Thursday, October 12, 2017

MSc Project Management in the Built Environment: 10 years

Esra (left) introducing the module to the distance-learning students on the MSc PMBE...the full-timers joined later

The MSc Project Management in the Built Environment is now 10 years old! Esra Kurul introduced the 10th run of her module, People, Leadership and Organisations, at the first of the MSc Study Weeks for 2017-18 yesterday. The MSc Study Weeks bring together the distance-learning and full-time postgraduate construction students for two weeks each academic year and this year, the introductory sessions took place in Oxford Town Hall. I went along to take some photos and was interested to hear the students introduce themselves...so many different backgrounds and from so many different areas of the world. To mark the 10th anniversary of the MSc PMBE, here are two profiles showing the diverse background of our students...

Mirona Tomala (MSc PMBE as a full-time student) and Arran Peters (MSc PMBE as a distance-learning student) both entered the JCT Student Competition this year. Mirona's essay entitled 'Confessions of a female conversion MSc student: an essay addressing the factors contributing to skills shortage in the UK construction industry, focusing on the poor industry awareness and draconian expectations' was chosen by the panel of construction industry judges as the overall winner and Arran's essay 'Brick Laying in Brogues: how Project Managers can increase their on-site construction knowledge to better manage skilled labour shortages' was selected as a runner-up. And now for their profiles:

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Project Management?

Mirona: You could say my background is quite varied. My undergraduate degree was in Modern Languages, followed by a graduate job in an electrical wholesaler as an inventory controller. A career in construction never crossed my mind before my graduate job, due to a limited access to information about the roles. It was during that graduate job, that I became more aware of the industry, the roles available and the skills shortage, all which led me to applying for this Project Management course.

Arran: I read Design and Management at the University of Leeds for my undergraduate knowing that I really enjoyed managing a programme concluding in a well designed final product. I spent a year after graduation as a graduate for Whitbread Plc in the Property Team where spending time with project managers who were monitoring the expansion of the Whitbread estate exposed to me to what seemed a really challenging but rewarding career path, managing the completion of new buildings. As a RICS discipline allowing me to build upon my undergraduate study, I knew from then that I wanted to go into Project Management. After my year with Whitbread, I joined a Project Management consultancy, consulting back to Whitbread as EPMs, EAs and QSs.

Why did you choose the MSc PMBE at Brookes?

Mirona: Oxford Brookes University seemed like an obvious choice, given Oxford's incredible architecture and the university's commendable reputation. The School of the Built Environment is also highly regarded within the industry, as a result of great quality of teaching and a track record of high calibre graduates. I wanted to make the best possible start to my career, and I believed a degree from Oxford Brookes would be able to offer that.

Arran: My undergraduate studies were not RICS accredited, so naturally I had to secure an accredited MSc to progress through the RICS APC in Project Management which I decided to do when I finished my year with Whitbread . I wanted to apply to a university ranked highly for RICS accredited postgraduate study which offered flexible part-time study around a busy full-time work schedule consulting back to Whitbread. The PMBE course itself covered things I was already working on and knew I'd continue to work on. It also covered things I wasn't being exposed to but wanted and needed to learn about in order to take them on further into my career.

What was it like when you arrived and started the course?

Mirona: When I first arrived and started the course,I felt both excited and apprehensive. I was aware that the course was going to be a steep learning curve, but I soon learnt that many of my peers were in the same position and everyone was friendly and helpful.

Arran: It was good to sit down in the first instance with other students in very similar but also completely different positions to mine from the start. You can really appreciate how management technics and styles which are at the core of Project Management are best learnt through sharing the different approaches of others. There's a certain type of analytical thinking and concise presenting needed when putting together postgraduate level work, which I enjoyed getting back into; it's more applicable to think and communicate in academic ways to the working world, than you would ever think.

What have been the highlights? And the most challenging bits?

Mirona: I believe the highlights were definitely the social and networking opportunities, such as presentations, site visits, intensive weeks and the trip to the Netherlands. All of these allowed me to make invaluable connections with both the industry professionals and my peers. The most challenging part was definitely the work load in the spring semester. It takes a lot of time management and organisational skills, and I would recommend starting all coursework as soon as its set, otherwise it can soon pile up.

Arran: Two things stand out as highlights for me; one was the school wide trip to Amsterdam and the other was study on the Project Planning, Control and Risk module. The trip was highly enjoyable, with a real diverse mix of other students, some of whom became really good friends during the trip. The mentioned module was my favourite because it allowed me to build on my strengths but also take on things I'd not worked on previously. I put together development appraisals and upgraded my floor plan drawing skills which I've since been able to put into my work elsewhere. There's no doubt that the main challenge for me was the final Managing Technologies for Sustainable Environments module where there was quite a large work load required over several weeks which at times clashed with my employment commitments.

Bearing in mind your experience, what advice would you give to someone starting the course?

Mirona: I would definitely recommend arranging work experience as soon as possible, since many graduate schemes close in December/ January. If you can do any during the summer before you start university, that's great. If you're a distance learner, feel free to do it over your summer holidays after your first year. The key to this is forward planning and lots of networking!

Arran: Only take on studying Project Management and choosing it as your career path if you can project manage your own life and its activities. That may sound cliché, but I had to project manage and gantt chart my own work obligations and timetable, in partnership with my MSc requirements and critical path dates for submissions, alongside the other areas of my life. One will struggle to balance study requirements with other areas of their life if they don't plan and manage things properly.

Which subject area did you focus on for your dissertation and why?

Mirona: Quite early on in the year I realised that BIM and technology are pivotal topics in the industry, and have the potential to significantly improve it. For that particular reason I decided to focus my research on the adoption of emerging technology, such as augmented and virtual reality, in construction.

Arran: 'Can the use of project management consultancy support the UK requirement to build new homes quickly?' - I wanted to focus on how of all the areas being continually explored to provide new homes quickly in the UK, there doesn't seem to be any emphasis on management quality overlooking new homes developments. Effective project management consulting/leading on all manner of projects is essential to successful delivery; now seems a more important time than ever to have effective project management supporting the building of new homes.

What have you got planned for the next 5 years career-wise?

Mirona: I am planning to enrol on the Project Management pathway with RICS and complete it within the next 24-30 months. Subsequently I'd like to start taking more responsibility leading my own projects and help bring more talent to the industry through mentoring. Ultimately I would love the chance to work on some of the landmark projects, as they tend to be extremely challenging, innovative and rewarding.

Arran: By the time I reach 29/30, I want to have concluded my RICS APC, risen to a PAM or Associate Director level of employment, increased my portfolio of projects to cover a vast variety of types (hospitality, public services, education, resi) and if possible exposed myself to working in different locations outside of my current base in London; either elsewhere in the UK or potentially overseas.


In addition to the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment, we offer the following (click on the course name for more information):

MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management







Thursday, July 6, 2017

School of the Built Environment Graduation 2017

Graduation 2017 took place on one of the hottest days of the year, Monday 19 June. The actual ceremony took place in a transformed sports centre and the reception in the beautiful grounds of Headington Hill Hall. Which meant that the students and staff had to walk across Headington Hill Bridge...and I was there to catch them.



School of the Built Environment staff outside the sports centre

Waiting on the bridge...

...the students...



...and staff.























And in the grounds of Headington Hill Hall...

...celebrating



...the paparazzi



Prizes being handed out by (a very hot) Professor Joe Tah (Head of School)

Where's everybody gone? Retreating into the shade as the day got hotter...


Now that you've graduated, don't forget to keep in touch. Join one of our alumni groups on LinkedIn/Facebook...a great way of keeping in touch with your mates and the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes. We use our groups to post job opportunities, source mentors (for the Real Estate Mentoring Scheme), share news and to use your experiences to inform our course development, so make sure you join!

LinkedIn: Real Estate Management
LinkedIn: Construction, QS and Project Management
Facebook: Planning and Urban Design

Finally, for a full set of photos, take a look at the Graduation and Prizes 2017 album on the School of the Built Environment Facebook page.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

At Warwick Bar...

The second year undergraduate students in the School of the Built Environment (Real Estate, Construction and Planning/Urban Design) joined together for the February 2017 field trip to Birmingham. The trip is part of the second year integrative project module, a module which gives students the opportunity to integrate the knowledge and experience that they have already gained during the first two years by completing and presenting a group project. For the Birmingham field trip project, students will be working together in small groups to produce a workable proposal that will be presented to a panel of judges (much like in real life). Each group consists of a mix of students (and skills) from across Real Estate, Construction and Planning/Urban Design. Click on the links for more information...especially the Warwick Bar link which has loads of information about this very interesting area.

The location of the development site for the project is Warwick Bar, situated in the Digbeth area of Birmingham. Warwick Bar is situated in a conservation area and lies ten minutes walk to the east of Birmingham city centre. Surrounded on three sides by the historic Grand Union Canal, Digbeth Branch Canal and the River Rea, the area was home to a complex of factories and workshops and is now being redeveloped to provide accommodation for a rich mix of heavy industry to arts and service sector agencies. The overall aim of the student project is to identify a new long term use for the site taking into consideration potential changes to the area brought about by the HS2 development and taking into account the Birmingham Big City Plan.

The day started with a series of presentations about the developments taking place in Birmingham and continued with the walk through Warwick Bar. Photos by George Blumberg (thanks George)...





Then back to Oxford Brookes to start work on the development projects. Students from the following courses attended the field trip - to find out more about any of the courses, click on the course:

BSc Construction Project Management
BSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management
BSc Real Estate Management
BA Urban Design, Planning and Development


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The London Field Trip 2017

...the first year students on the BSc Construction Project Management and the BSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management went on a field trip to London on Tuesday 28 February 2017.

The trip forms the core of the first year integrative project module and is an active learning experience based around visits to a number of active development sites and a self-guided walking tour around specific areas of London, including commercial, cultural and architectural attractions. The field trip and associated investigations feed into the group assignment for the module. This year the students visited three major development sites: Paddington Basin, King's Cross and The City of London. Join us on the site visits and click on the blue links for more information. Photos by Michael Hill.


The Fan Bridge at Paddington Basin

The Rolling Bridge at Paddington Basin

St Pancras station

From St Pancras to the developments taking place around King's Cross

Granary Square and King's Cross

The Gasholders and the King's Cross plan
(the students visited the King's Cross Visitor Centre)

...And over to the City of London. The development site at 100 Bishopsgate


Development at 52 Limestreet (The Scalpel) and 10 Fenchurch Avenue.


Up to Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street - voted the worst building of 2015
and known as the Walkie Talkie)


Visit to the offices of Turner & Townsend at One New Change for networking and food.

The day finished with a walk across the Millennium Bridge for a look at the Tate Modern  and the new extension which was completed in 2016.


For more information about our courses take a look at our website.



Monday, February 27, 2017

MSc PMBE: best student prize and profile

The annual prize for best all round student on the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment (PMBE) is sponsored by Bidwells, one of the UK's leading property consultants which was established in Cambridge in 1839. This year, the prize was awarded to Alaa Karrar, who started the MSc PMBE as a distance-learning student in September 2014 and completed his MSc in January 2016. Derek Farrow, Partner at Bidwells, presented the prize.


The 'before' shot, featuring (left to right): Derek Farrow, Alaa Karrar, Joe Tah (Head of School)
and Mark Austin (PG Programmes Leader)

The 'handshake' shot...same people, more serious.


After I'd taken the photos, I caught up with Alaa and he kindly agreed to answer my questions...

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Project Management?
My Bachelors was in Accounting and Statistics, which is a numerically based degree. During
the course of my studies, I came to realise that Accounting was not for me. Therefore, I
undertook the CELTA course, which allowed me to teach English to non-native speakers
aboard. I worked in the Middle East for two years as an ESL instructor. It was during this
period that I became aware of big scale construction projects and wanted to be a part of it.

Why did you choose the MSc PMBE at Brookes?
The MSc PMBE is well recognised and so is the Real Estate and Construction Department. The course is also accredited by the RICS and CIOB, which is a major differentiator especially when entering the job market. The university’s ties with the industry also factored into my decision; as industry recognition is as important as the academic element.

What was it like when started the course?
The induction onto the course is a clear and easy process. Within the first week of the course there was an evening meal, where staff and students went out for an evening meal, this really helped in the settling in phase. But also set the tone that our studies were student focused and demonstrated the friendly and approachable nature of staff.

Looking back over the course, what have been the highlights? And the most challenging bits?
The highlights have been the opportunities to network with industry professionals through networking events, conferences, presentations and site visits. I was surprised by the regularity, but also the level of seniority the university could attract to give special lectures and presentations. I recall when Laing O’Rourke gave a presentation just how many of their senior staff attended the event. The topic was modular construction and virtual reality, a futuristic look at construction.
What I found most challenging was the routine, as a full-time student, managing the workload, as it had been some time since I completed my bachelors. However, I found the support that university provided (library, IT) and most especially the faculty satisfactory to guide me through the programme.

Bearing in mind your experience, what advice would you give to someone starting the course?
I would tell any would-be student to really make an effort to attend the construction events the universities hosts. I felt this was a key aspect in securing work, meeting contacts and developing networks during the Laing O’Rourke event I recall an opportunity presented itself to do some Synchro training, during a discussion with one of their senior managers. I found these types of opportunities present themselves to those who are willing to engage and be interactive during the events.

Which subject area did you focus on for your dissertation and why?
My dissertation title was ‘Building Information Modelling Adoption Strategies: A SMEs Perspective’. During the course, I became intrigued by the role technology should play in the industry and specially for SMEs (80% of businesses in construction are SMEs). I also gained some work experience working with a small electrical company.

What have you got planned for the next 5 years career-wise?
I have managed to secure a job as a Quantity Surveyor with Galliford Try, I have also enrolled with the RICS and am currently undertaking my APC, I hope to achieve my chartered status in the coming years.

Find out more about our MSc courses below...
MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

And take a look around the blog (using the index) for more information on what actually happens!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Belgium and The Netherlands 2017: the postgraduate story...

The School of the Built Environment runs 4 postgraduate programmes in construction: MSc Construction Project Management, MSc Project Management in the Built Environment, MSc Building Information Modelling and Management and MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management. All the programmes are available as full-time or open-learning (a combination of online learning and on-campus study weeks).

A few of the MSc students at the Museum aan de Stroom

The field trip to Europe is an annual event which brings together full-time and open-learning students from across the 4 programmes. The aim of the field trip is to integrate knowledge gained in the early part of the programme, to develop team skills and to build relationships. During the European field trip students are exposed to project management practices outside of the UK and are asked to observe and report on the different approaches to project management in the UK and overseas. Site visits are backed up with a series of presentations from local experts focusing on: planning strategy, sustainability and urban design considerations, the mix of dwelling types, retail and community buildings, infrastructure plans, planning for flooding/rising sea levels, and sustainable and innovative building technologies.

And so we come to the 2017 field trip. As usual, the postgraduate students joined the undergraduate students in construction to travel to Belgium and The Netherlands, but once again this year there are two blog posts as the itineraries had a different focus. This is the postgraduate story (photos by Esra Kurul). Click on the blue links for more information.

After crossing over to Belgium on 22 January, the first stop was in Antwerp for a visit to the Antwerp Central Rail Station and the Museum aan de Stroom. The award-winning redevelopment of Antwerp Central Rail Station manages to combine old (the original late 19th century building) with new (transforming it from a terminus to a through station suitable for high speed trains). The students moved onto the Museum aan de Stroom which was completed in 2011 and is the centre point of the regeneration of the Antwerp dockside area. The building was designed by Willem Jan Neutelings, of Neutelings Riedijk Architects.

The Museum aan de Stroom (and some climbers)

The students travelled on to Amsterdam, their base for the next few days. The next day featured a carefully planned itinerary shared with the students during the morning briefing...discover the places they visited for yourself by clicking on the blue links. The day started with a presentation at Amsterdam Museum, by Ton Schaap (Amsterdam Development Office) about urban planning and development in Amsterdam and was followed by a visit to see the development at Amsterdam Central Station. The students took a ferry across the river Ij and enjoyed an afternoon tour of the Eye Film Museum and the areas of Eye and Overhoeks, Kraanspoor, Kunststad, Patch 22, Bosrankstraat, finally arriving at De Ceuvel for a look around one of the most sustainable and unique urban developments in Europe (and drinks) before heading back to base.

Presentation at the Amsterdam Museum and the visit to Central Station

Afternoon visits to: the Eye Film Museum, Eye, Eye and Overhoeks, Kraanspoor, Kunststad, Patch 22 and Bosrankstraat

And finally...De Ceuvel

The next day, Tuesday 24 January, and the students visited Rotterdam. They were there to visit the Central Station and also attend a presentation about the building of Rotterdam Central by Ria van Wingerden from Geemente Rotterdam. In the afternoon they went for a look around Markthal (the first covered market in the Netherlands and a beautiful building), and then onto Unielocatie Rotterdam, a visit hosted by JHK Architecten.


Rotterdam Central Station and watch a video of Markthal below...



The final full day in Amsterdam and the students made an early start for a visit to the BAM offices in Amsterdam. After an introduction to BAM from Eelke Stellingwerf, the students were introduced to the ABN AMRO Pavilion Project at Amsterdam Zuid by Henk Rebel. The students visited the project and were introduced to the Project Manager (Nick Jaring). The afternoon was spent in Amsterdam at the Rijksmuseum where the students listened to a presentation about the recently completed refurbishment project before exploring the museum.


Site visit in Amsterdam

At the Rijksmuseum

The last night in Amsterdam

Thursday 26 January and the last day of the field trip. The students left Amsterdam for Utrecht where they had a presentation about the (historic and modern) city of Utrecht and a city tour, before boarding the coaches for the return trip to Oxford. Take a look at Utrecht's bid to be Cycling City 2016 (they didn't win, but it's a great way to see the city)...




Exploring Utrecht

Back to Oxford Brookes. For more information on our MSc programmes in construction, take a look at the following links:

MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management 
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management