05 April 2014
Registrar’s Office, Architectural Association
The results of the recent school-wide referendum on whether we should undertake an application for Degree Awarding Powers were announced this week. 61% of the school community voted and of this sample, an overwhelming 91% cast their ballot in favour of applying. In order to uncover what exactly this means for the School and its future we spoke to Registrar Marilyn Dyer to tell us, from her unique perspective of working at the AA for over four decades, why it is imperative to act now.
To clarify, what are Degree Awarding Powers?
Degree Awarding Powers (DAP) bestow an institution with the independent authority to award its students’ degrees. In our case it will give us, as the Architectural Association (AA), the opportunity to award degrees for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes without the need to align with or depend on any other institution. This will benefit all our students whether they are from the UK, the EU or are International.
What will achieving Degree Awarding Powers mean for the future of the AA?
For more than a hundred years the AA has fiercely defended its intellectual and financial freedom. It is important for the School Community to realise that changes in accreditation and regulations are affecting all higher education institutions and penalising small, specialist schools, such as ours. DAP will reinforce and help protect the School’s independence.
It is not always evident to staff and students that the AA has been forced to conform to many changes that have taken place in education due to continual adjustments in UK government and European regulations and validation criteria. For some time now the Registrar’s Office has been undertaking a great deal of administrative work not just to maintain our independence but also to protect it for the future. Every time we believe the School has adhered to another new regulation or law, we realise that the rules have been altered yet again. We therefore have to inventively rethink once again how to comply and yet – crucially – not undermine the ethos of the School.
For example, over the last five years in the Registrar’s Office, Sabrina and I have taken a great deal of time and care trying to prevent any confusion when students who wish to proceed with higher education at a different institution need to explain their AA qualifications and state the equivalence to an outside body. This is especially problematic at undergraduate level where the AA Intermediate Examination Part 1 is not classified as a first degree. Obviously within architectural circles people do understand what this qualification means but if a student wishes to gain entry for a different subject in higher education, it becomes very difficult to say what the AA Intermediate Part 1 is equivalent to. The only way we have been able to provide an explanation that has been received in other academic institutions as acceptable is to quote the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement in Architecture.
We have also experienced difficulty with our degree qualifications being ratified by the Open University (OU) at graduate level resulting in questions such as, are we a correspondence course?! Obviously we are not but it becomes confusing for outside bodies who look at a student’s application for higher education and wonder how a degree from the AA comes via the OU.