RIBA Studio for students working in architectural practice

A unique and flexible route to qualification for the the RIBA Certificate in Architecture (Part 1) or the RIBA Diploma in Architecture (Part 2) only for people working full-time under the supervision of an architect in the European Economic Area (EEA), Isle of Man, Channel Islands or Switzerland.


The RIBA Studio provides the means to achieve internationally recognised qualifications: the RIBA Certificate (Part 1) and the RIBA Diploma (Part 2). The route to qualification was originally established by the RIBA in 1863, but was re-established in its present form by the RIBA in 1988.

The RIBA studio is governed by the provisions of Article 47 of the EU Professional Qualifications Directive which provides for the recognition of architectural training which lies outside of conventional patterns of full-time university level education combined with periods in practice.Applicants must have a minimum of three years’ experience in architectural practice to join the examination at RIBA Certificate (Part 1); or 3 years post-Part 1 experience to join the RIBA Diploma (Part 2) stage (as well as having completed a recognised Part 1 qualification).

The RIBA Studio provides an alternative route to qualification for those who prefer to invest their personal development in practice.

What is the difference between the RIBA Studio and a degree?

The important difference between this course and programmes of study in universities, is that students are required to be employed and remain working full-time** in the field of architecture under the supervision of an architect, for the duration of the course. Students are required to be mentored by an experienced architect who is registered where the student's place of work is based, and who has responsibility for the regular supervision and professional development of the student. Examples of workplace types include:

  • architects practices,
  • an architects' section of a multi-disciplinary practice,
  • local authorities.

** Full-time employment is deemed to be met by working at least 1,250 hours per annum.

Since 2002, in partnership with the RIBA, the courses have been delivered by the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University. The courses are governed by the same criteria which apply across the UK to the recognition of architectural qualifications at Part 1 and Part 2 and leads to the award of the RIBA Certificate in Architecture and the RIBA Diploma in Architecture. Description and details of the current validation criteria can be found by clicking here:

Students who qualify through this route, are then eligible to take the UK Part 3 which leads to:

  • Full chartered membership of the RIBA.
  • Recognition by the Architects' Registration Board (ARB) for UK architects' registration.
  • Recognition throughout Europe under the European Union (EU) Professional Qualifications Directive.

Route to Qualification

Most of the students who choose this route to qualification are either working at high levels within practice with substantial responsibility and therefore cannot be released for part-time study, or find there is no suitable part-time programme of study in their geographical area. The course is therefore based on the concept of learning through practice, but the objective is to provide opportunity for students to place their experience and personal development in the context of the validation criteria at Part 1 and Part 2 level.

The methodology relies upon the development of a 'personal portfolio' together with parallel portfolio evidence of development through practice. The RIBA Studio demands that students engage in critical studies in relation to design, technology, cultural context and professional contexts. These subjects are examined formally through written examinations, essays and coursework submissions and through traditional graphic and oral design presentations. There is also review of students' ongoing professional development through practice. The RIBA Studio therefore offers students the opportunity to develop their own critical and creative skills whilst continuing to work full-time.

In order to support this process, students are required to identify a qualified architect within their place of employment who will act as an office mentor during their preparation for, and during their time on the course, and they are also required to appoint a personal tutor who is completely independent of the student's workplace. The course operates through the exchange of an individual 'learning contract' through which students identify elements of the course to be taken each year. Although there are prescribed time-limits for completion of phases of the course, the RIBA Studio route aligns with the concept of 'life-long learning', providing a flexible route to qualification, allowing for candidates to withdraw from study, as necessary, without penalty.

The course syllabus that is followed by practice-based students sets the same learning outcomes and standards as those expected of students in schools of architecture. These correspond with the European Commission's Architects Directive (1985) as set out in the ARB/RIBA Criteria for Validation (2003), to which the learning outcomes and criteria for assessment of each part of the course have been matched. All assessment criteria for the RIBA Studio are based on the current RIBA Validation Criteria, which apply to this programme.

What is meant by practice-based study?

The RIBA Studio is a unique system in which formally assessed academic work is supported by learning through experience in the student's place of employment, with the sequence mirroring the development and realisation of design projects in architectural practice. All students are required to have substantial experience in practice before they register, and to remain in full-time supervised architectural employment throughout their studies. Students' development is supported and guided by two vital elements.

Students' Offices and Office Mentors

Individual study for the RIBA Studio must be supported by the day-to-day learning and experience of architectural practice.

Any period of employment of less than 3 months will not be recognised. Any interval between employment exceeding 3 months in any one year may lead to the student being suspended from the course until new employment is secured.

Students are also required to keep a Professional Experience Diary throughout their period of study on the course.

Personal Tutors

Personal tutors are appointed by students for the duration of the course and must be completely independent of the students' office. Students are advised to seek a personal tutor who has substantial architectural design teaching experience within Higher Education, and not retired more than 5 years. Students may also be assisted by other tutors who need not necessarily comply with these criteria.

The personal tutors' function is to assist students across the whole range of work required for the RIBA Studio. This should focus on developing their understanding of architectural design and practice; to apply this to the production of a portfolio of personal design work that expands their design horizons and skills beyond their immediate office experience; and to tutor them on their design projects and, if appropriate, their Case Study or Dissertation. Personal tutors are welcome to accompany their students to the Annual Induction when they may meet other students and tutors, and members of the programme team, in order to exchange their experiences. Tutors are also welcome to attend Portfolio Reviews, and Interim and Final Design Assessments as observers.

When is practice-based study an option?

Practice-based study is an option for anyone who meets the academic and practice-based entry requirements, who can demonstrate personal suitability for independent study and who is unable to attend a full-time or part-time course in a school of architecture – possibly due to financial, professional or personal circumstances, or through geographical remoteness.

This route should be considered carefully. Applicants who believe this to be a quick and easy way to qualify are likely to be ill-prepared for the degree of commitment required. Although time and costs are similar to those of a part-time taught course, the essential difference between the RIBA Studio and a taught course needs to be fully understood.

This is a course of self-preparation, which means that students are required to provide themselves with their own architectural education, with the assistance of their personal tutor and office mentor. This means that the time spent in studying the subject, especially in personally experiencing notable contemporary architecture and developing a critical view of it and of architecture as a whole, is as important, if not more so, than the time spent in doing the work for the course.

Because the RIBA Studio is offered as an alternative route to qualification for those unable to benefit from full-time or part-time courses, it is operated flexibly, within prescribed limits, in order to accommodate fluctuations in students' circumstances. This is managed through a system of annual learning contracts and formal deferrals.

Practice Experience Entry Requirements

In addition to the requirements concerning employment, the support of an office mentor, and the appointment of a personal tutor, the following minimum requirements must also be met:

The RIBA Certificate in Architecture (Part 1)

A minimum of 3 years' practical experience and similar educational qualifications to those required by schools of architecture (see below). Graduates from related construction industry disciplines are eligible to apply for entry to the RIBA Certificate if they have also gained a minimum of 3 years' certified working experience in architectural practice. Graduates with degrees in non-construction industry subjects are required to provide evidence of 3 years' certified post-graduate experience in an architect's office to enter the RIBA Certificate.

The RIBA Diploma in Architecture (Part 2)

​A minimum of 3 years' certified practical experience after gaining the Part 1 qualification in architecture at a school of architecture ​prescribed by the ARB,​ ​​or validated by the RIBA, or through the ARB Prescribed Examination​ at Part 1. The 3 years of certified practical experience may be reduced, at the discretion of the Panel of Interviewers, if practical experience was acquired while gaining the Part 1 qualification through a part-time course at a recognised school of architecture, or through Part 1 of the RIBA Studio.

Students who will have reached the minimum practical experience by the start of the course's year in March may be considered for interview in the previous year. They will need to demonstrate that they are sufficiently established and supported by their employers to have the potential to succeed through this route.

Registering as an Architecture

Applicants should be aware that in order to register as an architect in the UK, they will typically need to hold all of the following:

  • An ARB-prescribed Part 1 qualification
  • An ARB-prescribed Part 2 qualification
  • 24 months practical experience, which comply with Rule 13B of ARB's General Rules; and
  • An ARB-prescribed Part 3 qualification

However, as requirements for registration vary across different member states, students looking to register in EU member states, must firstly satisfy themselves that their proposed combination of qualifications will entitle them to seek registration or establishment as an architect in the member state(s) where they intend to practice. This query should be addressed with the competent authority concerned.

Open Sessions

There are usually three open sessions held in the spring when prospective students may talk to members of the programme team and find out if this route to qualification meets their needs. These days are advertised on this webpage.

Entry: Admission

Admission Procedure

Admission to the Programme comprises three stages:

    Stage 1
  • An application form for prospective student is downloadable from www.architecture.brookes.ac.uk/obe/part1-2.html. This form should be completed and returned as requested.
  • Stage 2
  • Subject to meeting the eligibility requirements, a second stage application form and extract from the Guide, Syllabus and Regulations will be sent out. On completion, this form should be submitted as requested.
  • Stage 3
  • Short-listed applicants will be invited to attend an interview, and this should be regarded as having the status of an entrance examination.

Applicants are required to submit the following:

Evidence of the minimum academic requirements

Certified evidence of the required amount of office experience

Part 1

  • 3 O-level/GCSE passes including English Language and Mathematics;
  • 2 A-level passes or equivalent qualifications, e.g. HNC
3 years

Part 2

A Part 1 qualification prescribed by the ARB, or validated by the RIBA (depending on the member states' requirements for registration)​

ARB Prescribed Examination at Part 1.
3 years post Part 1, or possibly less if practical experience was gained by taking a Part 1 course part-time, or by passing the RIBA Certificate in Architecture

In addition, all applicants must supply:

  • A written statement of support from the applicant's current employer.
  • A written statement of 200-300 words explaining the applicant's suitability for office-based study, and the reasons for choosing to apply.
  • If called to interview, digital and hard copies of the following may be required:

  • A portfolio of personal work that includes a sketchbook, original sketches, photographs, projects, and a range of work carried out by the applicant in practice. Applicants for Part 2 should also include their final Part 1 project.
  • Examples of current work in practice that demonstrates the applicant's contribution to project work and current level of experience.
  • Written studies and reports: for example essays or a dissertation written as part of previous coursework, or practice-related planning reports for which the applicant had sole responsibility.
  • Evidence of qualifications: original certificates.
  • Final Part 1 design project (applies to RIBA Diploma applicants only).

Applicants whose first language is not English

Applicants whose first language is not English may need to provide evidence that their English language skills are at a high enough level to succeed in their studies by providing one of the following: A-level English, an IELTS score of 6.5+ including a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or an UCLES Certificate of Proficiency in English at Grade B or above. This also includes those applicants who may have a degree from the UK.

RIBA Studio Registration

The course run from March until February each year, as distinct from the traditional academic year of September to May. All students are expected to register in the January following interview and acceptance. Places may be held for one year only, after which time students may be asked to reapply and attend for further interview.


Annual Registration Fee

The annual registration fee is charged each academic year the student is on the course and is irrespective of the number of assignments chosen to be completed by the student. Annual registration fees are non-returnable nor may they be transferred to another academic year. The fee for 2018-19 will be £2,468.55.

Suspended Studies Fee

A nominal fee is charged to students who are unable to undertake any assignments during the year but who wish to remain registered on the RIBA Studio.

Personal Tutors' Fees

Students are advised to enter into a professional agreement with their personal tutor. As a general guidance, we recommend students pay their tutors an hourly rate of £45. It is expected that students would meet their tutors about twice a month.


All written and design examinations take place in Oxford, so travel expenses need to be considered.

Overnight Accommodation

Students may wish to book overnight accommodation prior to assessment days. There are a number of local options.

The Induction Session and Awards Ceremony are held at the RIBA in London.

Study Leave

Normally, students will not be expected to travel to Oxford or London more than five days each year. Whilst it is a matter for negotiation between students and their offices, it is expected that study leave would be granted without affecting annual leave.