Professions 'reeling under onslaught on their status'

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THE professions in Britain are in crisis, reeling in the teeth of an onslaught from all sides of society, a leading academic told a seminar yesterday, writes Ian MacKinnon.

The unquestioning respect and trust that the professions have long-enjoyed are fast dwindling, Harold Perkin, professor of history and higher education at Northwestern University in Chicago, told the Royal Institute of British Architects' conference in London.

Professor Perkin said the professions are the 'fastest growing and most vital' sector of a modern economy, but 'There are just too many of us, and when everyone is somebody then no one is anybody. Professional status cannot be shared without being diminished.'

But the declining status can also be attributed to clients 'no longer willing to take expert opinion as gospel or pay . . . without question'.

Doctors, lawyers and surveyors are sued for malpractice, he said. But architects are criticised for ugly buildings, and even judges are humiliated over unsafe convictions.