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The term 'architect' has been used for many centuries, but the architect as a recognised profession is a relatively modern concept dating back to the mid 16th century, from the French architecte and Italian architetto (originating from the Greek arkhitekton, where arkhi means 'chief' and tekton 'builder'). The term and what it represents has evolved through history to its current form in which architects are seen as highly-qualified and educated professionals.
 Regulation of architects
Although buildings in the UK are commonly designed by people who are not architects, the term ‘architect’ itself is protected by the Architects Act 1997 which established the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Only qualified individuals that are registered with the ARB can offer their services as architects. Section 20 of the Architects Act states that 'A person shall not practise or carry on business under any name style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a person registered under this Act'.
The ARB has responsibility for:
- Recognising qualifications.
- Maintaining a list of registered architects and ensuring that people not on the list do not offer their services as an architect.
- Monitoring standards and investigating complaints.
ARB issues a code of conduct for architects and can take action against those falling short of the code’s standards.
Architects can also become chartered members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), but this is voluntary and is not necessary to practice as an architect.
The most common route into the profession is through university study, broken down into 3 parts:
- Part 1 – Honours degree in architecture, followed by 1 year out in practice under the guidance of an architect and monitored and recorded in line with RIBA requirements.
- Part 2 - Masters, Diploma or BArch (depending on the individual school) taught in university for 2 to 3 years, followed by a further monitored and recorded year in practice.
- Part 3 - the RIBA final exam.
The RIBA Examination in Architecture for Office-based Candidates is an alternative route to qualification for Part 1 and Part 2 for people working full-time under the supervision of an architect. Applicants must have a minimum of three years’ experience in architectural practice to join the examination at Part 1; or 3 years post-Part 1 experience to join the Part 2 stage (as well as holding Part 1).
Recently, there is concern that architectural training has become relatively expensive as universities can charge fees of up to £9,000 a year. Training to become an architect takes at least seven years, with four or five of these at university. Adding in necessary living expenses on top of university fees, it is thought that the total cost of training to become an architect could be as much as £100,000. This may result in architecture becoming the preserve of students whose parents are able to support them through their training. Whilst the number of applications for places at schools of architecture remains high, increasingly this is from students outside the EU, with applications from UK and EU students decreasing.
 Statutory responsibilities
According to the ARB's Architect's code: Standards of Conduct and Practice, an architect is expected to:
- Be honest and act with integrity.
- Be competent.
- Promote their services honestly and responsibly.
- Manage their business competently.
- Consider the wider impact of their work.
- Carry out their work faithfully and conscientiously.
- Be trustworthy and look after their clients’ money properly.
- Have appropriate insurance arrangements.
- Maintain the reputation of architects.
- Deal with disputes or complaints appropriately.
- Co-operate with regulatory requirements and investigations.
- Have respect for others.