There is a broad agreement among architects, at least almost, that the current regulations are the bane of architectural education in India. They see existing rules as oppressive, insensitive, unproductive, inflexible, discouraging, and the prime reason for the below-par academic quality. The good news is that many of these are about to change and change radically. Through its recent draft proposals, the Council of Architecture (CoA) has presented unprecedented modifications that will impact the course, content and education delivery. Though compelled by the new education policy, credit CoA for pulling together many of the ideas discussed earlier to NEP and rolling them out together quickly.
The questions now are how the promised changes will convert into reality. Will these proposals be sufficient to bring in a breath of fresh air and fulfil the hope for better quality? Before we answer these questions, first, a summary of CoA proposals and how they may play out.
The programme structures would be modified as follows
- The five-year-long Under Graduate (UG) education would no more be the first professional degree. Post Graduate (UG) degree would be. The Shortened UG programmes can either be 3-year or 4-year while PG programmes could be 1-year or 2-year. Students can exit at multiple levels, and there is already a provision for multiple entries.
- The licensing exam will be mandatory for practice: Architects wishing to practice must take an examination to register and obtain a license. Two years of professional experience will be mandatory before appearing for the exams. As a result, the journey between education and practice will be in three parts: either a 3+2+2 or a 4+1+2 track, which is something similar to the UK model of Part I, Part II and Part III
- Workload and credit structure: Architecture education has been infamous for its unreasonable workload. Now a workable restructuring has been envisaged to reduce it. This will hopefully create space and time for students to explore different paths and pursue wholesome development. From now on, students need about 120 to 132 credits for undergraduate and 80 to 88 for graduate degrees. Courses covering four streams – design development, technology stream, knowledge stream and Skill development – will constitute the core credits and will be tied to graduate attributes and education framework. Accreditation will become mandatory.
- Ph. D programme: Candidates with sufficient research credits can apply for the Ph D programme after post-graduation. And those who do not have them will complete coursework before continuing with a doctoral program.
- Role of CoA: As a professional standard-setting body, CoA will examine professional registration. It would provide inputs and parameters for an accreditation-based system implemented by the national council.
CoA must first amend the Architects Act to implement changes. Currently, the undergraduate degree is the qualifying degree to practice, which must be changed to PG for registration. It also has to define the professional standards to help define the professional and research streams. Third, a transition plan must be worked out, probably spread over a year, so that the colleges make the necessary changes.
If one factor in the Act amendment and transition period, we can expect 2024 as the reform rollout year. Fourth, a clear framework to help institutions recruit professional and research stream faculty without disparity is needed. Other related systems must also be in place, such as licensing exams and credit transfers.
Though critical, these reforms are not silver bullets but only part of solutions. Education faces three challenges: institutional, financial and regulatory, and each is tangled with the other. They cannot be dealt with sequentially, incrementally and certainly not deferred.A. Srivathsan
Institutions have become rigid and bureaucratic, less inventive and often deny space for innovation. If they have been blaming the restrictive regulations for the current state, now, with the changes, they will have no excuses. Will they make good use of the modifications and create inspiring learning environments? Finding quality teachers is yet a challenge which CoA partially address. They propose that premiere institutions get into mentoring agreements and help needy ones. In theory, this is a good enabling arrangement, but experiences thus far show that not all institutions are invested. Disappointingly some continue with convenient mediocrity.
Economics is the proverbial elephant in the room. Institutions are plagued with unreasonable caps on fees, poor pay, lack of resource planning, prioritising short-term gains, and poor investment in infrastructure. Today without an average strength of 750 students and an annual fee of Rs. 3 lakhs, it isn’t possible to offer quality education. Because of state regulations, not all colleges can charge such a fee, pushing them to cut corners and adopt unethical measures.A. Srivathsan
It also impacts faculty pay, capacity building and amenities development. Judiciously managing fees, increasing revenue and innovative financial practices are needed. Such measures have become urgent without any possible state support and no sight of corpus funds from philanthropic or business organisations. There is no argument that institutional changes are imperative, but that does not absolve the profession of its responsibilities. Firms make depressing offers for fresh graduates. They often pay below Rs 20,000 a month, making architecture one of the country’s poorly paid professions. Career growth within organisations is not promising either.
ArchitectureLive! asked Srivathsan, if through these proposed reforms CoA would lose its autonomy and be reduced to a registering authority.
CoA will neither disappear nor will be irrelevant to education. It will continue to influence by setting up professional expectations and by defining the professional credits students must meet to take the licensing exam. The periodic renewal of the professional license will follow- architects will have to undergo continuing education for that. CoA may focus on either providing, mandating or monitoring continuing professional education. It will also stay in the picture by working out parameters for accreditation and joining NAC, becoming the agency for National Testing Council for admission exams, and administering national mentorship programme for institutes.
The views present in the article are solely that of the author.