, is the centrepiece of the original 1834 Royal Charter. RIBA examinations in architecture were established in 1863; in 1882, successful completion of these became compulsory for those seeking membership of the Institute. Responding to requests from schools of architecture - and as an alternative route to membership - the RIBA developed systems for recognising courses that achieved the standard for exemption from the Institute’s examinations. In 1924, RIBA visiting boards were established to evaluate courses and examinations preparing students for professional practice. These visiting boards are the foundation of the current RIBA validation system.

Today, RIBA validation is an evidence-based, peer review system working internationally as a critical friend to schools of architecture, monitoring courses to improve median achievement, encourage the excellent, and ensure a positive student experience.

Since the last review of RIBA validation criteria and procedures, the number of schools with RIBA recognised courses in architecture has increased significantly. Thus, the new criteria and procedures introduced in September 2011 provide an important opportunity for schools to review their course content, and define distinctive academic agendas responding to a more competitive educational environment - all in dialogue with the RIBA.


 Schools will:

  - state clear academic objectives distinguishing their offer from competitor courses, and highlighting specific areas of excellence

  - avoid prescriptive compliance with the criteria in favour of an interpretation encouraging students to creatively develop all aspects of their professional


  - contribute to graduate employability by ensuring that students’ skills in digital and analogue media, structured written work, and the exploration of design

    ideas through making are thoroughly represented in all academic portfolios

  - provide courses at part 2 that clearly differ in substance and content from those offered at first degree level, and reflect the standards expected of     

    graduates undertaking sustained, specialised postgraduate study

  - provide courses where at least 50% of all assessed work at part 1 and at part 2 is undertaken as design studio projects


The RIBA Education department will:

  - contribute to realising worthwhile academic objectives throughout all RIBA recognised schools, and establish a global benchmark for standards in

    architecture education


RIBA visiting boards will:

  - firstly, acknowledge experimentation, innovation, and professional relevance in course delivery, teaching methodology, and academic outcomes,       

    emphasising the distinctive qualities of a school in its written report

  - secondly, place emphasis on schools providing the means for students to meet the graduate attributes stated for each award level

  - thirdly, use the criteria as diagnostic tools to consider where any shortfall in meeting graduate attributes is apparent

RIBA validation offers schools and their students many benefits, including:

  - knowledge that their academic standards are benchmarked against a rigorous, global, evidence based system using third party peer review by

    academics and construction industry practitioners

  - free RIBA student membership for all part 1 and part 2 students studying at RIBA validated schools

  - RIBA chartered membership for students graduating with RIBA validated qualifications from international schools (following 2 years professional

    experience in an architect’s office)


 RIBA validation considers students’ work as the primary evidence to decide whether a course or examination in architecture meets, and exceeds, academic standards defined by the RIBA validation criteria. The criteria for validation (effective from September 2011) are held in common with the Architects Registration Board, and together with the procedures for validation form the key documents used to consider courses for RIBA validation or revalidation.

Visiting boards to schools are usually held every 5 years. In the UK, the RIBA validates the three essential award levels of professional study known as RIBA parts 1, 2, and 3. Internationally, the RIBA considers courses for validation which demonstrate equivalence to RIBA parts 1 and 2. Students with RIBA validated qualifications from international schools wishing to apply to UK schools for entry to part 2 or part 3 courses are required to satisfy Architects Registration Board requirements by successfully completing the ARB Prescribed Examination.

Following completion of a visit, a report is produced; RIBA full visiting board reports are published online. For UK schools, the report forms a key document in UK schools’ application to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) for prescription of courses and qualifications.

For those studying in the UK, registration as an architect in the UK is also dependent on completing a minimum of 2 years practical experience which must map against eligibility criteria. The first year is normally undertaken between part 1 and part 2, the second before sitting the part 3 Professional Practice examination. However, whilst the visiting board should be satisfied that practical experience for part 1 and part 2 graduates is robust, considering the specific details of such arrangements is not part of the board’s remit.

This document describes how visiting boards work, and the procedures that help schools of architecture prepare for, and complete the validation and revalidation cycle.

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