Thursday, 2 July 2015

Real Estate Investment Finance: Q&A with the REIF Subject Leader

The Department of Real Estate and Construction (REC) recently launched a new online programme in Real Estate Investment Finance. The programme is available at MSc or Postgraduate Diploma level and also at Certificate level.

This is the second blog post in the series about the staff who are involved with REIF (the first, about the Module Leader for the REIF module is here). This time I have been talking to the Subject Leader for the REIF programmes - Dr Ye Xu who, together with Peter Dent, was recently awarded the Brookes People Team Award for Enterprising Creativity. They were nominated for their successful development and delivery of two major international professional training programmes in China and South East Asia (including REIF).

Ye Xu (left) - photo courtesy of OBU website

I asked Ye a few questions:

What did you study at university?
I started studying Real Estate at university in China. Real Estate had just started as a discipline in Chinese universities and I wanted to study something that was a bit different from the usual business and finance. Shortly afterwards, I had the opportunity to study for a degree in the UK, something which I very much wanted to do. I arrived at the University of Central Lancashire more than 18 years ago and was persuaded to study a degree in Building Surveying after a chat with one of the tutors. I enjoyed studying the more technical side of surveying and I very much enjoyed living in Preston. But my first love was Real Estate, so I applied for MSc courses in Real Estate and ended up at the University of Reading (of course, I would have come to Oxford Brookes at that stage, but that was before they started the MSc Real Estate!). After handing in my MSc dissertation on a Friday, I started as a graduate surveyor with Cushman & Wakefield the following Monday.

How did you find your way into Real Estate at Oxford Brookes?
I worked for Cushman & Wakefield (initially in London) for 2/3 years and passed my APC along the way, becoming a member of the RICS. I also spent some time working at the Cushman & Wakefield office in China where I made a lot of useful contacts. Then I decided it was time to take my studies further and I applied to Oxford Brookes to study for a PhD and in the area of real estate investment finance. After I completed my PhD, I was offered a job with the Department of REC and stayed!

Why did you decide to start the REIF programmes?
During my time with Cushman & Wakefield in China, I made lots of contacts and these carried over into my work at Oxford Brookes. Working at a university in the UK and producing graduates ready to take the APC and meet the professional standards of the RICS (Royal Institution of Charterd Surveyors), I decided to explore the possibilities for starting a training programme in China. We worked closely with the RICS to develop a professional training programme (Oxford Adapt) to prepare professionals for the RICS APC exams and raise the profile of the profession and professional standards in China. The Oxford Adapt training programme has been very successful and is now expanding to other countries in Asia.

It was during this time that contact with APREA (Asia Pacific Real Estate Association) began - they were looking for a UK university to work with to develop and deliver their training programme: the Certificate of Real Estate Investment Finance (CREIF). Oxford Brookes started delivering CREIF in March 2014 and following requests from students for a internationally recognised qualification, the Postgraduate Diplom and MSc REIF came on line in 2015. The MSc REIF is now accredited by the RICS.

Noel Neo, CFA, Head of Research at APREA and CREIF graduate put it this way:

‘Most real estate investment professionals have an academic background in either real estate or finance. The REIF programmes bridge this gap by combining elements of finance and real estate - providing those with a real estate background with a foundation in finance and those with a finance background with a foundation in real estate. It is a great finishing course for anyone with a background in either finance or real estate and wishing to develop the other half of the skillset'.

How does the overall REIF programme fit together and what kind of teaching methods are being used?
The REIF programme intends to show students the insight of property as an investment instrument in a mixed asset portfolio. In the meantime, it also helps show investors how to manage their property to sustain their cashflows. Each of the 4 core modules has been designed around six learning packages and are assessed through a combination of online tests, workbooks, problem-solving, analysis and report writing, allowing students to work at your own pace and keep track of what they have learned. We are using a Virtual Learning Platform (Moodle) to deliver the programmes online and, on that platform we are creating a community for lecturers and students to share knowledge and experience. In terms of the contents of the REIF programmes, we developed it together with practitioners in the industry. Therefore, we are trying to include as many latest topics as possible in modules. Students will not only be able to learn the theory, but more importantly, they will know how to apply those theories in practice.

For more detailed information about the modules and the programmes, take a look at REIF on the website and also REIF on the Hot Property blog.

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