Thursday, February 25, 2016

Belgium and The Netherlands 2016: the Postgraduate Field Trip

The School of the Built Environment runs three postgraduate programmes in construction: MSc Construction Project Management, MSc Project Management in the Built Environment and MSc Construction Project Management and BIM (soon to be four with the recent approval of the MSc Quantity Surveying - more about that in a future post). All the programmes are available as full-time or open-learning (a combination of online learning and on-campus study weeks).

Esra Kurul (centre) with a group of MSc students outside the Antwerp Law Courts

Each year there is one field trip to Europe which brings together full-time and open-learning students from across the three 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 2016 field trip. As usual, the postgraduate students joined the undergraduate students in construction to travel to Belgium and The Netherlands, but this year there are two blog posts as the itineraries had a different focus. This is the postgraduate story (photos by Esra Kurul and Gerard Chaustow). Click on the blue links for more information.

After crossing over to Belgium on 24 January, the first stop was in Antwerp for a visit to the Antwerp Law Courts, a building with a very distinctive roof, designed by Richard Rogers and completed in 2005. Second stop was the Antwerp Central Rail Station, the award-winning redevelopment which 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 then travelled on to Amsterdam for the first night group meal.

The distinction roof of the Antwerp Law Courts (left) and inside Antwerp Central Rail Station (right)

On Monday 25 January the students set off for a guided tour of Ijburg. Ijburg is Amsterdam's newest district and one which is built on a series of artificial islands.


Guided tour of Ijburg...

...looking around Ijburg

Next stop was the Amsterdam Museum where they joined the undergraduate students for a presentation about Amsterdam from urbanist Ton Schaap. The final visit for Monday 25 January was to the Rijksmuseum for a presentation on the recently completed refurbishment project and a tour of the building.

Outside and inside the Rijksmuseum. The museum is home to Rembrandt's painting, The Night Watch (1642) 

Tuesday 26 January. First stop for the MSc students was Hollandia, one of Europe’s most successful steel constructions groups, for a presentation and tour hosted by Steven Lebbers, the CEO.


At Hollandia

After leaving Hollandia, the students enjoyed a coach tour of Rotterdam before arriving at Futureland for a lunch break. After lunch there was a coach tour of the massive development taking place in Rotterdam to expand the existing port into the North Sea. The development is called Maasvlakte 2 and is being built directly on top of deep water. Later on in the afternoon they joined the undergraduate students at Futureland for a tour (by boat) of the port and the developments taking place.


Container ships in the port of Rotterdam

Wednesday 27 January. The day started with a visit to the National Military Museum which opened in 2015. The visit was hosted by Martin Schellekens from Heijmans, the construction company behind the redevelopment of the museum. The next stop was the city of Utrecht for a self-guided tour and lunch. After lunch the students visited the Hogeschool Utrecht and were shown round by Tamara Giesberts from JHK Architects, the company behind the redevelopment of the old Faculty of Social Work and Law building. The visit made an appearance on the JHK blog.


Tour of the redevloped building at the Hogeschool Utrecht

Presentation of the (green) Oxford Brookes bag (left) and group shot (right) at the Hogeschool Utrecht

The final day. Thursday 28 January. And it was back to the city of Utrecht with the undergraduate students, for a presentation and guided tour before heading back to Oxford.

From the model of Utrecht...


...to the real thing. Development sites in Utrecht.

The students seemed to enjoy the field trip...the MSc team collected a bit of feedback:

  • This field trip helped us as students to get together as team, going around to different sites and attending seminars and presentations. It was a great experience to see how welcoming the professionals were while addressing us and answering the questions we had put. 
  • I really enjoyed the field trip and it has given me the opportunity to see how construction operates outside the UK as it's unlikely that I will work overseas in my future career.
  • I really enjoyed the field trip and it is something I will always remember of my MSc at Oxford Brookes. Whilst much could have been taught in the classroom we would not have had the interaction with the companies presenting to us or seen it first hand therefore it would not have had the same impact. I thought it was really worthwhile.
  • Just a huge thank you ... for organising a great few days. I was knackered going back into work on the Friday, but I feel as if I got a lot out of the trip, I have some thoughts for my dissertation, and my knowledge of the industry has improved. Thank you.


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 Construction Project Management and BIM
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment



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