RICS School of Built Environment (RICS SBE), Amity University is an industry-led academic institution & India’s first and only School of Built Environment, which delivers specialized undergraduate and postgraduate programs to students aspiring to work in real estate, construction, and infrastructure sector.

Prof. Dr. Mona N Shah, Dean, RICS School of Built Environment talk to BW Businessworld about the School of built environment, diversity and preparing students for future jobs.

What is the diversity ratio in the institute? How has it improved over the last few years?

Traditionally, the Built Environment has never been known to welcome women, having been a traditional male turf in India. This is true globally as well, with slightly better ratios in the developed countries compared to others.

As far as RICS School of Built Environment goes, we have set ourselves organization-wide targets to improve the indices of inclusivity, and particularly for admitting girl students. Likewise, the ratio of women faculty members has been improving over the past few years and now comprises 33 percent of the total strength. Currently, women in the School’s administration comprise 28 percent, of the administrative staff of the institution. This could be attributed more due to locational issues, than the intent. While we are committed to improving the current target, there are some aspects that impede these efforts, which may be termed as pipeline issues. The nature of the industry is such that compared to males, female engineering students are fewer in all engineering domains compared to any other domain. Women with engineering degrees and with a simultaneous desire to teach in management programmes in the built environment become a very small subset. Incase of architecture and planning 60 percent of the graduates are female, however, women faculty prefer to take up teaching careers in design and architecture colleges as compared to management in the built environment domain.

The same applies to female students seeking programmes in built environment management. Most of the graduating engineers, architects/planners are not very well- aware of specialized management degree programmes in the built environment. Therefore there is a tendency to go across to other vocations. RICS School of Built Environment actively engages in addressing the technical institutions across the country to educate and inform students especially female students of the vast opportunity lying in their wake. The current women student strength in RICS SBE stands at approximately 10 percent. RICS SBE has improved from its earlier ratio and committed to increasing it year on year.

Incase of diversity, the RICS SBE is active in welcoming students from all countries to participate or enroll in our programmes. Student exchange programmes exist with leading universities offering built management programmes like the Liverpool John Moores University, UK, and RMIT, Australia, have been concluded in the past academic year. More such programmes in leading universities in Asia are in the pipeline in 2018-19.

India aims to be the second best global hub after the USA for B-School Education by 2025. How do we achieve it?

Historically, ancient India has had universities like the Nalanda, Takshashila, Somapura, Jagaddala, and others that had internationalized and flourished with intellectual exchanges. Therefore in a sense, internationalization in academia is not completely unknown to Indians. However, the following centuries somehow seem to have missed out on this advantage. In the new millennium, India would have to speed up its efforts. Educational institutions will have to train their sights on developing meaningful relationships with universities abroad to attract collaborations.

Therefore, primarily one would need to look at how we could make our education on par if not better than the global offerings. Top international accreditations would need to be actively sought by Indian B- Schools such as AACSB and IACBE when we speak of management education.

Interestingly, while these accreditations are important for B-Schools offering management programmes, there exists a different set, that addresses specialized management programmes. These programmes are driven by the sector for which they are meant. The industry’s needs for such graduates have been growing steadily over the years. For instance, for technically oriented sectors such as construction, real estate or infrastructure a general management programme, offered by existing institutions do not suffice the needs. The need of the employer is driven by the application of the students’ skills to technical as well as managerial issues.

With global accreditation naturally inbuilt into the curriculum, and related regulation is the compliance to international high standards. This requires all the stakeholders to deliver on research excellence, teaching excellence, infrastructure, student and faculty ratio, industry responsiveness, and social commitment.

Are education institutes losing their charm because the MBA degree has become job route for students rather than learning skills?

In a country like India where job opportunities can be a tough proposition, the large student population is drawn from the middle and lower income groups, for whom higher education becomes tougher to access. MBA degrees in themselves are aspirational and therefore come with a built-in higher price tag. Therefore, the tendency of the primary investors – the families would be to view it as a worthy investment. India is known to be one of the most discerning higher education markets in the world, so it has been this view in our country for the longest time. B School managements would need to understand this difficult part of the equation wherein the student views getting a job as the only reason to enroll into MBA programmes, and not as a means to taking the first step onto a meaningful career.

With Globalisation 4.0, followed by Industry 4.0, Education 4.0 must be ready for delivery in the B-Schools to satisfy Industry’s and the country’s need for appropriately skilled MBA graduates. Instead of debating this issue, we should focus on how to build academic competencies to deliver the curriculum 4.0. The student class seeking admission into these programmes too will have to be committed to adopting technology-driven learning. So, all B School administrators will need to invest tremendous effort in this activity, for us to remain relevant in this space.

How much has been the attraction of students towards business management in construction and real estate? Is the number of students improving?

Without the deeper statistics available in relation to how many technical graduates in engineering, architecture, planning and so on are lost to other generic domains, one only has to look at the figures that are available in the public domain. Assocham forecasts that the building construction and real estate sectors (including infrastructure) would require 31.1 million incremental human resources; PMI report pegs a figure of the requirement of 70 lakh project managers in the next decade. Our records show huge growth in students enrolling for construction management programmes. The real estate management programmes have begun growing in the past decade and infrastructure management programmes have potential but lack student and industry awareness of how they can be used.

What has been the placement scenario in RICS School of Built Environment? What areas get major placement and what skills help students get better jobs?

The placements in RICS SBE have been near hundred percent since the time the first batch of students graduated in the year 2015, despite industry upheavals. The placements have been in global companies as well as multi-national firms operating in the country. What is special about RICS SBE is that the degree that the student receives carries relevance at not only the country level but also in 146 other countries. The students are competing on a global scale because the curriculum builds within them universally relevant competencies.

While this is quite early to spot trends as only a few batches from RICS SBE have been available for placements, there are some interesting patterns that are emerging. Besides the typical roles in project management, contracts, procurement, and valuation; graduates from RICS SBE have begun to distinguish themselves in the roles related to quantity surveying, valuation, sales and marketing, strategy, credit, leasing, facilities management and many more. Moreover, all programmes of the institution are predominantly based upon updated competencies at the global level. So, one finds students being selected for their skills in cost estimation, analytics, project budgets, preparing feasibilities, claims management, and project leadership by leading companies worldwide.

Within the ambit of the above over the past years we have identified more than 90 job roles to date that our students have been found to suit and profiled for by the corporates. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Being an industry-led institution, periodically we are called upon to help find solutions to issues faced by the company. These discussions yield good insights about the emerging desired human resource competencies that the industry looks for from our students.

People are expected to work in jobs that are unknown yet. How do universities prepare for change we cannot anticipate?

RICS SBE looks towards building capacities in the present, to manage their individual skills needs of the future. We are already training our students to understand integrative technologies, Building information modeling(BIM), environmental risk mapping and mitigation in future scenarios to name a few. The students receive exposure to different suites of software that are used by the industry. We encourage practice-based and experiential learning by the students, along with intensive soft skills training.

According to the FICCI/Assocham Survey for the built environment, a few jobs of the future are going to be in the blockchain, sustainability, environment, integration, AI, 3D printing technical experts, customer experience leader, digital marketer, and machine learning experts. However one needs to underscore the fact that the basis of this development whether contemporary or futuristic is the research carried out by the faculty members of RICS SBE and the parent body.

RICS SBE has adopted an overall philosophy of ‘just in case’ and not merely ‘just in time’ education to deliver, monitor and upgrade our content. The idea is to prepare a globally relevant, technically sound and emotionally stable human resource for industry, and society at large.