Why does MRPQ matter to architects?
Mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRPQ) allows European architects to practice outside their own country without taking additional exams or professional training. It has enabled British architects to work overseas without having to re-qualify locally, and it has supported architects from the rest of Europe to bring their skills and talents to the UK to benefit British practices and develop their experience.
Ensuring that this system, which has been essential for British practices to compete internationally for the very best staff and hugely enriched British architecture, continues after Brexit is a top priority for the RIBA and our members, who tell us that the benefits they have seen from being able to easily employ talented architects who have trained in Europe are enormous – both for them and for the architects themselves.
“Over the last 10 years,” said one practice with offices across the UK, “we have employed young architects and students from a number of EU countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. Most of them are still in the UK but many have since returned to their home country to practice with the benefit of the experience they gained here.”
“Coming to the UK,” the same practice said, “has helped young architects get work when, for example, there hasn’t been sufficient work in their home countries due to recession,” underlining the benefits for individual architects of professional mobility across the European labour market.
John McRae, Director at Orms Architects in London, explained how MRPQ has not only helped the practice recruit talented people and fill skills gaps – around 40% of Orms’ 75 staff come from elsewhere in Europe – but has helped them build mutually beneficial professional relationships that can last beyond someone’s time working with the practice.
“We often continue to work with EU-national employees who have since left the practice, as consultants,” explained John. “It’s not uncommon for European clients to want UK expertise for a project (as a UK qualification has cachet) combined with local experience. This approach enabled Orms to win and deliver contracts for health clubs in across Germany, including Cologne, Berlin and Dusseldorf, where used two German architects that had previously worked for Orms as local consultants. Having those pre-existing relationships helped us bring in work we might not otherwise have got.”
John was also keen to point out the benefits of professional mobility in Europe for sharing skills and best practice: “Orms has a keen interest in the role of technology in architecture. The latest developments in additive manufacturing are happening in Spain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. There’s a real risk that the UK falls behind the rest of Europe if the close links we enjoy now, including MRPQ, aren’t maintained.”
While the majority of the over 8,000 European architects living and working in the UK are based in London, MRPQ has also enabled practices across the country to benefit from the ability to employ talented staff from outside the UK. Tomas Millar of Millar + Howard Workshop, a small practice of 10 people based in Stroud in the Cotswolds, told us that MRPQ has been essential for the practice to find talented staff.
“We have employed four architectural staff from the EU in the last three years,” Tomas explained. “Having mutual recognition of professional qualifications gives us the confidence to employ these candidates in the first place. Critically, it also gives us the confidence that they will be able to continue their professional learning with us. Most of our employees start working for us before they achieve their Part 3 qualifications – them being able to complete these qualifications whilst working at Millar + Howard Workshop is mutually beneficial.”
The benefits for the practice have been significant: “Being based in a rural setting,” Tomas said, “it can sometimes be difficult to recruit high quality candidates when we need them, as people often have to relocate. When we have vacancies, we get a high proportion of candidates applying from the EU – perhaps because they primarily want to get experience working in the UK and are less concerned about exactly where than a UK architect might be. Especially for senior architects, recruitment can be a struggle – being able to consider candidates from the EU dramatically increases the number of people we can consider for these jobs.”
MRPQ has also been a vital enabler for practices doing business elsewhere in the EU – as Benedict Zucchi, Principal at BDP London, told the RIBA: “At the moment we are leading the design of Ireland’s largest hospital (now under construction in Dublin). This is a collaboration with our long-established Dublin studio but most of the work has been carried out by London-based architects.”
“Ease of movement between the studios,” he explained, “facilitated by MRPQ, has been an important factor. We have had to cross-register one of our senior architects so that he can perform the role of Design Certifier, which requires membership of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland. This would not be possible without MRPQ.”
For BDP, the benefits of MRPQ – and the risks of losing it post-Brexit, are clear: “We have a studio in Rotterdam and ambitions to open in Paris, so maximum integration with the EU is very important as a source of future work. Loss of MRPQ could have a very serious impact on BDP.”
You can read more about the RIBA’s work on mutual recognition of qualifications and the steps we are taking to secure a Brexit deal that works for UK architecture.