A panoramic vista of London from the top of the Marble Arch Mound with an iconic London Red Double-Decker bus in shot.

School of Applied Management, actively encourage students to engage with authentic assessment methods within the degree courses. Part of the school is the property department which deliver two-degree courses, these are Real Estate BSc Honours and Property and Planning BSc Honours. The Undergraduate Real Estate and Property and Planning level 6 students study a module called Development Project, the final year assessment within this module, students must complete three pieces of assessment, a combination from previous experiences gained from level 4 and 5, which links to problem-based learning.

The module is designed to further develop necessary skills for part time students who are already employed and to help the fulltime students to gain professional employment within the Real Estate or Property and Planning industries. Throughout the academic year the students work individually and in small groups in the seminar sessions. All assessments are individual pieces of coursework and allows the students to consider and decide on the best outcome.

To meet the learning outcomes for the module, the students are required to locate a suitable site for a medium sized development, The students can choose either a green or brown field site within a 75-mile radius from the centre of London. The development might be purely for residential, or retail, or commercial or a combination of all three for a mixed-use development. Once the students have considered the land acquisition for the suitable site, they must also consider the estimated project cost, secure capital to finance the project, the potential rental return, the asset management of the development. The development must be sustainable, working towards meeting Government targets and the overall impact on the local community.

Real Estate BSc Honours students gather for a group photo on a site visit to Marble Arch Mound.
Real Estate BSc Honours students gather for a group photo on a site visit to Marble Arch Mound.

As the students are required to consider retail developments, to help them understand if a retail project is financially viable in today’s current market because during the pandemic consumers shopping habits changed drastically due to the national lockdown. More customers turned to online shopping which impacted on retail outlets.

A local field trip, near to the Marylebone Campus gave students a realistic opportunity to conduct research in one of London’s retail streets, the visit was organised to allow the students to collect data, then analyse their findings to consider if the Covid pandemic has had an impact on the retail industry. The first part of the data collection was to calculate the number of retail outlets located along a stretch of Oxford Street.

Before the start of the data collection the students met at the new London tourist attraction. The Mound at Marble Arch, they wanted to experience the views over the London skyline. Ascending to the height of 22.5m the disappointment was seen in their faces, views to the north were blocked by Highrise buildings, to the south the trees obscured the view into Hyde Park, but we could see the City of London. Elevated over London, the students discussed the cost of the project and did the project deliver, by attracting more people to the area.

The Marble Arch Mound in shot
The Marble Arch Mound in shot

The conclusion was that it attracted people but for the wrong reasons. Personally, I thought that this was the most expensive pigeon roost in London, at a total cost of £6m.

Afterwards, we walked along the Oxford Street, Marble Arch to Oxford Circus a total distance of 0.8 miles. Eager to collect the data the students formed small research groups and away they went. The number of street level retail outlets and hospitality venues were counted.

After a period of walking and a soaking from a sudden downpour, the students analysed the data that they had collected. They established a total of 136 retail outlet properties in a 0.8 mile stretch of one of the busiest streets in London. Using the latest smartphones, the young researchers frantically entered figures into the phone’s calculator.

Minutes passed as they analysed the data. To their credit working outside in the cold wet conditions they still had enthusiasm. This field trip experience was their first real time surveying opportunity to collect data.

The findings revealed that 6.5% of retail outlets in Oxford Street are currently vacant, these included some big brand names. The findings show that there has been an increase in the number of vacant retail outlets along this stretch of Oxford Street. Further research is required to compare other retail districts to see if the same issue has hit high streets in general or whether it has only impacted London. Further research and analysis are to take place in seminar sessions for the remainder of semester 1.

These local site visits give the students a fabulous opportunity to conduct real time data collection, something that would happen in their careers.

Nicholas Vosper profile portrait picture bylineNicholas Vosper is a Senior Lecturer within the WBS School of Applied Management and Course Leader on our Real Estate BSc Honours programme. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Building Surveying, an HNC in Construction Management, an Electrical Commissioning Engineer and Postgraduate Certificate in Education, having worked as a professional building surveyor and building control surveyor in the property and construction industry for 22 years.

Nicholas teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the areas of construction technology, building services, sustainability and surveying.

For further reading please see past articles from our Academic Minds blog column.

Please browse our full range of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Construction, Surveying and Real Estate programmes taught at Westminster Business School within the University of Westminster to find the right course for you.

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