Property studies gets international colours

04 November 2002
The Department of Construction Economics and Management in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment recently had their undergraduate degree in property studies accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Though the RICS Accreditation Board is still formally to approve the accreditation in January 2003, the Department has been given the green light to publicise the degree as RICS accredited.

According to course co-ordinator Kathy Evans, UCT was the first university in South Africa to launch the undergraduate property studies programme four years ago and is currently the only institution to have the property undergraduate programme accredited by RICS.

“What this means is that any of our students who complete the three year undergraduate programme and the fourth year, which is honours, can work internationally. Because our degree complies with RICS qualification requirements our students are also eligible to register as general practice surveyors abroad,” explained Evans, adding: “The RICS accreditation also means that our degree is equivalent to property degrees done in the United Kingdom.”

The Department has already produced twelve graduates. “We initially started the year with three Honours students but one got snapped up by Investec in Johannesburg and the other could not continue her studies because of financial difficulties,” she elaborated.

The graduates who opted not to continue their studies, found employment in their fields of interest and are working for various merchant banks and blue chip corporations in South Africa and abroad. “One of our graduates, who works at Cape of Good Hope Bank, has made such an impression there that the Bank has offered us a bursary at third year level for a student whom they will select. The bursary will cover the student's expenses for third and fourth year,” enthuses Evans.

She noted that the degree was not the first choice for most of last year's graduates, who transferred from first year quantity surveying, construction management and commerce.

“Because there are a lot of common courses with commerce, construction management and quantity surveying, we have also structured it in such a way that students can pick up the three-year property studies component that they would not have had if they had done first year BComm, and do it over two years.”

There are currently 52 students reading for the degree: 30 in first year, 18 in second year and four in third year. Head of the Department of Construction Economics and Management, Professor Paul Bowen, describes the degree as a BComm with a focus on property. “It's a very commercially-based degree including economics, accounting and law. Through the entire degree, the core component, Property Studies A, B and C, is taught.”

The Property Studies component is taught with a link to construction and building, but not focusing on the technical aspects of those disciplines. The focus is rather on exposing students to estimating, contract documentation, measurement and construction technology.

“It's much lighter on the technology aspects as opposed to quantity surveying and construction economics management. The degree looks at property as a commercial prospect,” noted Bowen.

Because the degree is broad based, graduates are not restricted to one profession or one field of expertise in property management. According to Bowen and Evans this is because of the demand for people with a specialised knowledge of property.

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