Thursday 18 July 2019

Paul McNeive: 'Dunne leaves valuable legacy for our industry'

The right moves

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

FEW people can have influenced the property market more than Tom Dunne, head of the School of Surveying and Construction Management at TU Dublin, formerly DIT.

That's not least because more than 3,500 people working in the business today were educated during his time at the school. Tom Dunne retires this September, after more than 40 years in the business and I met him to hear his views.

Dunne had a 10-year career as an investment and office agent with Osborne King and Megran (now Savills) in the 1970s and 1980s (where I was fortunate to be his assistant.) He was simultaneously lecturing on urban economics at the College of Commerce, Rathmines, and his passion for education saw him move to a full-time role as a senior lecturer at the then Bolton Street, College of Technology in 1982. He was appointed Head of School in the late 1990s.

A point I did not appreciate, and which underlines the influence Dunne and his colleagues have on the market, is that his team is responsible for designing the content of the courses they teach and the assessment criteria.

Each lecturer is then responsible for generating the material that is taught. Dunne describes this process as both challenging and interesting. It means continuously assessing the market, the economy, and industry demands. The decisions made are important in that they must then influence the thinking of a large cohort of people entering the business.

For example, Dunne told me the courses beginning next September are likely to have an increased focus on the issues of urban density and tall buildings, important topics in today's market. The formation of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) and independence from the UK organisation greatly enhanced the Irish teaching institution's control over course content, and meant they could design courses specifically for the Irish market.

Dunne told me the hardest part of the job is striking the balance between "education" and the demands of industry.

In today's busy markets, industry wants property surveyors who can "hit the ground running" and are able to use proprietary valuation software packages. The school provides this training, but must balance that with the need to teach students the fundamentals, and philosophy, of valuation.

This issue of "education versus training" arises across all the courses. As Dunne put it, industry wants people who are functional quickly, whereas the college has a responsibility to deliver more than that and must also be concerned with student's long-term careers.

The creation of DIT and the Faculty of the Built Environment in 1993 put surveying, construction, architecture and planning in the one faculty, but Dunne argued strongly for a return to a faculty which would also include civil-engineering and planning. "They're all focused on the built environment," he said "and we should get away from academic silos."

For entrants into the business, Dunne said the importance of leaving-cert points is over-stated.

"Over a certain threshold, they don't matter. People's motivation, and their ability to get on with people, are the most important qualities for a successful career" he told me.

Tom Dunne is a former president of the SCSI and an expert on the housing market. In 1999, he was asked by government to chair the Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector, which led to the Residential Tenancies Act of 2004, and the creation of the Residential Tenancies Board, which he chaired from 2004-2009.

He said recent tenancy legislation is over-complicated and will deter smaller landlords from the market.

Dunne concluded that Irish students are as good as can be found anywhere in the world, and given the pending move of the school to the new Grangegorman campus, the future is bright.

Tom Dunne has done the business some service.

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