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Climbing among cloudy mountain-tops many years ago, Adrian Tagg had a lightbulb moment that would change his life.
Portrait of Adrian Tagg, Associate Professor in Building Surveying at the University of Reading

Realising his potential

Adrian had joined the Royal Air Force aged 18 and was a passionate mountaineer. That day, he was attempting to scale a particularly challenging peak with a group of young colleagues. 

Halfway up the mountain, as chill mist swirled closer, Adrian realised that the officer leading the expedition was not familiar with mountain maps. They were lost. 

Being a keen mountaineer, Adrian was able to lead the group to safety. Later, he mused on this: the officer was in charge because of his higher rank. Why did the officer have the higher rank? Qualifications and he had a degree. 

Adrian realised that if he could excel amongst peers on the mountain top, he could go on to greater achievements in other fields.

Academic and professional success

Following his mountainside revelation, Adrian went on to climb up the rungs of education, finally graduating with a degree in Building Surveying. 

Two years later, having gained the all-important professional membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Adrian spent many years working in Europe. 

Today, he runs his own successful consultancy and is also the lead for the undergraduate degree in Building Surveying at the University of Reading.

The drive and rigour that led him from that mountaintop to a high-flying international career informs his teaching, and is one of the greatest assets he passes on to his students. 

Adrian's specialisms in Building Pathology and Commercial Surveying Practices reflect his scrupulousness: 

"Advising building owners and investors on defects to their assets requires a human element. 

"The built environment is an intrinsic part of our lives, when giving a professional opinion this must be approached with objectivity, independence and thorough correctness. 

"Buildings have an environmental and social impact. Often in our field, alternative solutions might make a difference. 

"I say to my students that if they wish to change individual lives and the attitudes of investors, they should utilise the skills they've learned doing a degree in building surveying – they will have much more influence on people!"

Bringing together students with industry

On a national and international level, Adrian's contacts as the School Placement Officer and Employability Lead include property professionals, construction companies and real estate investors. They often provide his students with valuable placement opportunities. 

Adrian comments on the high regard his contacts have for the School of Construction Management and Engineering students: 

"What they value about our students is that both our teaching and research is linked to practice.

"We are part of the sector: we understand the industries with which we align, we place emphasis on staying in touch with an ever-changing environment, and we engage with current challenges."

Supporting students to excel

Adrian supports his students from their first steps into placement through into their later career growth. His leadership ensures students enter the working world strongly equipped to achieve. 

He comments that employers are always "incredibly complimentary" about the knowledge of students from the School. To Adrian, getting the first step right is key. To this end, he prepares his cohorts thoroughly before they meet future placement employers. 

This commercial acumen, complemented by the School's academic rigour, is highly effective in practice. Employers and Reading alumni stay in touch with the University, building on the strong professional network that is so advantageous to each generation of students.   

"When my former students are approaching their professional exams, they are welcome to come to me for advice and I'm happy to invite them back in to present to my class. This is beneficial to both the alumni and students. 

"What is especially fulfilling for me is the sense of achievement when graduates become Chartered Surveyors. It's an honour to have had some involvement in this." 

Also vital is the quality of guest lecturers the department attracts, says Adrian: 

"With our guest lecturers, we get some renowned experts and high-profile organisations operating within the construction and surveying sector. Ultimately this opens doors for students looking for placements and graduate opportunities."

Moving forward

Adrian is deepening this commercial-academic synergy with the introduction of more bespoke commercial modules, like Commercial Surveying Practices and Advanced Pathology. 

In this, students gain an understanding of the role of the commercial surveyor and the identification, diagnosis and remedy of defects to commercial buildings. 

Adrian's focus is always to move his courses, his students and himself forward. With his students, this process starts with what Adrian calls "a bit of tough love": 

"I'll give them everything, all my knowledge and experience, but in return I expect something back ... I set the bar quite high!

"Over and above all, you can't do this job without passion. I see it as a privilege to support young people on their journey. 

"If students dare to dream, they can take their skills anywhere in the world. Another custom, another country, another language; this profession and this University can potentially take you anywhere. Everywhere you see our alumni in senior positions. 

"The School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading is a real beacon." 

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