UCEM Property Awards 2020 – Our Academic Excellence nominees: Philip Goldstone

Posted on: 2020-09-23

We will be hosting the 33rd UCEM Property Awards on Thursday, 15 October. Due to COVID-19, we will not be able to hold this in person but we will be sharing videos and announcements throughout the day on our social media channels to celebrate the achievements of our nominees and winners.


The event will see a sixth person receive our Academic Excellence Award since it was added to the Property Awards in 2015.


The Academic Excellence Award recognises the academic excellence and quality of a student’s research/dissertation submission.


In the lead-up to 15 October, we will be profiling each of the nominees for this Award with Philip Goldstone first up. Philip was nominated for his final dissertation on how ethics can be effectively embedded into construction projects.


Philip Goldstone

Philip graduated from UCEM in March 2020, gaining a Distinction from our MSc Quantity Surveying programme.

After many years working in the timber frame sector as a Commercial Manager, in 2017, Philip decided to move over to a construction consultancy in north west London to pursue quantity surveying.

Juggling a new career, a young family and a return to academic studies two decades after graduating from The University of Manchester, proved a real challenge. Philip remarked: “At the outset of my studies I was full of trepidation, but before long my confidence grew. I brought with me life experience, a keen interest in the built environment, and a strong desire to advance my career.”

In his role as a Quantity Surveyor (QS), working as both a Contract Administrator (CA) and Employer’s Agent (EA) with clients in the affordable housing sector in London, Philip gained an increasing interest of ethics in construction. Philip explained: “I wanted to enquire for my own purposes, and as an RICS APC candidate, how I could best become the professional I had set out to be.”

This led Philip to investigate, through his final dissertation, how ethics can be effectively embedded into construction projects and the training needed for a QS to actively promote good practice when acting as a CA or EA.

The thesis promoted the idea that the QS is the project’s ‘ethics ambassador’. Through the aggregation of different tools and techniques, ethics can better pervade the project and impact on the behaviour of its participants for the greater good.

Philip used the lens of ethical theory to critique the current RICS ethics training for members and APC candidates. He found that normative ethics theory, what one ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do is well represented in the RICS training offering.

Likewise, descriptive ethics, illustrating a ‘rational’ and ‘fully cognitive’ practitioner, is well represented by RICS, through rules-based documentation, guidance and training.

Significantly, what Philip found to be missing was the embracing of behavioural ethics and the impact of psychological factors that influence ethical choices. Training to improve awareness in this area was needed, Philip suggested.

Reflecting on the nomination, Philip said: “Having not known about the award itself, it came as quite a surprise! Achieving a Distinction was a great ending to my studies at UCEM and I did not expect this to be topped. Then the email arrived from the Principal, Ashley Wheaton, congratulating me on the nomination. I was taken aback.

“I feel hugely privileged to have had this opportunity to return to academia mid-career and would recommend it highly to anyone seeking a boost. This nomination is the icing on the cake to what has been a wonderful journey. I am hugely grateful to all the teaching and administrative staff I have encountered at UCEM. Their professionalism shines through.”

Appraising his time studying with UCEM, Philip added: “Studying with UCEM was perfect for someone in my position. I had worked in the construction industry for some years and had experience behind me. What I lacked was the professional qualification to back this up.

“Seeking the gold standard of becoming a Member of the RICS, I first needed a construction-based academic qualification, as my undergraduate degree in International Management was non-cognate.

“Supporting a young family, with the need to combine work and study, the online learning route was an absolute must. With its focus on the built environment, UCEM was the obvious choice.

“If I could pick one word to describe UCEM, I would choose ‘supportive’. Given that you are not on campus and lack the face-to-face contact with fellow students, I found administrative and teaching staff went the extra mile to ensure you do not feel you are alone, but rather part of a network.”

Thinking back to the process of writing the dissertation itself, Philip recollected: “I remember the daunting feeling at the outset, wondering how I could possibly reach the end. However, the module taught by [UCEM Tutor] Dr Graeme Whitehall, that supported the assignment, was excellent. It broke down into its constituent parts the elements of preparing academic research.

“From selecting a topic, forming your research objectives, embarking upon the literature review, and preparing your methodology for data collection and analysis, the course was comprehensive.

“Furthermore, in Adrian Smith, my project supervisor, I received individual support. Feedback following submission of the initial Research Proposal was enormously useful. It confirmed I was heading on the right track and provided a much-needed confidence boost.”

So, what advice would Philip give to our students embarking upon their own assignments? “For me, there are three pieces of advice…

“The first is to try to ‘compartmentalise’ when you study. Time is short and therefore you need to be totally focused and filter out all the other demands. This takes practice and I did not always succeed!

“Second, I would recommend that you relate back your studies and the project you choose to your previous experience if you are working in the field. Pick an area to research that holds interest and that you have enjoyed. For me, this was the subject of ethics in construction.

“Finally, I would urge others to be courageous. Once you have read around your subject to see what others have researched and concluded, do not be afraid to say what you think and offer constructive criticism. Your novel thoughts and ideas are exactly what is wanted. Go test out those ideas and see if they stand up.”

And having only recently graduated, what’s next? “My children are finally back at school after the coronavirus shutdown and I can return to preparing for my APC which I hope to sit in 2021.

“Work, thankfully, has continued to be busy. I act as an Employer’s Agent on a couple of two-stage D&B [design and build] projects that are soon to be on site. I also project-manage a maintenance and repairs term contract for a key client. The consultancy I work for specialises in social housing and I find this a most rewarding area to be in.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Philip, and all the best for the Awards!

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