The RICS chair defends the institution in the face of an onslaught of criticism

The chair of the RICS QS and construction faculty has robustly defended the institution in the face of an onslaught of criticism and said the body will remain a “members organisation”.

Michael Sullivan, RICS chair

Michael Sullivan, who is also a partner in Rider Hunt, said proposals to make the 141-year-old body more “businesslike” would not stop it from fulfilling its primary function, namely supporting the interests of members.

He said: “There is no point existing if we don’t concentrate on doing what a professional institution should do, which is delivery of knowledge and delivery of standards. And the only way we can do that is if we represent the collective view of our profession. The RICS is still a members organisation – there is no point if it isn’t.” He urged members to get in touch about specific concerns.

Sullivan hit out at last week’s claims that the RICS was undermining its democratic credentials by proposing a system where more people are appointed, rather than elected, to its boards and specialist groups. The RICS governing council was due to meet on Tuesday to debate the issue and no final decisions had yet been made about the exact form of the changes as Building went to press. But, come what may, the body aims to have a different system in place by the summer.

“The RICS is streamlining itself to run in a more businesslike manner. As part of that we’re sorting out the hundreds and hundreds of levels of groups. I believe strongly in democracy at the RICS but we also need to make sure we have the right specialists in place.”

He emphasised that running the RICS in a “businesslike manner” was different to running it “as a business”. He said: “Businesses are obsessed with profit and loss – we’re obsessed with representing members’ interests. It’s nice not to make a loss but members come first.”

Sullivan also defended the body’s move to withdraw from the Construction Industry Council (CIC) – a decision that has been widely criticised for causing further fragmentation in the sector. He said: “In these times, we are looking at where we spend our money. We feel we cover a very broad ground and can have stronger links with the government alone; our views sometimes get lost in the CIC.”

However, he insisted the parting was not necessarily permanent and said the bodies could still collaborate. “If the CIC wants to take some positive actions on things, we will join in with them on a case by case basis. We want to be supportive on specific things.”

Finally, Sullivan stood up for the launch of the Assoc RICS, which will allow non-graduates a chance to gain chartered status. “The way to think of it is that there is a fast track and a slow track,” he said. “That allows us to bring on people who are more technically minded. Some people say we are dumbing down but that isn’t true. We’re simply having a lower level to get the people we would miss.”