RIBA President Ruth Reed Takes Action to Tackle Student Hardship and Low Pay

RIBA President Ruth Reed Takes Action to Tackle Student Hardship and Low Pay

The President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Ruth Reed today presented a suite of proposals to the RIBA Council to further support architecture students, graduates, and young practitioners during this difficult economic situation.

The proposals, which received RIBA Council's endorsement and will be implemented immediately, include:

Investment of an additional £75,000 into the RIBA student hardship fund for 2010 and 2011: This investment, which will treble the funds available, will enable at least another 100 students facing severe financial difficulties to continue and complete their professional education, and help recent graduates to build a suitable portfolio to present to potential employers in the UK and abroad. This support is in addition to the £106,000 already committed by the RIBA to the scholarship and bursary programme.

Improvement of pay and employment conditions: A review group comprised of individuals representing the most adversely affected groups: small practices, the student body ARCHAOS, and APSAA will develop changes to the RIBA Chartered Practice employment criteria and RIBA Code of Professional Conduct, particularly with regards to rigorous minimum pay requirements for all students and professionally qualified employees, to come into effect from 2011.

Internships: Campaigning to remove exemption from paying minimum wage for practical training requirements over 6 months; therefore working to ensure PEDR experience is not classed as an internship.

Research into alternative careers: Over half of all students doing Part 1 and 2 validated architecture courses do not become registered architects. In partnership with SCHOSA and the University of Sheffield, the RIBA will be conducting research into destinations for those leaving architecture before completing their professional training, and reviewing courses in architecture to improve employability and the economy.

"Financial hardship is at an all time high, and its impact is felt acutely by the UK's 14,000 students of architecture," said Ruth Reed, RIBA President. "The economic crisis is affecting us all but students and recent graduates are least able to diversify and stay on the professional path. Faced with the prospects of a profession with high underemployment and redundancy, some talented individuals, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may decide they can't afford to stay in the profession. The RIBA recognises this and is fully committed to doing all it can to support our students and graduates to ensure we maintain social diversity and safeguard our future profession.

Most chartered practices are responsible and pay fairly for fee earning work, but through my experience in teaching, I am well aware that there are those who accept students' offers to work for free. The RIBA believes that the entire architecture profession should be supported, valued and paid fairly, and through the measures announced today, we will be working to further guard against unacceptable employment practises, including low pay.

Strong action is urgently needed and I believe these measures will make a difference to people's lives today."

"The proposed measures are a very welcome sight, which respond not only to the rise in financial hardship experienced by students, but to the terms and conditions of employment in practice," said Sarah Tilley, RIBA Student Council. "The proposals also recognise that the comprehensive range of transferable skills fostered in schools allow many students to pursue successful careers outside the architectural field; in the current climate this adaptability is a valuable asset which has been somewhat overlooked until now.

But foremost, the proposals outline the RIBA's commitment to supporting the next generation of professionals and emphasise the value of an architectural education: setting minimum levels of pay safeguards against a minority of employers exploiting the current economic situation and ensures that students and new graduates are treated fairly. Encouraging a sense of mutual respect will lead to more productive working relationships and greater regard for the profession at large. It's a win-win situation."

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