ARB and Europe
European Commission's Review of the Professional Qualifications Directive

The Directive on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications [2005/36/EC] (the Qualifications Directive) allows professionals who meet the criteria within the Directive to move within Europe by claiming access to the national title of professionals who do the same work. Mutual recognition is based on the principle that the qualifications gained in one country are recognised in another country. For the profession of architects, this process of recognition could be automatic if the qualifications leading to access to the title are listed under Annex V of the Directive.

ARB is the UK's competent authority for architects, and is responsible for implementing the Directive's provisions that are relevant to architects. As reported last year, EU Directives are usually reviewed by the European Commission after five years of operation to see whether they are effective or whether they need to be updated. Throughout late 2010 and 2011, we were actively engaged in the Commission's consultation on the Directive through our relationship with Government, and through our membership of two Europe-wide bodies, the European Network of Architectural Competent Authorities (ENACA) and the Architects Council of Europe (ACE).

Our participation in this consultation was crucial if we were to ensure that the UK Government and the European Commission were fully aware of the views of the UK's key stakeholders in this area. The feedback we've had to date confirms that stakeholders, including schools of architecture, the RIBA and relevant European organisations, have valued our level of expertise as it has given them a better understanding of the proposed changes to the Directive.

Following the consultation period, the Commission forwarded its legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers in late 2011 for scrutiny. The proposed changes will be debated throughout 2012, with a view to revisions to the Directive being approved in early 2013. EU Member States will then have two years to adapt their national legislation to incorporate the new EU rules. During this period, we will continue to provide input to the UK Government, the European Commission, ENACA and ACE to ensure that the transposition of the Directive in all EU Member States is harmonised.

We have worked hard to prevent the introduction of a costly system of plastic professional cards in favour of a less costly and more secure electronic exchange of information (electronic certificate). We have also voiced the UK's concerns regarding the minimum length of training to ensure that the revised Directive allows for maximum flexibility in the future development of qualifications that provide students with a wide range of opportunities for study.

Review of UK and European qualifications for listing under the Qualifications Directive
All European qualifications leading to automatic recognition are listed in Annex V of the Qualifications Directive.

The European Commission circulates detailed information about notified qualifications to all EU Member States, giving them two months to indicate whether a qualification complies with the Directive (in terms of duration, location and content of the training) or whether they need further information before making a decision. If Member States still have concerns after the consultation period, the qualification is given additional scrutiny by the Commission's Architecture Sub-Group, at which the UK is represented.

Only when it is thought to comply with the Directive can a qualification be listed in Annex V of the Directive and published in the Official Journal. Annex V also lists each Member State's requirements for registration, which typically includes both the qualifications required as well as any practical training experience requirements. Architects holding listed qualifications and any additional listed requirements can benefit from automatic recognition in Member States.

In the UK, ARB checks each qualification notified to the European Commission to ensure it complies with the Directive. During 2011, ARB reviewed 38 European qualifications from 12 EU Member States. The Member States/number of qualifications were:


Updating the UK's entry under Annex V/Notification of UK qualifications for listing under the Directive
In 2010, the UK began notifying its ARB-recognised qualifications to the European Commission, both to demonstrate the quality of its qualifications and to build trust and understanding with institutions in other European Member States.

Acting in our role as the UK's competent authority for architects, we have worked closely with the schools/institutions of architecture to support them in securing the Commission's listing while their qualifications were scrutinised and, ultimately, approved at European level. As well as securing approval for the listing of seven new qualifications in 2011, six revised titles from four UK universities were also successfully notified to the European Commission.

The feedback we've had has confirmed that the schools/institutions found ARB's expertise and support in this area to be invaluable, and a further benefit has been that EU Member States have also gained a greater understanding of the UK's system of architectural education and registration processes.

We have also played a key role in advising the UK Government on the revision of the UK's entry under Annex V of the Directive (changes of course titles and new qualifications). This was published in the European Union Official Journal in December 2011.