It is fair to say that the RICS has not had as high a profile on the big issues in construction as it should have over the years, although it is not always appreciated how much valuable input the institution makes as a contributor to the work of the Construction Industry Council. Our profile has been improving and will move further ahead through an integrated programme of best practice guidance, a new careers campaign, market analysis, events, research projects, marketing material and public policy positions.
The need for a key industry figure to "champion" these initiatives, as called for in Building's leader of 15 August (page 3), has been recognised. Building's editor must be clairvoyant, for it is to be none other than Paul Morrell.
The replacement of the seven former RICS divisions, including the quantity surveyors' division with 16 faculties has proved generally popular: about 80% of members have opted to join at least one. The move was debated long and hard at the time, and the QS divisional council, comprising all the branch divisional council representatives, voted for a construction faculty. The faculty continues to be the guardian of the designation "chartered quantity surveyor" and there is a further designation "chartered construction surveyor", which will be of interest mainly to those in commercial construction management.
The changes took into account the fact that many quantity surveyors have diversified in the 20 years since RICS merged with the IQS. So, for example, there are also faculties covering project management, facilities management, dispute resolution and management consultancy, which relate to the new ways in which many quantity surveyors earn their living.
At the same time, I am keen to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of all chartered quantity surveyors, both in terms of professional information and promotion of core skills such as cost control and cost management. We need to put a spotlight on the crucial role of the QS in countless projects throughout the public and private sectors that shape our world. The construction faculty would welcome suggestions from members of further initiatives in both information delivery and promotion, to complement the new materials it is producing.
True, RICS has become demonstrably ‘more international’ recently, with an international governing council representing all world regions. But it is pure myth to claim that the institution is obsessed with globalisation
I am often labelled "the first international RICS president". This is misleading: all my predecessors in living memory have also been "international presidents", because we have had an international membership for decades. I just happen to be the first from a practice based outside the UK.
True, RICS has become more international recently: it has an international governing council representing all world regions in proportion to the numbers of members based there, and it has more national associations and more accredited courses at non-UK universities. But it is pure myth to claim that the institution is obsessed with globalisation, or that the recent vote to increase subscriptions was all about financing international expansion.
I certainly believe that building a globally recognised brand represents a benefit for all RICS members everywhere, including the 85% who reside in the UK. I accept that it is easier to recognise that benefit if you belong to a practice that operates internationally, as many of the larger multidisciplinary, construction-related practices do. But there is something in it for all members. For example, young people are attracted to the possibilities of an international professional passport – even if they never choose to use it – which is good for UK employers. And international businesses are increasingly active in the UK: if they recognise the RICS brand after seeing it in their home country, so much the better for the profession here.
Despite the fact that most of our spend, activities, influence and profile are in the UK, I acknowledge that we have not got the communication and service delivery right in some areas. The replacement of the branch network with regions and local associations (51 compared with the 35 branches) has left some members sensing a black hole, with old routines gone and new connections hard to establish. I am working with the chairman of the Council of England and Wales, the vice presidents and the regional chairmen to address this. As always, we need to identify the next generation of local activists to help forge the networks that members will find useful.
"I get nothing from RICS except the letters after my name": so say some members. Of course, there is a lot more on offer, but some may feel that they do not need anything beyond the qualification itself. This is fair enough; they are still getting a lot. Those letters are the product of achievement and are a badge of integrity and professionalism that clients and employers respect. The member attains the letters through academic and practical success. The institution invests them with meaning by setting and monitoring educational standards; assessing competence; setting, monitoring and enforcing rules of conduct; and providing information, guidance and training opportunities.