Letter: Surveying's shallow foundations

February 23, 2001

As a member of the Partnerships and Accreditation Board (PAB) of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, I have consistently questioned and opposed three of the four threshold standards adopted for the purpose of selecting academic institutions to partner with the RICS for the delivery of degree courses.

The requirement for 17 points at A level across 75 per cent of the intake, although not a high standard in itself, is contrary to current thinking. It is unlikely to have any real impact on improving the quality of surveying graduates; on the contrary, it will probably weaken courses.

My opposition is compounded by the decision of the PAB to exclude the holders of previous degrees from the analysis, despite the added quality they may bring to the cohort. The board has also excluded foundation courses from scoring in the 75 per cent, counting for nought the additional year of study.

Taken altogether, it severely limits the ability of admission tutors to exercise their skill and judgement in deciding which applicants have the potential to be good students and chartered surveyors.

The PAB is seeking evidence of research activity and has adopted the criterion of a research assessment exercise score of a minimum 2D. While not excessive, it favours the older universities, whereas the post-1992 universities supply most of the surveying graduates. Institutions with a good teaching base and scholarly activities but with few members of staff participating in the RAE, may therefore be discriminated against.

The requirement for 75 per cent of the graduating cohort to enter relevant employment within six months of graduating may be acceptable for mainstream surveying courses but is probably inappropriate for more specialist areas. This is particularly important as the RICS has recently restructured itself into 16 discipline-based faculties and the measure is likely to have a detrimental effect on recruitment for some of the new faculties.

The fourth threshold, relating to teaching quality, is the only one that I support. Instead of setting prescriptive thresholds, the RICS should have concentrated on output qualities from existing courses and the ability of the academic institutions to meet the education and training requirements of the new faculties.

The process has been far too introspective and has failed to look at the performance record of the institutions concerned in producing good surveying graduates. It is a process I am unable to support and, in consequence, I have resigned from the PAB.

Paul Syms Professor of urban land use Centre for the Built Environment Sheffield Hallam University

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