My career in property so far: Guest blog by our Student Trustee and Lead Student Representative, Phoebe Farrell

Posted on: 18 January, 2021

Phoebe Farrell completed UCEM’s BSc (Hons) Real Estate Management programme and became chartered last year. In her time studying with UCEM, she became only the second Student Trustee and our Lead Student Representative – roles she retains today.


A chartered surveyor at JLL, here, Phoebe shares her story so far, detailing how she got into surveying, how she found studying with UCEM and the importance of her current roles in keeping an open dialogue between the university and its students…


Headshot Phoebe Farrell

Career in property

My career in property started when I joined JLL as a temp maternity cover team assistant. I was looking for a 12-month role while I had another role lined up in a year.

I worked in the role for six months when the lead director of the team called me into a meeting room one morning; it was around the time when my probation was due to end so I was worried but, fortunately, he wanted to discuss my pathway at the company.

He said he thought I could do more and asked what career would I consider at the company. I thought about it and said I find surveying interesting. I had been really inspired by working with the team and found surveying fascinating. He was very enthusiastic and supportive about me moving over to the agency team as a surveyor and I started working in the team based in the Thames Valley.

I then studied at UCEM, got my degree in spring 2020 (first-class honours: yay!) then qualified as a chartered surveyor in December 2020.

Why surveying?

I did not have any family or friends in surveying and fell into the industry. When I was working as an assistant, I wanted to understand my team’s role so I could help them best and then I asked for more work as I found it so interesting.

I found the industrial and logistics sector of particular interest, especially when I understood what a crucial role it is in delivering, creating, and supplying our products. Surveying also encompasses a wide range of skills and competencies so it is very varied and I really enjoy that aspect.

Studying with UCEM

I needed an RICS-accredited degree to undertake the APC [Assessment of Professional Competence] process and I still wanted to work full time so UCEM was the perfect university as it was all online, meaning I could continue my work uninterrupted and study in my spare time.

I really liked the layout of the course and the topics it covered. It mirrored the APC competencies on my pathway and the modules were a good mix of theoretical and practical, and correlated well with my daily work and my company’s expectation of knowledge.

I really enjoyed studying with UCEM. It was difficult at times, especially as my workload often ramped up as assessments were due, but UCEM was helpful and flexible. The way the modules were structured also helped because the work was geared towards the assessment so I had plenty of time to prepare for them.

The perfectionist ‘type A’ control/anxiety part of my personality really liked that the VLE had tick boxes to keep on top of the tasks and it was laid out really well so I could see the week’s work and the expected learning outcomes.

One thing I also liked was that I did not feel disadvantaged not being in a physical university. The forums and social media groups provided a social and collaborative aspect, and working full-time anyway I did not have much time to socialise the traditional way.

Advice for current UCEM students

I would recommend managing your diary on a Sunday or before the week starts and be flexible and gentle with yourself if you do not get every week’s topic finished that week. Life does get in the way and rather than stress about reading every single word, look at the learning outcomes, and see if you meet them. There will be weeks where you get everything done on time or early and weeks where that simply isn’t possible, so don’t beat yourself up.

I would also recommend reaching out to the tutors, support tutors, fellow students, student representatives, myself, and student central if you do not understand something or need extra help. There is a lot of readily available help there.

Finally, use the forums especially around assessment time. Your query will most likely have been answered and if it hasn’t, it is best to get the answer from your tutor.

Student Trustee role

While studying, I applied to take part in NUS Responsible Futures [student-led audit of a university’s sustainability credentials] and thoroughly enjoyed it. Aled Williams [UCEM’s Director of Research, Innovation and Partnerships] then told me UCEM was looking for a new Lead Student Representative and Student Trustee and suggested I apply. I applied and after several interview rounds, I got the role halfway through my degree.

What inspired me to apply

I am a curious person and always have been, always asking why and wanting to know the processes behind the output. Much like how I initially got into surveying, I wanted to understand the workings behind the degree.

Another facet of wanting to become Student Trustee was that I like to help people. It was a unique opportunity to be a student and also influence how UCEM interacts with the students, as a representative of the student body.

Student Trustee tasks

I work with UCEM staff and students to ensure UCEM fulfils the requirements from the UCEM Code of Practice chapter on student engagement. I work with the student representatives and ambassadors to ensure I get a wide view of the student opinion and then represent the student body at Board of Trustee meetings.

I also act as an independent student adviser for student complaints and appeals. I write papers and attend panels and meetings for UCEM and external bodies.

Thoughts on the role

I have really enjoyed the role. The Board of Trustees is made up of talented, passionate, and caring professionals. The meetings always consider: ‘how does this affect the students?’ and ‘how can we help the students?’.

It is an honour to represent the student body and showcase the information I and the other student representatives have gathered. It has really struck me how much UCEM cares about its students, from the tutors to the student central team to the Principal, all staff members are intent on making the UCEM experience a positive one.

Lead Student Representative role

I would be unable to accurately represent the students at the Trustee meetings without this role. This role focuses on working with UCEM on the day-to-day student life as well as reading student comments, complaints and suggestions, and feeding back the resolutions from UCEM to the students.

It has developed into a much more pastoral role. I am available for students to contact me anytime to discuss their feelings. As a former student, I am acutely aware of the pressures being a part-time student puts on your life, although my role does not replace that of the disability and wellbeing team or mental health professionals. I am there to help as a fellow student who most likely will have experienced the same worries the students have had.

By having this role alongside being a trustee, I am able to not only discuss with the board the collective student experience, but also comment on how students may respond to ideas and potential changes and ideas that UCEM puts forward.

What next?

Now I am chartered, my current five-year plan has just been fulfilled. I have worked full-time and studied part-time for five years (including the two-year APC process) and I thought I would just want to relax in my free personal time now; however, I have got this free time so I would like to fill it with something else, maybe a diploma or learn another language.

I am ambitious in helping those, particularly from non-traditional backgrounds, realise their skills. I strongly believe that anyone can achieve their ambitions, but few are given the chance and encouragement to. I would like to help more people become strong and independent professionals no matter what pathway they have taken in life. I believe success and opportunities should be available to all.

Eventually, I would like to become a senior leader in the property profession. How I get there I am still working on – my next five-year plan is still in the making!

Thanks for sharing your story, Phoebe, and best of luck with your next five-year plan!