May 24, 2023

ACSA Statement on NAAB Proposed Changes to the Conditions for Accreditation

Clarity of Degree Titles Is Important for Future Students

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) recently proposed a change to its Conditions for Accreditation that would remove language in Condition 4.2 Professional Degrees and Curriculum that “NAAB-accredited professional degree programs have the exclusive right to use the B.Arch., M.Arch., and/or D.Arch. titles, which are recognized by the public as accredited degrees and therefore may not be used by non-accredited programs.” NAAB cites legal barriers to sustaining this condition and instead proposes a new condition requiring schools to publish a graphic image, or badge, to communicate a program’s accredited status. (Information on this change and the procedures for providing feedback are available on NAAB’s website.)

ACSA acknowledges that the legal barriers may be legitimate, but we also want to state clearly that there should be consistent use of degree titles. We encourage NAAB to pursue other remedies for resolving conflicts around degree nomenclature. We also encourage our members to review this change and provide feedback to NAAB that considers or adopts our own feedback. The deadline to provide feedback to NAAB is June 1.

The reasons for having consistent titles are grounded in the marketplace for higher education at graduate and undergraduate levels. Students face a range of choices for study, and architecture is a field with so many degree options (both accredited and non-accredited) that understanding the difference requires concentrated effort and research. 

For more than a decade NAAB has tried to channel architecture programs toward using B.Arch, M.Arch, and D.Arch only for accredited degree programs. Most programs have complied and changed their post-professional master’s programs to other titles. Not all have.

If the problem with this change were simply about what students seeking a graduate degree in architecture face, the implications might be considered minimal. At the graduate level, a student is not likely to be admitted to a cognate post-professional master’s program in architecture without having a professional degree. In this case, chances are low that a student will be confused or misunderstand that the degree does not satisfy a widely held licensing requirement, and responsibility falls to the schools to ensure that a mistake is not made.

We ask, however, that our members consider what this change by NAAB means at the undergraduate level. Schools with NAAB-accredited degrees of any kind could title their undergraduate four-year degree a Bachelor of Architecture. Schools without an accredited degree could similarly retitle their pre-professional degree as a Bachelor of Architecture. This would create additional confusion among students who are most vulnerable to misunderstanding their enrollment choices: those at the beginning of their educational journey, first-generation college students, and others from underrepresented backgrounds where experience with and advising for higher education may be low. 

This outcome could also lead to confusion on the part of employers who may not be well-versed in degree nomenclature and its relationship to accredited professional education. 

Architecture is a knowledge-driven profession. We think it is important that degree titles, learning outcomes, and implications for licensure among degrees be clear.