In recent weeks, we have seen public commentary from members of the architectural academy addressing the state of architecture education in American colleges and schools. One comment attributed a perceived decline in enrollment with current education and licensure models cast as the villains; another raised concerns in this publication that programs providing a focused track toward licensure were abandoning a higher commitment to design thinking and non-licensed careers. Arguably, these two opinions line up on opposite sides of the ongoing debate regarding the current role and future evolution of architecture education.
While we find this debate to be healthy, and even stimulating, we would like to clarify several misconceptions. The Integrated Path to Architecture Licensing (IPAL) is an initiative created by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Our efforts have been open, transparent, and even chronicled in this magazine: two years of deliberation by a blue-ribbon task force of current and former leaders of architecture organizations resulted in a framework for accredited programs to participate in offering a path for completing all licensing requirements at the time of graduation.
It does great injustice to the fine programs that are part of the inaugural class of 13 participating schools to suggest that their participation equates to abandoning the commitment to preparing young minds for a future with many design-related options, including the practice of architecture. No school is eliminating its traditional curriculum; neither are students or programs being forced into participating in the IPAL initiative. At the same time, no shortcuts to the licensure path are being offered to those who do make this choice—a choice that may help reduce the likelihood of a post-graduation event postponing or ultimately preventing the opportunity to become a licensed practitioner.
Simply put, some students in some schools will now be provided with broader options. For those who wish the licensure path could be shortened, innovations such as IPAL, our streamlined Intern Development Program (IDP), and repackaged Architect Registration Examination (ARE), offer a shorter duration while preserving necessary rigor. For those who fear the loss of academic discretion and the ability of students to explore their own path, all of these innovations only enhance the journey.
Now, more than ever, charting a course through the educational process offers options without impeding exploration or reducing rigor. At NCARB we think that’s a good thing.
Dennis Ward, NCARB, AIA
President/Chair of the Board, NCARB
Aaron Betsky’s Oct. 29 column deserves some clarifications. First, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) are not merging. The talks announced a year ago have evolved to include all of the organizations that fund NAAB’s accreditation activities and nominate 11 of NAAB’s 13 directors. Representatives from all five collaterals (including AIA, NCARB, and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS)) formed a joint task force to explore multiple options for the funding, organizational structure, and governance of NAAB. This fall and winter, the participating organizations will review the task force recommendations and determine future action.
Second, the “fast-track” option is an independent initiative by NCARB—one that the ACSA board endorses—to assist schools in offering additional options for students to complete some or all licensure requirements in school. Although Dean Betsky implies that NCARB’s initiative and the ACSA/NAAB partnership will lead to a narrowing of the scope of education, the ACSA’s goal is to do the opposite.
Betsky rightly identifies some fundamental issues being discussed by the collateral task force. What is the role and purpose of architectural education? What is the role and purpose of accreditation? While there may not be a merger, the task force and the collateral organizations continue to discuss how the collaterals should invest money and resources to advance architectural education.
The ACSA maintains that an ACSA/NAAB partnership would empower both organizations to carry out their independent missions more effectively, without compromising their integrity and values. NAAB’s mission is to set minimum standards for professional architectural education. The ACSA, through its membership, offers programs and opportunities that promote excellence across the spectrum of architectural education.
An ACSA/NAAB partnership could also address the reality that accreditation is more costly in architecture than in our peer professions, and that architecture schools must continue to invest resources in research and teaching, beyond the professional curriculum. This does not have to impact the diversity of approaches to education that are a hallmark of the ACSA membership. In fact, the ACSA will strive never to allow this to happen.
Marilys R. Nepomechie, FAIA
In response to Aaron Betsky’s Oct. 29 column, the NAAB and ACSA are not merging.
Any organization, whether it is the accrediting agency or the institutions supporting accredited programs, with a stake in specialized and professional accreditation today must continually evaluate and assess its processes and costs. The talks between NAAB and ACSA announced last year now include the AIA, AIAS and NCARB (representing NAAB's funding collaterals). A joint task force—composed of all five organizations—considered funding options, governance structure, and board composition.
Scott C. Veazey, AIA