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Enhancing Professional Competence of Surveyors in Europe

Stig Enemark and Paddy Prendergast (ed.)

[PART l] [PART ll] [PART lll] [PART lV]


Educational Profiles for Land Surveyors in Western Europe

Professor Hans Mattsson

University study programmes for land surveyors differ a great deal from one place to another, and the range of courses related to such core subjects as technical surveying, land management and real estate economics likewise varies considerably. This is borne out by the present article - a study of educational profiles for land surveyors in eight Western European countries. Finding a standard programme of education common to all European states is therefore likely to be impossible and is perhaps not even desirable. Instead, one can draw on the experiences of different universities for guidance concerning educational changes. The present article, then, aims to provide a better understanding of the wealth of variation in European land survey studies.


The purpose of this study is to identify what characterises land surveyor education in Europe. The focus of attention will be on curricular content, but some attention will also be given to educational models and to methods of quality assurance.

How surveyors are described varies and is subject to change. In this article all types of surveyor whose work is connected with land will usually be referred to as land surveyors. The basis for this decision is that this historically rooted name is the only one I have been able to find which, in my opinion, covers all activities relating to both surveying and real estate.

Profession and education

Technical professions are not usually very well defined in terms of professional practice, and, given the increasing changeability of the world at large, this is not surprising. It is not only the prospect of taking on new challenges, but also technical changes themselves that determine what a profession involves itself with. Increasingly complex technology can give those with an insight into its basic elements an advantage when handling new information and ideas. Simplified technology, on the other hand, means that advanced working methods can be taken over by others, perhaps even by the so-called 'man in the street'. However, some professions also work within a clearly defined framework, and this will have considerable bearing on the way they operate. In some cases, the right to do or not to do a certain type of work may hinge entirely on what is legally permitted.

Professionals often form interest organisations for the promotion of their common interests and as a means of keeping each other informed of progress and new developments in their professional field. But interest organisations also have a way of defining the professional agenda, in that their statutes encourage certain activities and discourage others. Active, open interest organisations are probably a matter of necessity for a living profession.

Another important aspect of the profession is the education on which it bases itself. Education lays a platform for determining those tasks that can easily be mastered by professional practitioners, those that can only be learned with difficulty later in life and those in which any progress at all is practically impossible. Individual, personal differences can, of course, facilitate or impede, but, in principle, education is of fundamental importance to professional life, even in a rapidly changing world.

One question that immediately arises concerns the way in which study programmes are designed. Are they to be tailored to meet the precise needs of the profession; are they to merely point the way the profession should go or are they to specialise in fields where science is strong, leaving the propagation of other knowledge to professional life or the profession itself? These are difficult choices for educational establishments to make. A study programme which lacks relevant content will presumably find itself with no students at all, inferior students or discontented students, because students soon become dissatisfied if they see that the programmes they are following do not match the requirements of the job market.

Discord can also occur between education and profession if the knowledge and expertise provided is insufficient or inadequate and cannot be easily acquired in practice. A profession must be able to recruit the people it needs, or it will wither away and other, more relevant groups, will take over instead.

The surveyor's profession and education in Europe

The tasks of the surveyor's profession vary a great deal in the different European countries, just as in other parts of the world, but the profession can be said to originate in mapping and in the definition of boundaries for real estate units and other spatially based rights. The emphasis on these activities, however, varies between countries and also from one period of history to another, and it is not automatically the surveyor who always has responsibility for them, least of all for property formation. The interesting point, though, is that an original knowledge of real estate has enabled the surveyors to develop new activities such as legal counselling, planning, land development, property valuation and property management. Meanwhile technical progress has been rapid.

Internationally, then, the surveying profession, as a whole, has a wide range of professional practices that can change according to how readily new tasks can be assimilated. The breadth actually existing is reflected by FIG's definition of surveyor and also by all the commissions into which FIG has divided itself (FIG 1991).

The varied nature of the profession is also reflected in a report compiled by Professor Arthur Allan in 1991 and again in 1996 (Allan 1996). He asked surveyor associations in 17 western European countries which activities their members handled and how great was their responsibility. Because his remit in 1996 came from the CLGE, his survey that year excluded all forms of surveyor with no technical surveying competence. This was at a time when the CLGE was developing the term Geodetic Surveyor to segregate it from other types of surveyor. Gradually, though, the CLGE has become more open to the diversity of the profession, as witnessed by its description of the professional fields (CLGE 1996).

The abundant variety is also reflected by figure 1. In certain countries, land surveyors are mainly concerned with measurement and mapping, partly related to cadastral questions (e.g. in Austria, Greece and Portugal), while in other countries they have more varied duties which include measurement and real estate knowledge generally (e.g. in France, Germany and the Nordic countries).

By the same token, study programmes for surveyors in Europe are variously composed. This, too, is pretty clear from Allan's report (1996), and also from the upgrading devised by the CLGE (fig. 2). In Allan's report, it is possible to find a congruence between education and profession, although in some countries a certain discrepancy can be glimpsed (Mattsson 2000, compare also figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. Professional activities in Western Europe. (Source: CLGE 2001, Mattsson 2000 and Allan 1996 for Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal) 

Figure 2. Educational profiles in Western Europe. (Source: Mattsson 2000 and Allan 1996 for Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal)

Educational profile survey method

Since Allan's report is based on interviews without any closer specification of the extent of teaching in different subjects, an attempt will be made to penetrate behind the results he obtained. This will be done by studying educational profiles at eight universities.

Land surveyor training programmes include a host of different courses. In a time span of 4 years a German student can take about 50 courses, including just over 10 options (Rahmenordnung 2000). A Swede takes just under 30 courses over the same period. Thus there is little chance of achieving a meaningful comparison between individual courses in different study programmes, especially as a certain type of knowledge can be put into different constellations of courses.

Processing Allan's (1996) report, Mattsson (2000) identified three main types of study programmes incorporating four core subjects. As a comparison of courses appears to be impossible, and perhaps not even of interest, since this does not give main profiles, the courses in the programmes under consideration have, instead, been classified with reference to the four core subjects.

Surveying and Mapping (SM) contains all courses used for actively mapping the landscape or details in it such as buildings, machinery etc. This includes geodesy and photogrammetry. Adjustments and cartography are further examples of courses belonging under this head.

Geographical Information Management (GIM) comprises courses that are intended to teach students to analyse positional data with the aid of geographical information systems. There is a good case for viewing GIM as a part of SM, but this is not wholly acceptable. The methods, for example, can also be used for planning division into property units and for property valuation.

Land Management (LM) contains courses concerned with administering and changing the division of property and rights. Division into property units is included here, but so too are subjects more actively concerned with changing the allocation of rights - land development, for example.

Real Estate Economics (REE) comprises courses concerned with assessing the economic potential of property units and also with their valuation and management. If REE subjects are included in the study programme, basic economics subjects are also assigned to this area as they are often slanted in favour of real estate economics.

Several courses are outside the above mentioned core subjects and are classified here under two types of support subjects, namely:

Maths includes, in addition to pure mathematics, mathematically related courses, e.g. statistics and numeric analysis. Programming and database courses have also been assigned to this group. These courses mainly provide support for the understanding and management of other subjects.

Other comprises courses which, like Maths, are not core subjects but are nonetheless considered so important for the profession as to be included in the study programmes. Courses such as geology, hydrology, ecology, physics, mechanics, chemistry and also construction, languages, social sciences and research methods are assigned here. Planning courses can be subjects in their own right, as in Denmark, to open up a new job market, but can also be more of a support in the understanding of property formation and land development, as in Germany. If planning courses do not include legal and economic instruments for planning implementation, they are usually assigned to the Other group, or otherwise to Land management (LM). Pure business economics, business management and general law are usually assigned to this group, Other, if they are not directly linked to core subjects.

With the aid of these classifications, profiles have been created, showing the scope of core and support subjects (cf. fig. 3). It has to be understood that the educational profiles show only the scope, not the sequence, of the different subjects. One bar represents all compulsory subjects, and then there are bars for options. This need not imply that options are taken at the end of the study programme: often the opposite applies. Some programmes - the Greece one, for example - enable students to choose their options relatively early, while in others, such as Denmark's, this free choice comes towards the end of the programme, when the student chooses a concluding major. Thesis has been included under options, the supposition being that students usually choose a thesis subject within their speciality, but this again is not necessarily the case.

Assigning a course rightly or wrongly can be difficult, even after examining different course descriptions in detail. In the borderline zones between the different main groups there are courses which may not be readily assignable to one group or the other. Another problem is that as land surveyor study programmes are often interdisciplinary, technology, law and/or economics can be included in one and the same course. In the classification, an individual course has been added to the main subject, unless obviously divisible between two different subject groups.

Some uncertainty, then, attaches to the figures, but, since as a rule, the individual course makes up only a very marginal portion of the programme as a whole, errors of classification are unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on the result obtained.

To keep the work input within limits, study programmes have been investigated in 8 selected western European countries, not in all 17. Two countries (Greece and Spain) have been selected from the Mediterranean region, two (Germany and the Netherlands) from Central Europe, two (Denmark and Sweden) from the Nordic area and two (Ireland and the UK) from English-speaking countries. The selection is intended to give a broad overview of Western Europe.

To reflect the most advanced programmes in the countries investigated, only university programmes have been included, except in the case of Ireland. In the long term, however, it seems almost impossible to clearly distinguishing university study programmes from those of a more practical and technical nature. In Sweden, for instance, 3-year study programmes at university colleges count as professional education while a four-and-a-half year university programme is regarded as purely academic. By way of comparison we may note that a full B.Sc. course in the UK may take only 3 years.

Educational profiles


Greece has land surveyor study programmes in Athens and Thessaloniki. Both are of 5 years' duration and admit, respectively, 120 and 100 new students annually. Studies in Rural and Surveying engineering at the National Technical University, Athens, will be described here. Compulsory courses make up roughly two-thirds of the programme, added to which the students have to choose one of the following four specialities:

Regional - Urban Planning and Development
Water Resources
Transportation Engineering

Figure 3. Surveying education (5 years) at National Technical University Athens. (Source: NTUA 1999)

The second and last two of these are shared with architecture and civil engineering respectively and therefore will not be described here any further.

Students are required to take 37 compulsory courses; they have to choose another 15 by way of specialisation, and then have a completely free choice of 5 courses. It is common for students to take even more courses in order to add one more speciality.

In figure 3 it has been assumed that students interested in Topography (SM) will opt for all available courses in Surveying (SM) and in option Topography (LM) they choose as few courses as possible connected with surveying.

It is fairly clear that the education is influenced by civil engineering and architecture, with a heavy proportion of support courses. This is also reflected by the element of surveying (SM) being limited to 25% of the part and surveying courses not becoming more extensive until the specialisation stage. The topographers (SM) have just over two years surveying courses, plus half a year's thesis work. If students choose the other topography option (LM) described, the element of surveying will be smaller, though still more than one year. Land management does not bulk very large in the teaching programme either, the time being given over instead by other, civil engineering-type subjects. This is still more conspicuously the case with the two specialities which have not been described.

It should be stressed that the surveying profession in Greece is a part of the engineering profession. As a result education is diversified. Added to this, Greece is in the process of building up a real property registration system, though the future responsibilities of surveyors in this connection have not been fully clarified.

Figure 4. Surveying education (4 + 2 years) at National Technical University of Madrid. (Source UMP a and b)


Land surveyor education in Spain is provided on two levels (first and second cycle), namely, a basic four-year programme (Ingeniero Tecnico en Topografia) and a two-year continuation programme (Ingeniero en Geodesia y Cartografia). The basic programme is offered at nine universities, the continuation one at six. Some universities allow only a limited number of students to go on to the second cycle, others have no such restriction. The universities are required to include certain subjects in the education but have a free hand in shaping the actual content of courses. Added to this, they are to some extent entitled to include courses of their own outside the compulsory framework.

This description of land surveyor education in Spain is focused on the Technical University of Madrid. The University admitted some 200 new students to the first cycle in the autumn term 2000. Admissions to the second cycle are limited to 25 students.

Figure 4 illustrates the educational profile of the basic study programme for the degree of Ingeniero Tecnico en Topografia (primer ciclo). This is a four-year programme, three years of which are devoted to studies and the final year to thesis work. Basic courses like mathematics and other support courses occupy just over a year. Otherwise, the study programme is entirely dominated by surveying (just under a year and a half), whereas GIM and land management are relegated to obscurity. There is only a limited element of optional courses. Two extreme alternatives have been illustrated, but the students can choose a mixture of optional courses.

Only a few students are allowed to progress to the second cycle for the degree of Ingeniero en Geodesia y Cartografia (segundo ciclo). This is a two-year programme that concludes with a thesis which takes at least half a year to write. The content is also shown in figure 4. As can be seen, it is very much an amplification of the first cycle, though the support subjects are greatly reinforced in relation to surveying, which has changed in character from Maths to Other.

In summary, the profession of land surveyor in Spain is, to a great extent, focused on mapping in the broad sense, and this is reflected in the educational programme.

Figure 5. Surveying education (4.5 years) at Rheinischen Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn. (Source: UniBonn, nd)


Land surveyor (Vermessungsingenieure) education in Germany is offered at nine universities. The programme takes 4½ years and 260 students were admitted in the autumn term 2000, giving on average 30 students per university, though actual figures ranged from 54 (Hanover) to 12 (Karlsruhe). Germany has drawn up a model plan of studies to serve as a planning guideline (Rahmenordnung fur die Diplomprufung im Studiengang Vermessungswesen an Universitäten und gleichgestellten Hochschulen, 1999). This study programme is understood to emanate from the Technical University of Hanover. Certain subjects are compulsory, but the universities are left to decide for themselves the design and scope of the courses. It took eight years to finalise the guidelines, with the result that, in a manner of speaking, they were already out of date when introduced. The delay was due to states, surveyors' associations and universities all wishing to have a say in their definition.

As the Rahmenordnung (1999) is to some extent already out of date and also with the aim of selecting a university known for placing emphasis on land management, Bonn University has been chosen as representative of Germany (UniBonn, nd). As can be seen from figure 5, it includes a large element of basic Maths courses. Otherwise, the emphasis on surveying is striking. Land management, of which half of the time spent is focused on planning, is not given such prominence. There are also few special GIM courses, though knowledge of this kind is concealed within the SM subjects. Two extreme cases have been illustrated in the figure. In reality, students have a free choice of options and in this way can obtain intermediate variants.

Land surveyors in Germany have been responsible for land consolidation (Flurbereinigung) in rural areas since the 19th century. Germany has also been an international pioneer in the development of readjustment procedures (Umlegung) in urban environments. By tradition, therefore, the profession has an in-depth knowledge of both surveying and advanced property management questions. To an outsider, however, and especially to land surveyors from the Nordic countries, it is surprising that German surveyors have extensive responsibilities for such advanced methods of land consolidation as Umlegung and Flurbereinigung having undergone only a somewhat limited university training in real property law, valuation and real estate planning. Nevertheless, in order to have the necessary qualifications to work in the cadastral system, - Flurbereinigung and Umlegung included - a course of practical training has to be completed (Referendarzeit). This comes after university studies and consists of periods of service with a number of authorities. It also includes a fairly large project and examinations. In Nordrhein-Westfalen, for example, the subsequent training takes two years and involves trainee service with various authorities responsible for property registration, formation of property units (land consolidation included), public planning and land surveying (LDV 1990). The final exam is common for 14 of 16 states in Germany. Roughly 70-75% of the students from Bonn University continue to the Referendarzeit.

It should be mentioned that German surveyors speak about three professional pillars; geodesy, geoinformation and land management. And there is also an obvious attempt to build up land management as well as GIM at universities lacking in any of these areas.

Figure 6. Surveying education (5 years) at Delft University of Technology. (Source: TUDelft 1997) 

The Netherlands

Land surveyors in the Netherlands also have historical experience in surveying and cadaster work including land consolidation, but appear to have lost much of their exclusive responsibility in the property sphere. Surveyors (geodeet) in the Netherlands are trained at the Delft University of Technology. The training takes five years. The number of applications is low and only ten students began the programme in the autumn term 2000. The educational profile is shown in figure 6.

All students take common courses lasting three years, including nearly one-and-a-half years of support subjects. One half of these studies comprises foundation courses such as mathematics, statistics and IT, while the other provides further basic courses. The latter can be foundation courses for the understanding of core subjects, but they can also be freely chosen if students wish to construct individual educational profiles.

Core subjects are dominated by surveying courses and last for one year. GIM subjects have also been allotted a relatively prominent position, occupying about half an academic year. Land management subjects are somewhat less significant.

After just over three years the students choose a speciality - either Geometrics (SM) or Geo-informatics (GIM/LM). Within these specialities there is a choice of different combinations of subjects, and this is why figure 6 only shows a basic structure for the main directions. The Geometrics speciality, in principle, comprises entire courses focusing on surveying. The Geo-informatics speciality is more differentiated and comprises surveying, GIM, land management and also a minor element of real estate valuation. The student is also required to include a research period (0.1 academic year) and a work assignment period (0.3 academic year), and also to write a thesis (0.5 academic year). Both the research period and the work assignment period are included in the speciality.

The training in its present form was introduced in 1996 but has been modified since then. At present it is again under review and may therefore be changed within the next year or so. This review forms part of a total review of the organisation of studies at the Delft University of Technology. The direction of development seems to be that all core subjects are downgraded except GIM at the same time as the scope for projects is increased.

Figure 7. Surveying education (5 years) at Aalborg University. (Source: AUC 2000)


Land surveyors (landinspektør) in Denmark are responsible for both surveying and property formation. During the last 20 years they have also become more extensively involved in public administration and planning. They are trained in Aalborg, where 55 students were admitted in the autumn term 2000. Studies last for five years and follow a common programme for the first three-and-a-half years. The students can then choose between three emphases, namely Land Surveying, Land Management and Land Use Planning. The latter, being an emphasis shared with other study programmes, will not be described here.

The education takes the form of project studies, which means the students work their way through various subjects with support from their teachers. The focus is on core subjects (fig. 7). Maths is little in evidence. Other support subjects are half made up of research methodology courses, to teach the students how to work in project form. The other half consists mainly of pure planning subjects. Contrary to certain other surveyor education programmes, the planning subjects do not really have any clear connection with land management. Instead, the basic idea behind the wide scope of planning as well as the third speciality Land Use Planning has been to open up new fields of employment in the planning sphere.

Denmark is distinguished from the other countries in the survey by the thorough grounding received in GIM. Surveying and mapping (SM), GIM and land management (LM) are in fact no less extensive during the common, compulsory part of the study programme.

Specialisation comes at the end of the programme. Land Surveying, as a concluding speciality, consists exclusively of surveying subjects, except for a short course of mathematics. The Land Management speciality contains core subjects only, except for a minor course of real estate valuation. Thus a broad foundation concludes with a clear specialisation. The students can, however, also mix courses from all specialities.

Plans exist for recasting the studies to some extent, e.g. by increasing the element of real estate economics, though without necessarily switching to real estate management.


Land surveyors in Sweden work with surveying, property formation and land development but are also involved in a number of other activities. One of the areas that has expanded considerably over the last 20 years has been within the real estate management sector. It should also be mentioned that surveyors working with property formation are, in addition, responsible for a large percentage of compulsory purchase procedures that do not involve the courts and lawyers.

Sweden has two land surveyor (civilingenjör lantmäteri) study programmes, one being at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, admitting 100 students annually, and the other in Lund, in the south of Sweden, admitting 30 new students annually. Both study programmes are of four-and-a-half years' duration, but there are some differences between them. The rest of this description will focus on the KTH programme, as this is the largest and most diversified. It is characterised by all students taking the same courses for the first two years, after which they choose between five specialities, viz Surveying and Mapping (SM), Land Management and Development (LM), Building and Real Estate Economics (REE), Environment Engineering/Sustainable Infrastructure and, finally, Spatial Planning. The first three specialities are unique to land surveyor studies, while the other two are shared with students from a different study base. Only the first three will be described here.

The foundation studies include a large block of mathematically oriented courses (Maths) and a smaller block of other support courses such as ecology, geology and construction (fig. 8). In addition, the first two years provide an introduction to what in Sweden are the classic core subjects for land surveyors, namely surveying and mapping, land management and economics, with the focus on real estate economics. A minor GIM course is also included. The subjects in the foundation block can be considered an introduction and presentation prior to the choice of concluding speciality

After two years, the students choose a main speciality for the remainder of their studies. There is also a free choice of subjects within these main specialities, but, for the sake of simplicity, the main structures of each speciality will be presented here.

Figure 8. Surveying education (4.5 years) at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. (Source: KTH 1998)

The Surveying and Mapping (SM) speciality is dominated by classical surveying courses, which are provided on modern lines. A minor element of GIM is also included. The other main specialities are similarly dominated by their core subjects. Land Management and Development (LM) provides law, planning implementation, economics and GIM. All courses are made to focus on property formation and land development, the aim being that the students are able to manage and alter property rights in land. Building and Real Estate Economics is dominated by economics but also includes elements of construction courses and law. The aim of this education is to teach the students to make the most efficient possible use of a property holding and to earn money by doing so.

It may seem strange that surveying plays only a minor part in the training of personnel responsible for cadastral measurement, i.e. land management surveyors, but measurement work in the field is handled by technical personnel who have completed training programmes of between 1 and 3 years' duration.

Studies at KTH are currently under review with the aim of introducing a new scheme in 2002. At present, it is uncertain how this will organised. One proposal is to hive off Real Estate Economics (REE) to form a property management programme in its own right while Surveying and Mapping (SM) and Land Management and Development (LM) will remain options within a study programme and, additionally, may perhaps be co-ordinated with planning studies. The reason for this possible division of land surveyor education into two distinct parts is that, with a shift in focus from property valuation to property management, real estate economists and land surveyors now require very different basic skills. Another possible reorganisation strategy is simply to merge the current surveying and planning programmes. Whatever the decision, the GIM element will be increased and the period of study will probably be expanded to five years.

Figure 9. Surveying education (4 years) at Dublin Institute of Technology. (Source: DIT 1999)


Surveyors in Ireland have, in principle, no responsibility for property formation. A comparison can be made with the UK, where surveyors had this responsibility during the enclosure movement (land consolidation) but later lost it. The consequence for both countries has been that the surveying profession has been divided into land surveyors, with mainly technical skills, and other types of surveyor. The other group includes, for example, general practice surveyors (economic experts), quantity surveyors (who cost construction projects) and planning surveyors. Culturally, the two countries are similar, with a common history and the same language. University education also has much in common. To show the breadth of studies in the two countries, two programmes will be described. The first is Geomatics in Dublin, Ireland. The other is a combined programme in Glamorgan, Wales, for Planning and Development Surveying and Property Management and Valuation (see UK).

The only programme in Ireland devoted entirely to technical surveyors is provided by Dublin Institute of Technology and was introduced in its present form in 1999. It is a four year course with the final half-year concentrating on thesis work. The Institute admits 35 students annually.

Students spend the equivalent of three years studying a common course programme. Three-quarters of a year are devoted to Maths and a similar period to other support courses (fig. 9), of which half are in professional and business management. The management courses are considered strategically important for future professional practice and are in reality included in the specialisation at the end of the study period. Their purpose is to train project leaders.

The common surveying block (SM) lasts for just over a year. The element of GIM is also conspicuous, whereas land management plays a very minor part in the common core foundation programme.

After just over three years students choose between three specialities, namely Geodetic Surveying (SM), Geographical Information Management (GIM) and Land Management (LM). The subjects studied are closely connected to the main speciality area. Courses last for half a year.

Other Irish universities have programmes focusing on real estate economics (general practice surveyors) etc.

Figure 10. Surveying education for Planning and Development Surveying and Property Management and Valuation (3 years) at University of Glamorgan, Wales. (Source: UG 2000)

United Kingdom

In the UK, as in other countries, there is a need for technical surveyors, but as it does not have a cadastral system in the German or Nordic sense, surveyors have no legal responsibility for property formation. Previous knowledge of land consolidation has disappeared. However, the UK has developed real estate expertise more extensively than elsewhere through the early establishment of other types of surveyor, e.g. general practice surveyors specialising in real estate appraisal and property economics (Thompson 1968).

In this connection, an observation by Mattsson (2000) is perhaps worth mentioning. If a study programme includes all core subjects from surveying (SM) via land management (LM) to real estate economics (REE) and none of these is purely marginal, the consequence may be that the programme cannot be held together, even if options or various concluding specialities are devised to provide specialisation. Bearing in mind that fragmentation tendencies can be observed in Finland and Sweden, a surveyor education programme can result which will include no technical subjects at all. This example, taken from the UK, can provide an indication of the direction in which things may move if real estate economics becomes a successful and extensive subject in its own right.

It is worth noting that the UK has more than a hundred surveyor study programmes at upwards of 50 universities or corresponding higher education establishments. Most of these programmes are property economics related (general practice surveyors). About 10 establishments provide technically oriented programmes (RICS, nd).

From this large number of programmes, one has been selected, namely; the study programme at the University of Glamorgan. This is a three-year B.Sc. programme. A M.Sc. programme could also have been chosen, but this would add very little to the results obtained from Glamorgan. The most important factor is to show the total absence of geodesy and other technical surveying subjects (fig. 10).

Most significant of all, however, is how courses in real estate economics completely dominate the study programme, even though it has two specialities. In addition, there are land management courses, and also support subjects, dealing mainly with building and planning. To some extent students have a free choice of support courses.

About 80 per cent of the courses are common core. Specialisation covers just over half a year and runs parallel to compulsory courses after the first year. One speciality is Planning and Development Surveying, the other is Property Management and Valuation.

Curricular comparisons

Table 1. Education profiles at investigated universities (in grey fields ECTS credits taken from figures 3-10; one year is 60 credits).


Mattsson (2000) divides surveyors into three main groups, namely: technical land surveyors, land management surveyors and real estate economics surveyors. This subdivision is open to question and can, of course, be made in many other ways. Its advantage is that it points to three clear main directions, namely; surveyors with purely measurement and cartographic duties, surveyors responsible for property formation and, to a varying extent, for land consolidation and land development, and, finally, surveyors who have developed their real estate expertise for valuation and management. These specialities provide an indication of the way in which education can be developed.

The dynamic field of geographic information management (GIM) has not given rise to any surveyor title in the present survey, and opinions differ as to whether GIM is to define a separate group of surveyors in Europe or is merely an adjunct to all existing categories.

Table 1 shows the maximum scope of courses in core subjects (ECTS credits taken from figures 3-10), to indicate the occurrence of advanced studies. It should be added that this does not give a fair picture of Ireland, since universities with general practice have not been included, nor for the UK, owing to the exclusion of universities with technical/land surveying. It must also be remembered that specialities taken conjointly with other study programmes, especially civil engineering, have not been included in this survey. This affects three specialities in Greece, two in Sweden and one in Denmark.

As can be seen, Aalborg and KTH have succeeded in constructing study programmes which are advanced in three fields at the same time. Two such fields have been adopted in Dublin and Delft, while other study programmes achieve only one advanced speciality. It should be explained that a study programme is judged to have an advanced speciality if at least one-and-a-half years' studies (90 ECTS credits) is devoted to core subjects for one main speciality. For GIM, as a new subject, the threshold has been pitched lower (40 ECTS credits).

Although the reasons for differences in educational profiles may be questioned, the basic cause lies in the land surveyors' present or previous responsibility for property formation. A historically rooted, extensive responsibility has facilitated breadth of study programmes and profession. In the Nordic and Anglo-Saxon countries, for example, this has led to clear specialities.

Table 2. Support and core subjects at investigated universities (in grey fields minimum and maximum ECTS credits taken from figures 3-10; one year is 60 credits).

Germany and the Netherlands merit special attention. In Germany university courses have acquired an overwhelmingly technical focus, in spite of the profession's extensive responsibility for property formation and its general wide field of practice. The reason for this can be explained by a compulsory traineeship with an emphasis on law that has to be completed in order to qualify for cadastral work. In this way, a lot of surveyors obtain additional essential knowledge. As a result, in order to carry out the full scope of its work effectively, the profession seems to have become dependent on not only academic training but also practical experience gained in the public sector. The question is whether this will prove viable in the long term.

In the Netherlands it seems even more problematic as the university's main focus is on research, not on professional profiles. About a third of the most recent graduates took up land management activities after their university course, but despite this, land management continues to be a declining area at the university.


Sometimes it is said that the training of surveyors, like the profession itself, should increasingly have GIM/GIS/LIS/GIT as a unifying link between technology and social science. This explains why GIM is handled separately in the figures above. A special study, however, will also be made of the GIM subjects, although it must be realised that there can be a significant proportion GIM in a number of subjects without their being assigned to GIM for that reason. There are clear links with geodesy and photogrammetry, but also with market analyses for property valuation and planning. If anything, then, it is the IT interests of the teacher and the financial resources of the university that determine the proportion of GIM in different subjects.

As will be seen from table 2, where GIM is concerned, the study programmes can be divided into three groups. Aalborg is unique with its extensive compulsory ingredient. The next group comprises Delft, Dublin and Madrid. Other countries have relatively marginal elements of compulsory courses. If options (the maximum alternative in the table) are also taken into account, we obtain much the same ranking order, though Delft and Dublin in this case rise to the same volume as Aalborg. We conclude that certain study programmes have focused more on GIM while in others it has not been given priority. Most of the universities come midway between the two extremes.

GIM has also been compared with the surveying elements (SM). This brings out the limited extent of GIM still more clearly, with the exception of Aalborg, Delft and Dublin.

In countries with strong land management profiles, i.e. Denmark (Aalborg) and Sweden (KTH), radically different views are taken of GIM in the existing study programmes. Aalborg has advanced studies while those at KTH are almost negligible. It is worth mentioning too, that GIM and land management are linked together at Delft while constituting alternatives at Dublin.

Finally, KTH and Glamorgan have extensive studies in real estate economics, while both of them lack or have only marginal elements of GIM. This may seem odd, since GIS is probably a powerful instrument for analysing property markets.

Support subjects

The volume of mathematics/statistics etc. and IT respectively are often discussed in connection with study programme revisions. These subjects are obviously needed with a view to further studies of core subjects, but the ease with which mathematics could become a flagship subject at institutes of technology should not be discounted. All the study programmes described are located at universities of technology or the equivalent, Glamorgan excepted, and so it may be interesting to consider the scope of mathematically oriented subjects. To do this, the data related courses must be separated from Maths related courses.

The volume of these courses can be seen from table 2. Programming and database courses have been assigned to a separate column (Data). The table shows the minimum and maximum ingredients in the figures presented earlier (figures 3-10). All countries run at least one semester mathematically oriented courses, except Aalborg, where maths has been reduced by half. Oddly enough, there are no great differences between maximum and minimum values within the individual countries, although the wide choice of options on offer suggests that very different mathematical skills would be required for admission to these courses.

It is worth pointing out that the IT element of the studies, thus isolated, is probably underrepresented, given the fact that modern surveyor training is unlikely to be without computer use, and this applies to all core subjects. The element of IT varies between 0 and 18 ECTS credits. Presumably, however, this type of knowledge is for some universities included in SM or GIM courses.

The connection with civil engineering study programmes in Greece is revealed by the large proportion of Other. Spain too, has a large number of support courses. It is interesting to note that this proportion is high in countries with a small element of land management courses.

Voluming of studies

In this connection it will perhaps be interesting to speculate, with the aid of a specimen calculation, on the voluming of studies. Assuming a need for some 500 technical land surveyors and 500 land management surveyors with advanced academic qualifications at master's level per 10 million inhabitants, then Germany would need a total of 8,000 highly qualified land surveyors of these two categories and Sweden 1,000. If the annual need for replenishment through graduation is estimated at 5 or 10 per cent of the professionally active, between 400 and 800 would need to be trained annually in Germany and between 50 and 100 in Sweden. In countries with technical land surveyors only, the estimate of both profession and education would be halved. This specimen calculation is based on roughly standardised figures taken from statistical data in CLGE (1996, App. X).

It has to be borne in mind that this is a specimen calculation, but, as has already been said, in the voluming of studies it is useful to speculate on the strength of international comparisons. It should also be added that, in addition to those surveyors with the longest training, personnel are also needed with a shorter and more practical training period corresponding to Fachhochschule in Germany and a B.Sc. in Sweden. There could also perhaps be a requirement for those with an even shorter training time.

One conclusion that can be drawn is that in small countries, surveyor education programmes, unless they have several specialities, may be hard to maintain because they can become prohibitively expensive.

The need for economic surveyors is harder to calculate, especially as the situation in the UK suggests that there is considerable scope for this category. The situation in Finland and Sweden points in the same direction.

Figure 11. Pedagogical models for course structures.

Pedagogical model for course structure

Turning to consider the pedagogical aspect of course structures, three main types are distinguishable, viz:

1. Parallel study of perhaps 5-8 subjects in one term.
2. Block study, usually of two parallel courses only.
3. Project-oriented education consisting of just-in-time courses.

These structures are exemplified in figure 11.

Parallel studies appear, by all accounts, to be the commonest arrangement. Between 5 and 8 courses are taken simultaneously and may be allotted different numbers of hours per week. Examinations in all courses are often held at the end of term. This arrangement is employed, for example, at Spanish universities and at certain German universities. In Spain about 7 courses are taken in parallel. In Germany 5 or 6 or perhaps even more courses can be taken in parallel. There are frequent mixtures of compulsory and optional courses.

The parallel study system makes it possible to offer very small courses. It is also possible to mix limited courses and extensive ones. In addition, it ought, logically, to be quite easy to change courses, should that become necessary. With many courses being taken parallel, however, there is a risk of knowledge becoming fragmented in such a way that the students have difficulty in relating the content of courses to a wider context. Another disadvantage is the lack of time for concentrating on one subject. Critics are wont to say that the system is characterised by last-minute swotting. Advocates sometimes argue that this is one way of teaching the students to effectively keep several balls in the air at once.

The block system is usually based on only two courses being taken in parallel. Altogether, four courses are normally taken per term, but two or three are also possible. One course may last for a full term, while another runs parallel for the first half-term and a third follows in the second half.

Since every term usually comprises 3 or 4 courses, each course, as a rule comprises at least 7.5 ECTS credits. There is no room for smaller subjects, and these, consequently, have to be integrated with other subjects. The idea is to avoid excessive fragmentation of knowledge. The longer, 15 ECTS credit, courses commonly include projects corresponding to those of the project-oriented study programmes (see below). The projects in these larger courses are supported by means of supplementary lectures and seminars.

The pedagogical idea is for the students to take the opportunity of concentrating on the subject studied and to let it ripen undisturbed by other subjects, while at the same time providing some variety by dividing the time between two subjects. KTH in Sweden applies this pedagogic.

The block system also provides an opportunity for the distinctive building up of studies in such a way that each new block rests on one or more previous blocks and constitutes the foundation of other blocks to follow.

Project-oriented studies are distinguished through students running major projects on their own. Teachers and students together choose the projects, after which the students explore their way ahead in reading matter and reality in order to write a project memorandum in the form of a lengthy essay on the subject chosen. While project work is in progress, courses - "just-in-time courses," as the Americans would call them - are provided in support of the project.

The project-oriented pedagogic is applied at Aalborg in Denmark. All lecture courses support the projects and are included in their evaluation at the end of term. Thus, there are no self-contained courses unconnected with projects, except for a few introductory lecture courses during the first half-year of basic training.

Project-oriented education is distinguished by the students learning to track down knowledge for themselves - a pivotal skill in a changing world. Thus, the pedagogical idea is that, although knowledge itself is important, the methods for seeking it are even more important. In addition, the students' own activity stimulates their acquisition of knowledge, and knowledge ripens when sought individually over a considerable length of time.

Examination and quality assurance

The nature of European universities has changed dramatically over the last decades from being traditionally elitist educational institutions to mass education organisations with a responsibility towards a steadily growing part of the population. This, combined with tighter public budgets in higher education, has led to an increasing focus on the quality of the education provided. Consequently, different types of quality assurance and assessment systems and initiatives have been established throughout Europe.

Quality assurance refers to "…the means by which an institution satisfies itself that standards and quality of its educational provision can be maintained and enhanced" (FIG 1999). Three main areas can be identified:

  1. Quality management that aims to assess and improve the content of lecture courses as well as the total curriculum and study environment.
  2. Quality enhancement that aims to develop the professional and pedagogical level of faculty staff.
  3. Quality control that aims to control the examination procedures and to assess the overall professional level and academic standard of the curriculum.

The systems applied at different institutions vary in that there can be national controls or situations in which universities are entrusted to develop their own activities. Another aspect is the cultural context of an educational institution with its capacity to either facilitate or suppress local quality initiatives. However, in all cases, quality assurance should be seen as an important device to ensure that the aims and objectives of the curriculum are fulfilled. Furthermore, there is a constant need to ascertain that the profile of the curriculum and the standard of graduates are in line with both the academic demands of higher education and the expectations and requirements of industry.

A system of Quality Management includes a formal process for monitoring and improving the quality of course content. At some universities (e.g. in Ireland and Spain) this is the sole responsibility of the department or course team. However, at most universities, the process also includes a systematic response from students at the end of each lecture course or semester. It may also involve a systematic feedback from the department/study board to the students themselves. This is to ensure that students are fully aware that not only is their evaluation a vital tool for improving the quality of future courses but that they themselves are currently benefiting from improvements made because of assessments carried out by students attending earlier courses. The development and implementation of such a monitoring system is, in essence, about creating a quality culture as a basis for improving the total teaching and learning environment.

Another means of quality management is the use of formalised review procedures every four or five years based on critical self-analysis and with the involvement of professional practice. The purpose is to assess whether the learning outcome matches the stated aims of the modules taught, that appropriate resources are available, and that the professional profile of the curriculum meets the needs and demands of professional practice. Procedures for such formalised processes vary considerably throughout Europe. In some countries (such as England, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany) they are fully implemented while in other countries there are no formalised review or accreditation procedures.

Quality Enhancement includes the development of the teaching skills of faculty staff. A high quality learning environment is dependent on the lecturer/student interface which, in turn, relies on the pedagogical skills of the teacher. However, even if the traditional focus on only the value of research in the academic world now tends to be changing, there is still a long way to go before teaching activities are recognised at the same level.

Most universities endorse staff development courses (within limited resources) on a voluntary basis. Only a few universities (such as Madrid and Aalborg) have established a pedagogical unit responsible for the provision of pedagogical courses. A few universities such as Delft and Aalborg require the successful completion of formal pedagogical courses prior to assignment as senior lecturer. In the case of Aalborg, this requirement is also due to the need for skills for supervision of students in a project organised learning environment.

Quality Control includes the appropriate procedures for examination and assessment of the professional and academic standards of the curriculum. Again, there is great diversity throughout Europe. At most universities, examination marking is carried out by faculty staff. Some countries, such as England and Ireland, use external examiners to comment on the outcome of both examinations and coursework and to assess the scores and comment on the results. Only Aalborg seems to make direct use of external examiners to assess and mark student examinations.

The use of external examiners may ensure that the academic and professional standards of the graduates are in line with the requirements of higher education. Furthermore, it assesses whether these standards match the expectations of professional practice. External examiners (eminent professionals and academics) may be appointed by the State and/or by professional bodies. The feedback from the examiners then works as a vehicle to improve the overall standard of the programme.

Another means of quality control is the use of periodic accreditation or evaluation procedures. These are applied at most European universities but can vary considerably from a formal accreditation process (England and Ireland) to one based on dialogue and trust (the Nordic countries). However, in all cases procedures are designed to assess the standards and to improve the quality of programmes as well as the total educational environment.

Quality assurance should be seen as an integrated part of any educational programme. The means may vary according to the cultural and institutional context but the objective is basically the same: to ensure high standards and to constantly improve the quality of the programmes. This is an ongoing process and the lessons learnt should be disseminated more broadly to support enhancement of the surveying education programmes throughout Europe.

Concluding remarks

The overarching purpose of this paper has been to lay a basis for understanding different approaches to education, and in this way to provide impulses for improvement and, ultimately, to elevate and broaden professional competence. Understanding of other countries also helps to facilitate mutual recognition of professional competence within the European surveying community.

It is clear that surveyor education programmes are very differently profiled throughout Europe and this is probably due to the range of different competencies required by the profession. However, that it could also be the consequence of different strategies adopted by the universities cannot be dismissed. These strategies do not necessarily coincide with the needs of the job market. This was already revealed by Mattsson's (2000) analysis of Professor Allan's (1996) educational and professional profiles. The discrepancy seems all the more apparent when the content of certain study programmes is looked at more closely. The most interesting difference is that which exists between the university education and professional duties of German surveyors. Have the universities, with some exceptions, adopted a wise educational strategy by allowing a large part of land management skills to be gained through practical experience in the public sector instead of providing the appropriate scientifically based education themselves? Or will university surveyor education programmes be driven onto a cul-de-sac? Only the future will vindicate the wisdom of the chosen strategy.

Another important question arises when looking at the study programmes. Should surveyors use their knowledge of land for a wider purpose than that of just mapping? This applies, above all, if the education is to include all core subjects, i.e. surveying, GIM, land management or property valuation. For certain study programmes there are a number of core subjects, not highlighted in this paper, which may also be of interest - planning, for example. Then again, changing times may lead to the introduction of new subjects.

A profession should experience no difficulty in having several competencies, or in changing them. If it happens to be good at something, why not make it a source of income? Otherwise, someone else will reap the benefit. This is more difficult for universities. They have only a limited period in which to communicate knowledge, and if one field is to expand, time will have to be taken from another. In addition, it takes many years to produce scientifically competent teachers (although this can be partly overcome by outsourcing) and it is not easy to re-train existing ones. Then again, there is a tendency for individuals in a range of subjects to argue in favour of expanding their own territory as a survival strategy because this gives them resources, even if students and the profession suffer as a result. It is not until a crisis develops, such as a shortage of students or their failure to obtain appropriate jobs, that a decision has to be taken as to whether a programme should be terminated or new subjects introduced which find favour with both students and the job market.

If new subjects are to be added or existing ones expanded, one question always arises - at whose expense? It may not be possible to dispense totally with existing subjects because some surveyors at least need to have an in-depth knowledge of a certain core subject. One solution to this problem, therefore, could be the insertion of a host of optional subjects or different optional specialities at the end of a study programme. Another solution could be to allow each university within a country that offers a land surveying course to specialise in different Masters programmes and perhaps design this in such a way as to acquire an international catchment area.

What matters in the long term is that the universities take their responsibility for the future very seriously, which, in the case of surveyors, far transcends individual subject fields. Finding the right direction is not easy, however, because education is based on the need for the programmes on offer to be attractive when students enter the job market. That can often be five to seven years after these programmes have been defined. Universities also have to ensure that students have sufficient knowledge and skill to provide them with the foundations for a long, professional career.

One way of predicting future needs is by observing the development of the profession, so that decisive changes can be discovered at an early stage and distinguished from more transitory events. Another way of broadening the basis of assessment is by considering developments in other countries, in both education and practice. Given the internationalisation which has taken place, not least in Europe, there is every possibility of both professional and university representatives actively sharing one another's experiences. Professor Allan, not least, has shown how complex reality is, but also how eventful. Presumably our concern should be with encouraging educational and professional dynamism rather than with isolating certain activities.

Finally I would like to add that, from a research viewpoint, it would be interesting at the very least to analyse the way in which legal families with their different systems of administrative and civil law and different land consolidation traditions, have impacted on the tasks of the surveying profession and still continue to do so.


Allan, A. L. (1996) The Education and Practice of Geodetic Surveyors in Western Europe. University Collage London.
AUC (2000) Studievejledning for Landinspektøruddannelsen. Eleven booklets published between 1998 and 2000 by Aalborg University. Denmark.
CLGE (1996) The Establishment of the Profile and Definition of the Geodetic Surveying Profession to Meet the Requirements of the General Public and the Commission of the European Union. Written by J. Stannard. London.
CLGE (2001) The Education and Practice of Geodetic Surveyors in Western Europe. Upgrading of Allan (1996). Preliminary results.
DIT (1999) Approved Course Document for B.Sc.(Hons) Degree in Geomatics. Volume 1. Department of Geomatics. Dublin. Ireland.
Enemark, S. (2000) Creating a Quality Culture. In: Towards Best Practise - Quality Improvement Initiatives in Nordic Higher Education Institutions. Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen. Denmark.
FIG (1991) Definition of a Surveyor. Report from International Federation of Surveyors. ISBN 951-96203-0-3.
FIG (1999) Quality Assurance in Surveying Education. FIG publications no 19, FIG Office, Copenhagen. Denmark.
KTH (1998) Studiehandbok Lantmäteri/Surveying. Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. Stockholm. Sweden.
LDV (1990) Verordnung über die Ausbildung und Prüfung über die Laufbahn des höheren vermessungstechnischen Vervaltungsdienstes im Lande Nordrhein-Westfalen. Vom 9. September, Landesverband der Diplomingenieure für Vermessungswesen. Web adress (Aug. 2000): http://www.ldv-nrw.de/vaphvd.htm.
Mattsson, H. (2000) The Education and Profession of Land Surveyors in Western Europe. Maankäyttö 3/2000. Finland.
NTUA (1999) Department of Rural and Surveying Engineering. National Technical University Athens. Greece.
Rahmenordnung (1999) Rahmenordnung fur die Diplomprufung im Studiengang Vermessungswesen an Universitäten und gleichgestellten Hochschulen (beschlossen von der Konferenz der Rektoren und Präsident der Hochschulen in der Bundesrepublic Deutschland am 05. Juli 1999.
RICS (unknown publication year) Degrees and Diplomas Accredited by the RICS. Publication ET/SLB/1B/AN96 from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. London.
Thompson, F. M. L. (1968) Chartered Surveyors - The Growth of a Profession. UK.
TUDelft (1997) Geodetic Engineering. Curriculum. Delft University of Technology. The Netherlands.
TUDelft (2000) Self Study for ABET Review of the Programme Geodetic Engineering. Volume II. Delft University of Technology. The Netherlands.
UniBonn (2000) Studienordnung für den Diplomstudiengang Vermessungswesen an der Rheinischen Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn. Web adress (Aug. 2000): http://giub.geod.uni-bonn.de/Deutsch/studieordnung.html.
UniBonn (unknown publication year) Studieordnung für den Diplomstudiengang Vermessungswesen an der Rheinischen Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universität Bonn. Germany.
UG (2000) Definite Document for the Surveying Scheme. University of Glamorgan. May 2000. Wales. UK.
UPM a (unknown publication year) Surveying Curriculum at the E.U.I. Topografica. UPM. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
UPM b (unknown publication year) Estudios de Ingenieria en Geodesia y Cartografia. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.


Docent Stig Enemark, Aalborgs Universitet, Denmark.
Lecturer Jaap Zevenberger, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.
Lecturer Paddy Prendergast, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.
Reader Frances Plimmer, University of Glamorgan, Wales.
Prof Pedro Cavero, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.
Prof Haris Billiris, National Technical University Athens, Greece.
Prof. Erich Weiss, Universität Bonn, Germany.
Prof. Bertold Witte, Universität Bonn, Germany.


A special word of thanks must go to all the interviewees who took time to answer my questions, particularly Stig Enemark, who also wrote the section on examination and quality assurance. I would also like to thank the CLGE delegates who gave me advice and collected background material. Non of the people interviewed is, however, responsible for the conclusions in this article.

Biographical Notes

Hans Mattsson is Professor in Real Estate Planning (fastighetsteknik) at Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. His main interest has been devoted to urban policy and plan implementation. Since 1996 he has also been involved in teaching programmes for students from the former Soviet Union. The task has been to promote land management subjects including land law and real estate valuation at universities in the new countries. He has also been involved in work with changes of university curricula in Eastern and Central Europe.

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