Keep updated on Built Environment industry insights and thoughts from UCEM Principal: Ashley Wheaton.
My life in Quantity Surveying and Education: Guest blog by Malcolm Kirkpatrick, UCEM Programme Leader for MSc Quantity Surveying
Posted on: 31 August, 2017
I started higher education in 1970, taking an HND in Building, Civil Engineering and Economics at Glamorgan Polytechnic.
It was a very broad course and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took an additional year to complete the degree equivalent Polytechnic Associateship level 6 Course and, once I completed that, I could have gone into civil engineering, contracting or quantity surveying, and I chose the latter.
I then took direct examination entry to the Institute of Quantity Surveyors in 1978. The IQS merged with RICS in 1983 and I therefore became a full member of the RICS.
My jet-setting began when I took on my first post with a London firm of civil engineers which led to me taking on a position in civil engineering quantity surveying in Libya.
During my time there, I was involved in building the-then new port in Tripoli.
Return to the UK
Having completed 18 months in Libya, I returned to the UK and began working for the Central Electricity Generating Board as a quantity surveyor for power plant work.
My time with the Central Electricity Generating Board was cut short when the UK power plant programme was cancelled by the government but I managed to find some power plant work with a US firm, and this led to me working for five years in Kuwait on a major power plant/desalination project. The instability in Kuwait up to the first Gulf War resulted in a return to the UK.
Mechanical and electrical quantity surveying
Once back in the UK, I worked for a major private QS practice as a quantity surveyor specialising in mechanical and electrical quantity surveying, as there were no opportunities in power plant construction. The landmark project that I was involved with was the new British Library in London.
Back to education
After many successful years of working for private QS practices, I decided it was time to retire.
Retirement didn’t suit me (!) so I did a bit of consultancy work which didn’t fulfil me so I started looking for other jobs and was sent an advert for a role at The College of Estate Management, thanks to the RICS job shop. I had always enjoyed supporting younger surveyors in the practice, so I thought that I would give it a try.
It was a short-term cover position and early on, I was teaching a group of students and realised that I really enjoyed it. From there, I became a full-time Tutor and now am the Programme Leader for the MSc Quantity Surveying programme.
My career in quantity surveying has been fulfilling. When you are responsible for the commercial success of major projects, you have to, for example, say how much it’s going to cost and keep the stakeholders on commercial track. Fortunately, I’ve never been involved in a project that has exceeded its budget.
I’ve been involved in major projects such as the construction of the National Air Traffic Control Centre in Swanwick, near Southampton, and the BT national fibre-optic Infinity programme.
The most interesting, and challenging, project I was involved in was the Desert Rose Museum in Doha, Qatar. The inspiration for it came from the crystals of the same name. It was fiendishly difficult.
Working in education, I have an opportunity to give something back to the industry that has supported me throughout my life as a Quantity Surveyor.
There are opportunities for quantity surveyors all over the world. The benefits of a career in quantity surveying are the job satisfaction, high wages and the diversity of the role – you might work on a museum one year and an air traffic control centre the next!
It’s also about the people. The profession is very people-centric so it’s important to be able to communicate effectively to a wide range of people.
MSc Quantity Surveying programme
The programme is a conversion course. You only need, as a minimum, a level 5 qualification such as an HND and five years’ relevant experience to apply.
You can come on to the programme with a low-level qualification with relevant experience and end up working as a full member of the RICS and CIOB in a well-paid job in an interesting profession.
Malcolm has almost 40 years’ of experience as a professional quantity surveyor. He is a full member of RICS, has a postgraduate certificate in teaching in Higher Education and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. For more about the MSc Quantity Surveying programme, please click here.