Brexit vote doesn't dampen EU architects’ appetite for UK work

Jim Dunton

Architects Registration Board annual report records increase in applications to practice from EU citizens

The number of EU-qualified architects seeking to register to practice in the United Kingdom increased by more than 10% in 2016, despite the outcome of the Brexit referendum.

According to the just-published annual report of professional regulator the Architects Registration Board, there were 1,232 applications for registration from EU architects during the year – a 14.9% increase on 2015.

The figure – likely to confound industry voices arguing the UK’s decision to leave the European Union is negatively impacting the nation’s attractiveness to EU professionals – means that almost half of all new applications to practice came from non-UK EU citizens.

The Arb report says there were a total of 2,507 new admissions to the register in 2016. A total of 1,249 – or 49.8% were from UK architects, while the EU figure represented 49.1%. The remaining applications were from architects with qualifications from non-EU nations seeking accreditation through the Arb’s “prescribed examination” route.

Despite the broadly equal numbers for EU and UK applications, the Arb’s report highlighted a greater gender imbalance among UK applicants. In total, 39.3% of UK applicants were female, while 49.2% of EU counterparts were women.

In recent months Richard Rogers and Amanda Levete have been among the leading architects warning of the threat posed by Brexit to their practices and the profession as a whole.

June saw Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners include a note in the practice’s annual report and accounts referencing the “significant proportion” of its non-UK staff seeking to secure UK citizenship to secure their employment position.

Last month, Levete floated the prospect of her AL_A practice opening a Paris office in a move designed, in part, to offset concerns about losing EU staff.

Both Levete and Rogers joined Will Alsop, Eric Parry and Farshid Moussavi in signing an open letter published in The Guardian in May that called on prime minister Theresa May to give immediate clarity on the future of EU nationals working in the UK and warned against them being used as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations.

While the figures contained in the Arb annual report do not undermine their arguments, they do indicate a strong – and growing – interest in working in the UK on the part of EU-qualified professionals not already resident here.

Overall, the number of architects registered with the Arb was 38,511 as of December 31 last year, while the male-female balance was 74% to 26%.

Arb chair Nabila Zulfiqar noted that as well as a “continuing upward trend” in the size of the register, the number of new female architects had risen – with the report indicating a 1% increase in numbers of women architects compared with 2015.

“The data shows that demand for the regulator’s services remains strong in all areas,” she said. 

“The year ahead requires us to focus on the recommendations of the government’s periodic review alongside delivering our statutory functions whilst continuously looking for efficiency and improvement opportunities.

“We will also provide the government with information and expertise on regulatory matters, in relation to the UK’s departure from the EU.

“We remain committed to delivering our statutory remit, protecting the public and supporting the profession through the maintenance of standards.”

Elsewhere in the report, the Arb said it had witnessed a “notable” increase in the number of days taken up by Professional Conduct Case hearings in 2016.

It said that while the number of hearings had increased from 24 in 2015 to 31 last year, the number of days those hearings consumed had increased disproportionately from 42 to 77: an 83.3% rise.

The report said the increase in workload had been due to architects becoming more involved in the regulatory process and “robustly defending cases”, including an increase in the use of legal representation.

The report said that 2016’s PCC workload had also involved some cases that were more complex than usual.

 

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