Professor Charles Egbu - Quantity Surveying, 1990
Professor Charles Egbu is the current President of the Chartered Institute of Building and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education & Experience) at the University of East London, positions that he has reached after over 25 years in the industry.
Construction management wasn’t his first choice of career, however. Originally, he’d wanted to study medicine, but he didn’t get the grades. Instead he applied to the BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying course at what was then Leeds Polytechnic and he was offered the last place on the course.
He said: “I knew nothing about Quantity Surveying, so I went to the interview with just a day to go before Clearing ended. The admissions tutor must have thought ‘you are the kind of person we need’ and I went back home and told my mother who was delighted. I said ‘Look, if I stay there for one term and I don’t do well then I am off’. Lo and behold, I was there the first term and enjoyed it so much, did very well, did very well the second year and third year, stayed all through and I was so delighted to come out with a first-class honours in Quantity Surveying, that trumped everything! I ignored the medical school, ignored everything.”
After graduating, Charles embarked on a career in academia, eventually returning to the university, which had become Leeds Metropolitan, first as a senior lecturer and then a Reader in Project Management in Construction. He then moved on to become a Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, then Professor at the University of Salford and Head of School. A move to the capital saw Charles take on the role of Dean of School of the Built Environment and Architecture at London Southbank University before he took up his current position at the University of East London.
"I cannot write the history or story of my life without mentioning Leeds Polytechnic. There I built my understanding of the construction industry. It taught me all that I know, it gave me confidence, it increased my social networks.
“We go to university to learn, educate ourselves, make ourselves independent learners, grow in understanding, in maturity and confidence. But you need to do that in an institution that understands student experience. The calibre of staff, the enthusiasm, the will they have for students to succeed, of course many of them have been students themselves, and many of them have been students at Leeds Beckett, so they understand the student journey.
“The staff understand what it is to go to a university. They think carefully about nurturing the student, they also think about where the student will go. When I was there as a student I was there to pick up the academic knowledge, but they were grooming me for industry, and for life after university.”
This experience stood him in good stead. This year, alongside his academic work, Charles was appointed the President of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) for 2019/2020, a role that he is immensely proud of.
He explains: “It is a pleasure and a rare opportunity to be asked to become the President of the Chartered Institute of Building and something that I would rank as one of the highlights of my career to date.
“The Chartered Institute of Building is the premier institute for leadership in construction management, worldwide, we have over 45,000 members.
“Its ethos is about the promotion of the science and practice of construction and building worldwide. So, whilst we take account of our members, we also need to think about the public good. We look at construction managers, we look at many professions within the construction industry, so we offer training, we offer advice, we help to educate, we help to promote the image of construction, and we try to professionalise the industry the best we can.
“You hear the phrase 'cowboy builders' on radios and television, we are there to make sure that we professionalise the industry so that the services we offer to the end user, to the customer, to the client is, what they are looking for.
“We need to think about how construction makes a huge difference in the lives and wellbeing of the end user. Academics and professionals are important elements in trying to achieve that, improving the wellbeing and the lives of people through the built asset, and that is why I am excited about construction and the role that I am playing as President of the CIOB.”