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253 Education: Tertiary education excellence


Building the skills for


professional progress Ulster University’s School of the Built Environment equips its students with the means to overcome future challenges


U


lster University’s School of the Built Environment is acutely aware that its field of expertise is vital to society’s


well-being—all the more so at a time of continued economic uncertainty, austerity and public expenditure contraction, not to mention challenging ecological issues. By staying ahead of the economic and environmental impact these have on the built environment, the school’s courses are providing the skills necessary to meet these challenges head on. Based on the university’s Jordanstown campus, seven miles


north of Belfast, the school brings together disciplines associated with the built environment. Tese range from construction and civil engineering to housing and environmental health, and renewable energy and sustainable technologies. Today, the school is the largest in the university, with over 1,300 full-time undergraduates (of which 130 are part-time), 140 postgraduate students and 80 PhD students. It offers a range of qualifications across 20 different subject areas, including safety engineering, real estate and planning.


Forging industry links Crucially, the school has forged close links with professional bodies and public- and private-sector organisations within the sectors relevant to the subjects it teaches, and each degree is professionally accredited by the appropriate chartered institution. “Tese links and accreditations give students an edge when they enter the working world,” says the school’s former head, Emeritus Professor Greg Lloyd. “Tey also allow us to monitor what skills we should be instilling in students and which areas of research they should be exploring.” Te school also places great emphasis on work placements,


which increasingly take place in Australia and North America as well as the UK. Companies it works with include the construction and construction-management firm E W Howell in the USA and E C Harris, a built-asset consultancy firm in England. As well as gaining valuable experience on these placements, current head Professor Philip Griffiths says, the students return “invigorated and with a sense of purpose”. Ulster University as a whole is committed to “providing a professional education for a professional career”. In maintaining


“These links and accreditations give students an edge when they enter the working world”


such close ties with the relevant sectors, the School of the Built Environment ensures that it does just that, as its strong record of graduate employability goes to show. Importantly, as the built environment industry has


changed and adapted to new challenges and priorities, so has the school. “Te old built environment sector was all about building lots of houses, offices, shops and factories on greenfield sites,” says Professor Griffiths. “Te new built environment is about refurbishing that property base, retro-fitting its energy needs and making it much more self-sufficient and appropriate to society.”


Sustainable communities Increasingly, he says, the school is turning its attention to providing better infrastructure that respects the natural environment, and helping to build sustainable communities. Tis is stressed across its degree programmes, and in the world-leading research at its Centre for Sustainable Technologies. Work here includes developing processes for reducing carbon emissions in energy used in buildings and an initiative looking at producing biofuel from marine algae, as well as carbon capture and energy storage. “Tat research is developed in the teaching programmes


through various degree modules,” says Professor Griffiths, “and is also delivered to other degrees across the school.” In this way, it helps achieve Ulster University’s wider aim of deepening its contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of Northern Ireland and enhancing its global standing. By keeping a finger firmly on the pulse of academic and


professional progress, the School of the Built Environment ensures that it is well placed to stay ahead of the rapid changes in the industry. As a result, its graduates are equipped with the skills needed to lead the way in meeting these new challenges when they go out into the working world. — www.adbe.ulster.ac.uk/builtenvironment


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