Building industry beefs about student prejudice

March 27, 1998

BUILDER's bum is not the only damaging stereotype of the construction industry.

A survey of construction students in Leeds has uncovered entrenched prejudice that could be an obstacle to harmonious working relationships on site.

Staff at Leeds Metropolitan University's school of art, architecture and design decided to test undergraduate attitudes after industry representatives complained about poor cooperation between staff.

Architects, construction managers and quantity surveyors find it difficult to muck in with others on a team, and industry sees this as a serious problem.

Principal lecturer Jaki Howes said: "The industry felt that one of the main obstacles to team working was attitude towards other professionals, which they suspected might be engendered by single discipline staff in colleges."

To test the proposition the school asked its students why they had chosen their particular course and their answers conformed to preconceived images of each of the professions. Architects said they wanted to be creative, practical and to improve the lot of mankind. Most construction managers said simply that they were interested in buildings, while quantity surveyors listed money as their motivation.

The conclusion was that professional stereotypes are formed before students arrive at university. While all construction industry students and particularly quantity surveyors arrived in their first year with set opinions, they changed with time.

Asked to judge the other disciplines, the survey found architects were viewed by their student colleagues as the most intelligent and imaginative, construction managers the most practical and realistic, while quantity surveyors were the most logical and methodical.

While architects and construction managers were found to be mildly personable, quantity surveyors were not - except to other quantity surveyors.

Ms Howes said the university planned to run a larger scale survey of students later this year.

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