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The move, which came into effect from January 1, follows a unanimous vote of SOFAA members in November to negotiate such an agreement and discussions since then with the Institute.

The degree course, which started in 1993, has faced an uncertain future since the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors announced they would cease accreditation in 2008 because some students would not meet their fixed criteria for entry based on exam results.

Many in the profession have unsuccessfully tried to persuade the RICS to change their policy on the basis that mature students without the relevant qualifications can bring equally valuable experience to bear.

Now the SOFAA agreement, which will accredit students already on the course, provides the Institute with an alternative.

Tim Gaskin of the Institute welcomed the vote of confidence from SOFAA: “We look forward to working with the Society on a range of exciting collaborative ventures that will benefit both our students and the profession in general,” he said.

The degree course provides the main academic route for entry into the profession, and SOFAA chairman Chris Ewbank said that the move to accredit it was “in accordance with recent trends towards safeguarding standards through greater co-operation between professional bodies and education providers”.

SOFAA had to revise their Constitution before they could reach the agreement because until now it did not allow for individual members to join the Society. Mr Ewbank explained: “We decided that the only way that we could effectively support education in the profession was to change our Constitution to create a class of individual members whose qualifications from Southampton could then be given our professional recognition.” The Constitution, which had changed little since SOFAA’s foundation in 1975, had to be completely rewritten.

“I am absolutely delighted that the changes have been wholeheartedly approved by our membership and that we are now supporting such a well-established course with a dedicated lecturing staff and a unique library facility and study collection, for the long-term benefit of the whole profession,” Mr Ewbank concluded.

Another important feature of the accreditation is the creation of a route for direct Associate Member entry to the Society based on Southampton Institute’s Distance Learning Course. This will apply to practitioners who are already working in the profession and will provide further international links for the Society.

Further discussions are investigating the creation of a new class of Student membership which will be open to all who are progressing towards Associate membership of the Society.

• There is still just time to sign up for the one-day conference on the future of professional fine arts education and qualifications on January 29 at Chilworth Manor near Romsey in Hampshire. The conference, which will bring together the leading professional bodies, experts and higher education institutions under one roof, provides a unique opportunity to hear the full range of opinion and debate the questions that go to the heart of the issues raised.

For full details of the conference, ring Drummond Read on 0870 241 2660.