Critics fear proposed changes would ‘dumb down’ the flagship Assessment of Professional Competence

Construction site

The RICS is at loggerheads with several of its major QS member firms over planned changes to its flagship top level qualification, which critics fear will “dumb down” standards, Building has learned.

Major quantity surveying and project management firms - understood to include Turner & Townsend, Aecom, Gleeds, Sweett and Faithful+Gould – have written to the RICS to oppose changes to the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) qualifications QSs must pass to become chartered members of RICS.

RICS is considering changing the technical assessment requirements for passing APCs, including replacing an hour-long technical interview with a member of the quantity surveying faculty with a shorter “professional interview” with a member of any faculty across RICS, or an online assessment.

A source told Building the proposed changes would “dumb down” the APC qualifications, adding: “The RICS is in danger of destroying the very thing that attracts our people to become members - the rigour of the membership process.”

Jon Sealy, UK and Europe MD of Faithful+Gould, said: “Whilst the membership process is in need of general modernisation, we believe that the removal of the technical face-to-face interview will diminish professional standards irrevocably.”

The RICS’ QS board is finalising proposals to reform APCs, with changes likely to be implemented next year.

David Bucknall, chair of the RICS’ QS board, told Building the RICS had received the letter, but said consultation with members over proposed changes to APCs was ongoing, adding: “[The RICS] hopes to get [these firms] together to discuss this very shortly.”

Bucknall said the proposed changes were designed to “update” the APC qualifications, including incorporating BIM, and to ensure they worked across all RICS’ “global markets”.

Bucknall said: “The board is committed to maintaining APC as the gold standard. The members are keen to ensure there is no reduction in rigour and we agree with them.”

RICS has been exploring options to streamline the APC qualification system for a number of years and considered a proposal in 2011 to ditch the highest of the three APC levels in order to reduce complexity and expand more quickly overseas.

Quantity surveyors must pass three APC levels in order to become a chartered member of the RICS. Level one covers the technical basics, level two is about comparing and delivering valuations, and level three is designed to teach QSs how to use all this information to deliver strategic advice to clients.

Bucknall said RICS is no longer considering dropping APC level three: “The three levels are important and are going to be retained.”

Gleeds said: “We are always keen to uphold the standards of the profession.” Turner & Townsend, Aecom and Sweett were contacted for comment.

An RICS spokesperson said: “RICS have undertaken a project to look at the assessment methodology we use. In doing this we have engaged in consultation with our global boards, professional groups boards and major member firms. The feedback from the QS firms is being considered alongside the full consultation feedback.”