Property Australia

Why business schools ignore property’s career potential


The property industry is largely ignored by the nation’s business schools and most students remain completely unaware of its potential says the University of Sydney’s Dr Jamie Alcock. How can we change the game?

“Real estate is the biggest industry and the largest employer in the country and yet many business school students are just not offered the opportunity to study the sector,” says Dr Alcock, an associate professor of finance at the University of Sydney Business School.

“They are not even encouraged to consider it as a possible career path.”

Alcock makes these comments following the University of Sydney Business School’s annual case competition which challenges undergraduate teams from across Australia and New Zealand to resolve ‘real world’ real estate dilemmas.

This year’s competition attracted almost 1,000 entries, “which is an indication of the interest in

Dr Jamie Alcock

 commercial real estate,” Alcock says.

Finalists this year were required to propose a strategy to manage a commercial property occupied by tenants financially impacted by e-commerce competitors.

Winning Sydney team member, Alexis Orsmond, part of the winning Sydney team, agrees with Alcock’s concerns.

“Real estate is so tangible. It is all around us and I am surprised that it is not recognised or considered as a career option.”

We all live, work and play in buildings, so why aren’t students considering real estate careers?

Alcock's research interests include asset pricing and real estate finance, but he says Australia’s business schools employ very few real estate finance or investment academics.

“Few classes are taught in business schools relative to real estate and when students seek careers advice, the academics have their own blinkers on and are unable to provide guidance,” he says.

Another reason relates to data and research. “Business schools are of the view that real estate academics struggle to publish because they can’t get the data, and the industry doesn’t come to the universities asking for research and are not prepared to fund that research.”

What can the industry do?

“Reach out,” Alcock advises.

“Get in touch with Australia’s business schools. Convey your interest in engaging and the scope of the problems you are dealing with. There are ways to engage on both a small and big scale – from guest lectures to co-sponsoring a research project.”

The United States and Europe have a “clear heritage” of financial support for real estate programs, “and corporates realise they must invest in the tertiary sector to foster the next generation of leaders”.

Many of the world’s leading universities – Cornell, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge and MIT among them – have real estate programs in their business schools, Alcock explains.

“Universities in Australia have found, when it comes time to signify the seriousness of their intent with financial resources, that’s when the conversation ends.”

Alcock says private sponsorships and fellowships have the potential to be the biggest “gamechanger”.

“If a company is willing to come forward and put up the funds for a professor of real estate finance, for example, this becomes a point of attraction that anchors real estate in the school and is a drawcard that will encourage other universities to follow suit.

“My call to action to the industry is to demonstrate your willingness to engage. Spell out clearly what you need from business schools and take the next steps with financial support to help achieve those goals.”

The winning teams of this year’s Sydney case competition, representing the University of Sydney Business School and the University of Auckland, will compete next month in an international competition hosted by New York’s prestigious Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

This year’s competition was sponsored by Savills Australia, Blackstone, Brookfield, Moelis Australia, PwC and Goodman Group. The GPT Group sponsored networking events and the judging panel included the Property Council’s national president and CEO of Mirvac, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz.