Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Quantity Surveying

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Quantity Surveying


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The Department of Quantity Surveying was instituted at the beginning of the 1970 academic year as part of the University of Port Elizabeth. On 1 January 2005 the University of Port Elizabeth, the Port Elizabeth Technikon and Vista University merged to form the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. There are five full-time and three part-time staff members presenting the BSc Construction Economics and BSc Hons Quantity Surveying programmes.  With these dedicated staff members the Department of Quantity Surveying has developed into a well established unit which maintains standards of excellence at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.


Our vision is to be the first choice provider of professional career orientated education in Quantity Surveying.


We are a people centered department offering national and internationally recognised academic programmes. We deliver sought after graduates and provide innovative solutions and services to the built environment and the community.


The educational philosophy of the Department is that in the department learners are encouraged to become active learners, to participate in the communication process and to develop an enquiring mind as a life skill; the boundaries of technology, science and philosophy are extended through research; academic horizons are widened in partnership with the basic sciences, both in content and methodology. Fundamental education is perceived as the key to the development of innovative and creative skills.


The BSc Construction Economics and BSc Honours Quantity Surveying degree programmes are accredited by the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) (United Kingdom) and the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession. Our motto “Quantifying tomorrow”


Quantity Surveyors control the ‘money’ for their clients in construction projects – they are experts in dealing with all financial matters related to a building project, from start to finish. They are mainly responsible for estimating the cost of a new building, calculating the materials and labour used in a building, preparing tender and other legal documents, estimate the value of work done at various stages of the contract, i.e. controlling all costs while a building is being built. They often get involved in other aspects of construction as well and in other industries such as insurance, banking, law, property development, etc. (Quantity Surveying is not the same as Land Surveying).

The Quantity Surveying Student Society is an academic society that is striving to be a bridge between industry stakeholders, staff in the department and the members of the society. The ultimate aim of its existence is to develop high calibre professionals and well informed graduates regarding the quantity surveying profession.

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The Society is playing an increasingly important role in the development of Quantity Surveying students. Apart from offering Qualifications that meet the requirements of industry, the QS Department also focus on the personal development of our students. Personal development involves interaction with both staff members and fellow students.

The Society provides an ideal opportunity for students to interact with each other (especially over different years and routes of study) and with staff members. In addition, it also provides the student with the opportunity to:

  • Establish future contacts;
  • Make life-long friends, and
  • Assist in finding a work-life balance while studying at NMMU.

The Society represents the voice of the students registered for the Qualifications offered and is therefore responsible for communicating any grievances that the students may have to staff members.

Although membership to the Quantity Surveying Students’ Society is not compulsory, we strongly urge all our students to become members. We truly believe that membership can only be of benefit to the student, even long after completing his / her studies at NMMU.

The Quantity Surveying profession dates back to the Bible, in terms of Luke, chapter 14:28, which reads “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first and counts the cost to see whether he will have sufficient to finish it?” (Bowles & Le Roux, 1992: 4).

Throughout the construction of the pyramids and temples of ancient Egypt the quantity surveyor was called the “measurer of royal works” (Bowles & Le Roux, 1992: 4). The term “quantity surveyor” was first recorded in 1859 (Kiran, 2009). Today, the quantity surveyor is known by many other names such as ‘construction cost consultant’, ‘building economist’, ‘construction accountant’ and ‘contractual and procurement specialist’ (Ashworth et al., 2013: 19).

According to Buys (2004: 2), the first quantity surveying practise was established in England in 1785 by the firm of Henry Cooper and sons.

During the medieval times, competition as it is known today did not exist. As this element of competition was eventually introduced, contractors discovered that there was a remarkable amount of measuring and calculation involved in order to arrive at a competitive tender figure. As every contractor interpreted the drawings differently, tenders were not calculated on a uniform basis (Bowles & Le Roux, 1992: 4). Furthermore, each individual builder experienced excess overhead costs because of time spent on quantification in calculating his tender figure.

This lead to the introduction of the quantity surveyor to act on behalf of all tenderers, as an unbiased, independent measurer and quantifier of the required building materials, with the surveyor’s fee to be shared amongst the contractors (Buys, 2004: 2).

The client and architect realised that they could benefit from such a professional, by employing the quantity surveyor as a construction economist and cost consultant. During the 1960’s cost planning was added to the quantity surveyor’s list of services to avoid tenders that are over budget.

In the 1970’s quantity surveying practises shifted in size towards either the larger or smaller end of the spectrum (Langford & Male, 2001: 36).

During the 1980’s the development of new procurement methods and forms of contract constantly redefined the role of the quantity surveyor within the design team (Langford & Male, 2001: 36), posing a threat to the architect, in all areas except for design. This resulted in a change in client buying behaviour with respect to quantity surveyor’s services. Quantity surveying practises started to experience an increase in competition, not only between consulting firms, but also with other professions (Langford & Male, 2001: 37).

The early development of the quantity surveying profession in South-Africa was first sparked by the change within the economic system, from being solely agricultural to a system where mining became increasingly important (Maritz & Siglé, 2010: 1).  Architects, mainly from Britain, flocked to Johannesburg and Pretoria and other developing towns. These first architects were forced to either issue their own quantities or employ other architects to handle the tendering and contracting procedure on their behalf (Maritz and Siglé, 2010: 2).  Eventually, the first fully qualified quantity surveyor arrived in South Africa in the beginning of 1896 (Maritz & Siglé, 2010: 2).

Written by Janita Stroebel


Ashworth, A.,Hogg, K. & Higgs, C. 2013. Willis’s Practise and Procedure for the Quantity Surveyor. 13th Ed. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Bowles, J.E. & Le Roux, G.K. 1992. Quantity Surveying: An Introduction. 2nd Ed. Centrahill: QS Publications.

Buys, F. 2004. Measuring Building Work: Worked Examples. Port Elizabeth: F Buys.

Kiran, T. 2009. Brief History of Quantity Surveying.  [02 July 2015].

Langford, D. & Male, S. 2001. Strategic Management in Construction. 2nd Ed. London: Blackwell Science Ltd.

Courses Offered


  • BSc Construction Economics


  • BSc Quantity Surveying
  • MSc Construction Economics
  • PhD Construction Economics


Mr Roy Cumberlege
Head of Department
Tel: 27 41 504 3020
Ms Louise Engelbrecht
Secretary to the HOD
Tel: 27 41 504 2669
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