Review of the NSCA Project – Progress update as at mid November 2020

Stage 4 of the Review is progressing well and is close to completion. The Expert Reference Group (ERG) continues to guide the direction of the review, whilst further expertise from outside of the AACA is engaged to inform the detailed re-drafting. The process has been iterative, with continual reference back to the ERG’s early agreed direction and the key themes from the first round of feedback on the Issues Paper.

Inputs and considerations during this current stage of work have included:

  • A review of the regulatory and legislative framework impacting federally and all states and territories
  • A review of the terminology and analysis of the material differences in content in relation to stages of architectural services and key industry reference documents
  • Consultation with subject matter experts familiar with all of the AACA assessment programs
  • Consultation with nominees from AIA’s First Nation’s Advisory Group
  • Consultation with nominees from AIA’s Climate Action Taskforce Advisory Group
  • Editorial review for consistency.

The Issues Paper released in June 2020 noted five key recommendations. All Recommendations received general support from the majority of submissions received (many submissions noting that support was dependent on seeing the final details of the proposed changes). An update on plans to address those recommendations is noted in the table below.

Recommendations noted in the Issues Paper, 1 June 2020

Current plans to progress these recommendations in the revised NSCA

Recommendation 1. Conceive the NSCA as a Framework of Professional Competency viewed through specified Professional Capabilities.

This recommendation continues to be progressed. The structure and coverage of the Professional Capabilities influence the re-worded Performance Criteria. The Professional Capabilities are being developed in a manner that will allow their inclusion in all AACA Assessment Programs.

Recommendation 2. Retain four units of competency with a refocus on the architect’s primary responsibilities in design and in design project delivery.

This recommendation continues to be progressed, with a focus on grouping the Performance Criteria specific to each area of focus within the units.

Recommendation 3. Revise Performance Criteria to reduce repetition – focussing less on the linear project phases and more on the core component of professional obligations of the architect in relation to design services to clients; acknowledging that the functional aspects of these obligations may apply differently across projects depending upon the project type, scale and context of risk and liabilities.

This recommendation continues to be progressed though the extent of the level of reduction in the number of Performance Criteria.

Recommendation 4. Remove Elements, the current subgrouping of Performance Criteria under the four units of competency, in order to reduce linearity and repetition in the NSCA


Recommendation 5. Review language and organisation of the Performance Criteria in order to improve user understanding of how Performance Criteria are applied at differing levels across the contexts of the competency profiles of the Architectural Graduate, the Architectural Graduate at Registration and the Registered Architect.

This recommendation continues to be progressed. Performance Criteria linked to the Architectural Graduate and the Architectural Graduate at Registration will underpin the basis of AACA Assessment Programs. Use of the Performance Criteria linked to the Profile of the Architect post registration may be used to inform Boards’ regulatory functions.  


The Project Timeframes have been reviewed. The current Stage has been extended to support the broad consultation that has occurred, as well as the iterative process of review and refinement.

Work is underway to commence the next stage in early December, with the release of the revised draft of the Standard and the draft implementation strategy. The consultation stage will remain open until the end of February.

All important details, including the revised project timeframes, can be found on the 2020 Review of the NSCA webpage here.

2020 Christmas Closure Notice

The AACA office will be closed over the holiday period from COB Tuesday 22 December 2020 and re-open on Monday 11 January 2021. If there are any enquiries during this time please email [email protected] and you will receive a response shortly after the office resumes.

Applications for National Program of Assessment 2021 open on 7 December 2020

The National Program of Assessment provides an alternative entry to the Architectural Practice Examination for practitioners who have not completed an accredited architectural qualification.

The National Program of Assessment is recognised by all Australian Architect Registration Boards as an alternate entry to the Architectural Practice Examination, successful completion of which is required prior to applying for registration as an architect.

The National Program of Assessment is a design exercise that tests candidates’ competency in architecture on the basis of their acquired knowledge and experience. The focus of the design exercise is to design a complex building in response to a hypothetical design brief.  See here for information about the program, including assessors and past applicant talking about the program.  

Timetable for the program is here. Applications for Stage 1 Eligibility open on 7 December 2020 and close on 1 March 2021.  

ACA Pulse Check #4

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) has conducted a series of surveys since  March 2020 to check the effect of COVID-19 on architecture business.

ACA launched the final pulse check for the year (Pulse Check 4). This time in addition to the existing data they are collecting to enable a longitudinal knowledge base from the previous pulse checks a focus on the Federal Budget is included as part of this survey.

The information collected by the ACA has been shared across the profession. Please complete Pulse Check 4 by close of business Friday 16 October 2020.

Leadership changes ahead for the AACA

Kate Doyle will step down as CEO in March 2021 after six years in the role. Prior to her role as CEO for the AACA Kate spent ten years as the Registrar for the NSW Architects Registration Board.

Under Kate’s leadership, all assessment programs on the path to registration have been reviewed and updated in line with best practice; agreements to facilitate professional mobility of architects between Australia and Canada and Australia and the USA have been developed, and similar agreements with the UK are also being negotiated.

AACA’s position as a key influencer in the profession has been strengthened. Over the last few years AACA has published a range of research and reports about the architectural profession that are recognised as primary sources by industry stakeholders – including  Architectural Education and the Profession (2019), the first research project in this space involving all industry stakeholders.

Kate is stepping down in March 2021 at the completion of the review of the National Standard of Competency for Architects, a critical project as the Standard is the benchmark for registration as an architect in Australia.  

“Kate has led enormous changes in the AACA over the past six years”, says Catherine Townsend, AACA President. “The AACA has become more relevant and Kate leaves the AACA in a respected position at this critical time of focus on regulation in the construction industry. On behalf of the Board I thank Kate for her outstanding leadership and unfailing professionalism.

The AACA has commenced a recruitment campaign for the new CEO working with Six Degrees Executive. Contact Nick Hindhaugh E. [email protected]

Catherine Townsend, President AACA

13 October 2020

Report for the August 2020 APE National Examination Paper

AACA has published the public report for the August 2020 APE National Examination Paper. 

The report explains how the Examination is developed.  Separately, you can see a national summary of how candidates performed in each scenario by questions and relevant performance criteria in the August 2020 National Examination Paper. 


October 2020

Review of the NSCA Project – Progress update as at end September 2020

Stage 3 of the review of the National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) concluded at the end of July. This stage sought input from Stakeholders on an Issues Paper that described the background, issues and recommendations for change within the Standard. The majority of stakeholder feedback:

  • Supported the issues identified in the Paper as being appropriate to form the basis of further changes to the NSCA
  • Supported the recommendations for change to the NSCA identified in the Paper, based on the assumption that the changes would address the issues identified in the Issues Paper.

Some themes identified in the stakeholder feedback included:

  • Some stakeholders emphasised the need to ensure changes to social and ethical matters are appropriate and meaningful in how they are approached and measured (or tested) within the standard
  • Whilst design is essentially at the heart of the profession, some stakeholders were concerned about a diminished role for other professional responsibilities, including project management.
  • Some stakeholders indicated a desire to increase the recognition of the importance of technology to the profession, and incorporation of related language
  • Some stakeholders indicated a desire to see the Review influence changes to the content in accredited qualifications.

Stage 4 of the review is progressing well. This stage involves:

  • Option analysis
  • Drafting of detailed revisions to the Standard
  • Development of an implementation strategy for the revised Standard across AACA programs

The Expert Reference Group continues to guide the direction of the review work, whilst further expertise from outside of the AACA is engaged to inform the detailed re-drafting of the Standard.  Stage 4 work continues based on the Expert Reference Group’s earlier agreement that the essential components of the current NSCA are sound but recognises the need to reframe the NSCA so that it:

  • reflects the knowledge, skills and competencies required of architects now and into the immediate future;
  • reframes architectural services away from the traditional linear framework of services described in accordance with traditional modes of delivering architectural projects to one with a clearer focus on the architects’ design responsibilities to clients and society;
  • is acknowledged as the basis for a proportionate, effective regulatory model which ensures that only competent architects are eligible to join and remain on the Architect Registers in order to provide assurance and confidence to the public about the expected professional standard of architects in Australia;
  • is flexible enough to reflect core competencies applied across varied competency profiles; and
  • reflects an explicit ethical focus – particularly around societal obligations of architects with respect to climate change and acknowledgement of the of integrating indigenous perspectives in the design process, and cultural diversity more broadly.

To support the broad consultation that has occurred, as well as the iterative process of review and refinement, the Project Timeframes continue to be reviewed and adjusted, with the current stage of work being extended to early November. This will result in the follow-on final consultation stage (Stage 5) commencing from mid November and extending into late January.

All important details, including updates on progress, can be found on the 2020 Review of the NSCA webpage here.

Survey: Work and Wellbeing – Australian architecture and the COVIOD-19 pandemic

Help us understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of Australian architecture and the built environment. 

This survey is a collaboration between Parlour, the Architects Champions of Change groups and the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia. We need your help to identify significant changes in work arrangements and circumstances, to explore which new aspects are valued, and to understand what people would like to take forward into the workplaces of the future. Please complete the survey and encourage those in your network to do the same.


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