In this article, John Kilhams, (retired IIMS education co-ordinator), discusses the virtues of the BTEC HND and HNC marine surveying qualification, the only externally awarded qualification of its type in the world.
Do I need a qualification?
This is a question frequently asked. You can practice without a marine surveying qualification as the profession is largely unregulated, but it is not in your best interest to do so. Insurance companies may well insist that you are qualified to carry out the work you undertake, even though you may have many years of experience in the field and have lots of practical experience. Without this, or a recognised qualification, it will be difficult if not impossible to get PI cover (professional indemnity). As a small craft member of the IIMS you are required to have this cover in place for every survey you undertake. This can be expensive but with the right qualifications or proven experience it can be available at a more reasonable cost.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a more serious situation in court defending your position, you may be able to say that you have worked in the industry for the last forty years and have a good working knowledge of the issues involved. However, it would help your situation greatly to be able to say that you have passed an HND with distinction in marine surveying!
It is important to understand what type of qualification you should take. There are a number of diplomas available, which may well give you an introduction to the surveying industry, but these are offered by private companies and are not externally verified, so have limited recognition. You would be wise to be sure that any qualification you decide to study for has not only been produced by professionals in the industry, but has also been verified by an independent organisation to ensure a constant standard in the material produced.
You may have heard that there have been changes and developments to the IIMS diploma. Since 2012 the IIMS have been working to upgrade the diploma course and gain acceptance to the Edexcel HND and HNC programme. This has required considerable work with most of the course material needing to be re-written and upgraded. As the Institute’s membership expanded it became necessary to offer a qualification which would be accepted worldwide, without exception. The Higher National Certificate and the Higher National Diploma are designed to meet this requirement.
With an organisation such as the IIMS, whose membership to a high percentage is not based in the United Kingdom, it was considered the best course of action. As the qualification is externally verified and is the only marine surveying course offered that can claim this, it is a high standard qualification covering in great depth all aspects of marine surveying. Insurance companies will approve of this when trading within the industry. But more to the point it indicates to your client that you are qualified to undertake his work giving peace of mind. And it is what the client has been looking to have for some time – a way of establishing the suitability of a surveyor to carry out the work on his craft.
The IIMS HNC and HND course material was written and produced by the professional members of the Institute and is offered and administered by the Institute on a distance learning basis. It has however been approved and agreed by Pearson Edexcel, who are the awarding and certificating body. The marking of assignments is carried out by professionals but before it is passed to be marked it is assessed by the administrative staff at the office to ensure that it is original work and there is no plagiarism. Once returned from the marker it is sent to an internal verifier to ensure that the marking has been completed in a consistent way and has been graded correctly. We also have an on-site inspection and audit carried out by Edexcel to confirm that the course is being administered in the correct and fair manner. This is the external verification process that sets the HNC and HND marine surveying qualification above all others offered in the industry.
The course level is much higher than the original diploma. It is set at the level of a first year degree course, which means it is not easy to complete. Successful students will be able to operate within the industry with peace of mind knowing that they are well prepared for the task. The courses are all run on a distance learning basis, which means students are sent assignments at the rate of approximately one a month. These are put up on to a designated and personalised area of the website for students to download. They receive an email telling them that there is material waiting their attention. A student can then enter the password protected site and download the Unit ready for study. Students must read this carefully as it is basically a book on the subject they have chosen to study. One month after this they will be sent their assignment. This will be sent in the same way as the Unit. Students are required to complete this in their own time as long as they keep within the course guidelines. An assessment is carried out on the completed assignments and returned by email for marking. There is no final examination to sit.
All marking is completed by professionals in their particular field of the marine industry. Support is provided by individual tutors on request if required. However, students are encouraged to research the subjects to assist their understanding. Tutors will provide guidance and suggestions on how to go about doing that. Students are encouraged to make contact with their tutor in the first instance by email and he will guide from there.
The assignments are not just questions to which short answers are given. They are scenarios which need to be studied in detail. There may be a number of possible solutions and a student would be expected to identify these and fully explain the situation to the assessor in their assignment paper.
The assignments all carry detailed instructions and show the learning outcomes of each subject and the criteria which needs to be met in the submission. It also carries the details of the grading system that is employed in the marking. This is an important aspect of the course and all candidates will need to understand this when completing submissions. The assessor works closely to these in his assessment of the paper. The objective here is to provide sufficient information to the assessor to show the student has a good and detailed knowledge of the subject being studied. This means that assignments are more like dissertations on the chosen subject.
There are over 30 units (study subjects) to choose from. The requirement for an HNC is four core units (that have to be studied) plus six specialist units. The HND is four core units and twelve specialist units. However, if a student does the HNC and then moves on to the HND, they can use their HNC as evidence of prior learning and then complete an HND by doing six further specialist units. You will see from this that it is possible to tailor the course to suit your preferred area of operation, ensuring you have selected units to reinforce your knowledge in the field in which you have chosen to practice.
All this may sound a little daunting! However, there is up to three years to complete the course to HND level. Students are graded on their assignment as a pass, merit or distinction. These marks are identified on the certificate showing a complete picture of the overall performance. If for some reason a student does not achieve a pass on one subject they can resubmit. But it is possible to choose to contact the Assessor for that subject. He will offer support and he will advise the student on the best way to improve their mark. Students get three opportunities to resubmit.
The good news is that there is no reason to spend time and money on travelling. The full course can be completed from a home location or, as we have found, at sea or when travelling. Course material can be downloaded to a laptop (or similar such device) and then studied while away. The assignment can be uploaded for assessment on return to an internet location. Something that is vital to the success is that a good internet connection exists and good IT capabilities. Also it is worth noting that the course in conducted in English only and it is estimated the HNC will consume 600 study hours – the HND longer.
The marine surveying qualification and course is approved and verified by Pearson Edexcel, incorporating the BTEC brand that has been around for 25 years. Edexcel’s world-class academic and general qualifications include GCSE’s, A levels and International GCSE’s, as well as some vocational qualifications, including NVQ’s and Functional Skills. Their quali-fications combine a progressive approach with international content, allowing learners to achieve their full potential in today’s global economy.
Who applies for the course? The IIMS has a broad range of students applying, mostly professional people, who have a bit of marine experience. They may have come from the Navy or other Armed Forces and want a change of career. The qualification also appeals to surveyors who are working in the industry and wish to change their area of specialism, or obtain a formal qualification. It is recommended that applicants should have a basic marine background knowledge and a good secondary school education with a reasonable grasp of mathematics and English language. The HNC and HND programme is not considered suitable for complete beginners unless they have something like an engineering qualification or similar.
So, if you are looking to improve your expertise, or gain a marine surveying qualification to set you up in a new career in the business, the IIMS HNC or HND is the most economic route to put you in the position to build up a recognised and respected surveying operation in whichever field you choose. The cost of these courses is very reasonable with the HNC costing £3000 (three thousand pounds). If you do decide that you want to move on to the HND it will cost you a further £2000 (two thousand pounds).
All students on the course, who are not already IIMS members, gain student membership of the IIMS giving them the right to attend seminars and courses which are held throughout the year. Existing members of the IIMS can also claim a 10% discount on the above prices making them even more attractive. For students preferring to work from hard copy we also have these available at £650 (six hundred and fifty pounds) for the HNC and £1,040 (one thousand and forty pounds) for the HND, but there are no discounts available on these.
On completion of the HNC or HND you become a graduate member of the IIMS and your certificate will be sent to you from Edexcel. In addition you also receive an IIMS Diploma certificate. This will give a full description of the subjects studied. After twelve months you can apply to upgrade your membership and production of your certificate for this will help. If you are looking to make a name for yourself in the surveying market then the HNC or HND marine surveying qualification is an excellent basis from which you can reinforce your position in the industry and can only enhance your surveying skills which in turn will lead to a successful business.
For further information click to read the Prospectus online.
Course units can be purchased individually too
The IIMS understand that not everyone has the time to make such a commitment to study to such depths. With that in mind, the HNC/HND course units are available to purchase individually at £395. No need to do the assignment, although you can if you wish and have it marked. These are available as downloadable PDF documents from the IIMS web site here. Go to: