Comparative Analysis: CAA

Comparative Analysis

Commonwealth Association of Architects

What are the mission statement, goals, and objectives of your accreditation agency? Please share a short statement of how objectivity and integrity are assured in your accreditation system.

CAA encourages the general advancement of architecture and architectural education through a system of recognising courses and national/regional validation processes or systems. It does this in order to sustain and raise standards of architectural education across the Commonwealth and to promote the free movement of practising architects, teaching staff and students by facilitating accreditation.

The CAA produces and updates a list of courses which are recommended for recognition by its members. The validation processes is fully described in the document “Qualifications in Architecture Recommended for Recognition by CAA : Procedures and Criteria”. This current document (called the ‘Red Book’) was published in 2000 and builds on several revisions of published standards and objectives since 1971. The 2000 document is currently under refinement revision. The 2000 document is informed by the UIA/UNESCO Charter for Architectural Education 1996.

The validation process establishes a set of characteristics required of schools and validated courses and each course documents its profile against the criteria before a board visits the school.

The board is constituted to provide a balanced representation of the various interests in architectural education and practice, typically two members from the National Institute of Architects, two from the Registration Authority and two from CAA (one ‘in region out-of-country’ and one ‘out-region’). The CAA members are nominated by the Chair of the CAA Validation Panel (this is made up of representatives from member institutes around the world).

To maintain objectivity and integrity the chair of the visiting board is a CAA representative with past experience in boards. This ensures continuity of process and an international perspective. Continuity of knowledge about the course is provided through, typically, two of the National representatives having been on the previous visit.

How do you achieve effectiveness in accreditation without unduly burdening the institution under review (issues of costs, time, and complexity)?

Accreditation is conducted on a five-year cycle of visits and is underpinned by a philosophy of encouraging the school to strive for continuous improvement. This is achieved through the previous visiting board report being provided to the current board members in order for them to identify and comment on changes together with the school providing a critical self-appraisal that focuses school staff on their own strengths and directions.

While preparing for a validation visit takes considerable time and resources, this is considered to be appropriate given the seriousness of the outcome. However by composing the board jointly of representatives from the CAA, the National Institute and the National Registration body the school is relieved of needing to prepare and present to different groups for recognition at different times that collectively could consume even greater time and resources. In some parts of the world the joint process has become known as the JVB or Joint Visiting Board.

How do you respect diversity of culture and mission of institutions under review while maintaining minimum standards for the profession?

CAA considers that it is of prime importance to establish the standards of achievement to be attained and the means of assessment through peer review. Of equal importance is the need to preserve and encourage diversity, innovation and development. The necessary diversity occurs within an increasingly shared problems and challenge. Many of the problems are shared and are of a global nature, for instance: rapid urbanisation; conservation of resources and reduction of pollution; mass-communication; and destruction of the natural environment. CAA is ideally placed with its international networks to help nurture architectural education and practice in response to these challenges.

It is recognised that globally relevant skills and understanding can be learned in the context of locally domain-specific knowledge. The validation process calls for the school to be explicit about its own vision in recognition that different cultures will have different emphasis across the criteria expected of a CAA validate course. The procedure recognises that the initial validation of the architect is a combination of validation of general skills and understanding as well as of specific practice abilities and understanding in the cultural, environmental, economic, industrial and professional context of the School. CAA’s ‘Red Book’ specifically emphasises the objective of the validation of essential competences whilst encouraging variety, diversity and innovation.

How does your agency inform itself about the needs of the profession, worldwide developments in the discipline of accreditation, and developments in education?

With a membership of some 38 National Institutes of Architects and with the CAA management and administration structure involving elected representatives across many Nations from practice and academe, the Association enjoys a rich contribution of perceptions and understanding. Most senior executives and including validation board members are highly experienced, having come from leadership positions within their National professional framework. This ensures a relevant up-to-date and informed environment for debate and policy development.

The executive as well as other committee groups and board members regularly conduct teleconference meetings, and face-to-face meetings are held annually. The President is supported by Vice Presidents who oversee portfolios for Practice, Education and Communication. The term of office is three years when a Council meeting, General Assembly and International Conference are held. Occasional publications on education are produced and education receives focused attention, including workshops, at every conference. CAA also provides sponsorship assistance to support member institutes in conducting conferences, including ones devoted to architectural education. An international student design competition is held every three years.

In addition to the assessment of institutional resources and how they are allocated with respect to the institutional mission, how does your agency assess student performance criteria?

Thoroughness of evaluation is ensured through a practical output-quality oriented process. During a validation visit as well as inspecting physical facilities and equipment the board conducts various meetings with the head, academic staff, general staff, students and the head of the institution. This provides sufficient understanding of resources, leadership and management.

Considerable effort is given by the board in viewing exhibitions of students work and the board reviews in detail examples of individual student work at pass, medium and high standard concurrent with reviewing course outlines, assignment handouts, feedback documents and cohort marking sheets. The focus for validation is overall achievement of threshold competencies across theory and practice. While high standards are encouraged and celebrated the board ensures that minimum standards are achieved.

How are your governance and secretariat functions organized to assure integrity and professionalism in the conduct of their operations?

CAA is involved in the validation of seventy-eight professional level architecture courses across fourteen Nations. The CAA validates National validation systems as well as individual courses.

The CAA Secretariat is hosted by the South African Institute of Architects, with the CEO and charitable trust administration function located in London to satisfy accountability requirements of the Commonwealth Foundation. Annual and tri-annual reports receive the attention of the Executive and Council respectively. The accounting books are audited according to UK law.

Overall the CAA is underpinned by a constitution and is accountable to its constituent membership of National Institutes who contribute to office bearers in an open and transparent manner.

The validation process is overseen by a Chair of considerable experience, nominated by the President and approved by CAA Council. The Chair is assisted by an Executive Committee. This group oversees the appointment of CAA representatives to visiting boards. Board members are made up of nominees from Member Institutes who have experience within their own country. Membership of the Validation Panel is agreed every three years by CAA Council.

What are your mechanisms to insure that expertise and experience in the applications of standards, procedures, and values are present in members of visiting teams, commissions, and staff (please supply and organization chart)?

Key roles of the Chair and Executive of the Validation Panel are to keep procedures under review and to ensure training of every visiting board prior to a visit. To this end a series of guidance presentations for workshops are provided to visiting board chairs and a half-day workshop is conducted generally the day before the planned visit to a school. Prior to a visiting board a briefing teleconference is generally held involving the Chair of the Validation Panel, the CEO, and CAA members of the board.

Another key roll of Chair and Executive of the Validation Panel is to review and approve the draft validation reports before they are released. This ensures consistency and adherence to the policy and criteria.

The Chair and Executive of the Validation Panel are also responsible for reviewing application for validation of validation-systems and for ensuring their on-going quality assurance.

Overall the Chair and Executive of the Validation Panel act as a repository of experience of the system.

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