A few weeks ago I lamented the low profile of higher education for the built environment (Blog, 29.03.11).  It’s easy to feel paranoid about this sort of thing – perhaps all academic disciplines feel they are under-regarded.  And yet!  Writing in Times Higher Education (12.05.11) Matt Robb notes that in many universities work is focussed around five major subject areas:  business, IT, design, teacher training and nursing  (Certainly, in my experience, that is pretty much true of many of the former polytechnics.)  These courses, he suggests, generate large student numbers and financial surpluses.  By definition, the remainder is fragmented, marginal and (in the present financial climate) at risk.  The need, I believe, is for the built environment disciplines to coalesce, market themselves effectively, and create demonstrable economies of scale.  We are a significant part of the higher education market – and we jolly well need to be if we are to generate the professional skills needed to tackle environmental challenges.  But we have never been seen as as a big battalion – or, to mix the military metaphor, we are constantly beneath the radar. The only BE discipline that has any real public profile is architecture; it is supported by high student demand, but other market indicators (graduate jobs and salaries) are less impressive than those in fields such as construction management and surveying.  In the present funding climate, architecture has as much to gain (in terms of its own security)  as other BE disciplines from the creation of a built environment power-base in higher education.  Built environment academics really shouldn’t be replicating the narrow sectarianism of the Victorian professions – especially when doing so might lead to extinction.




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2 Responses to BENEATH THE RADAR?

  1. Tony Burke says:

    Hello, John

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and always find your posts pertinent and insightful.

    This post really struck a chord with me, because I gave a presentation at a symposium at the University of Westminster just yesterday (20 May) in which I highlighted the fragmented nature of the construction professions and the impact this has on higher education. Details can be seen here:

    In response to a question I suggested that the only way in which the universities could seize the initiative is for them to act together and to challenge the defensive stance of the various professional bodies. There was significant support for this from both academics and industry and it could lead to something in the near future. I’d be interested in your views.

  2. JOHN BALE says:

    Hi Tony – Good to see your comment. I worked at Westminster for a time – when it was PCL! I think what you describe as the defensive stance of professional bodies arises from insecurity – a fear of losing their identity. The need is to preserve distinct professional identities, while recognising shared needs and goals. A bit like the EU, and just as difficult!

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