Alf Crossman, visiting professor at LiU
Linköping University has always aimed to be an international place. For a long time LiU has had a large group of international students and now there is also an increasing number of international staff. Dr. Alf Crossman is one of the visiting professors contributing to LiU’s internationalisation and bringing an international perspective to his students.
Alf Crossman teaches Organization Theory and Human Resource Management to students in the field of business studies. It is thanks to Jörgen Ljung, a driving force behind internationalisation efforts at LiU, that Alf first came to Linköping three years ago. Originally it was for a couple of weeks to run a course on culture and leadership, but each year there is more to come back for.
“Last year I was asked to run a course and the feedback was great. The evaluation from the students was really good and I enjoyed it,” says Alf. “Of course it helps that the Erasmus students tend to be very good,” he adds with a smile.
And there is no doubt that Alf Crossman likes it in Sweden. He likes the atmosphere and the style of teaching.
A balanced life-style
“I like working in Sweden. There is more academic freedom than in the UK, the whole work-place is more pragmatic. In the UK, higher education is becoming increasingly driven by ‘managerialism’, whereas in Sweden there is a more balanced lifestyle in the university and in society in general. It has been long known that the work-life balance is better in the Scandinavian countries than in, for example the UK, where there is a greater expectation that academics will be available 24/7, but it’s less so in Sweden. There is less pressure from the students to respond immediately to their queries; for them the quality of the response is more important than the speed. Overall, there is a greater level of consideration”.
Alf Crossman is also a visiting lecturer in the Netherlands and in Russia, so not only does he bring experiences from his home country, but also from these two countries, adding a further dimension to the international perspective.
He feels Swedish students tend to be very conservative, they are not usually very vocal. Other nationals are more inclined to express their views in seminars. “It takes a while to figure Swedes out,” says Alf, “but even though they may be quiet, I know they’re thinking.”
Linköping University has clearly impressed him. “Linköping is a very nice place to work, it’s enjoyable being here. Linköping University itself is an exciting place especially during the first crazy weeks of the new academic year with the student uniforms and the marching. There is a large number of overseas students and you forget that you are in a small Swedish town because it feels so international. The quality of teaching across the university is very good, as is the research”, says Alf.
But he does feel that the quality of the research could be better known. He believes this goes back to the Swedish conservatism. “At Linköping you don’t tell people how good you are at teaching and research”.
“I walk through the corridors here and in the glass display cases there are plenty of great quality journal articles, but people don’t really make a big deal of how good they are. The research conducted here is relevant; it makes a difference to the ways that organisations manage their business which is really important.”
This is something Alf Crossman comes back to several times - the relevance of the research and being close to industry. He feels there is currently a lot of navel-gazing going on in terms of research, especially in fields like management, where most of the research is written for and read by other academics. On the contrary, the research undertaken at Linköping University is firmly anchored in practical applications. “LiU is in touch with other organizations. Researchers talk to industry. The research starts with practical issues and often real problems,” he says.
Alf Crossman’s background in the private sector is of benefit he feels. There is an understanding of how management works in practice and not just in theory. The military background has also been more beneficial then he thought at the time. He was in the navy at a time when the shipyards were held to ransom by the trade unions, an experience that has been great in the teaching of industrial relations. It is with interest that he notes that trade unions are becoming more influential again and industrial relations have become more topical in the UK. This is noticed in the increase in requests he gets to contribute in the media, such as the BBC news and the Times newspaper.
Higher education and fees
Alf Crossman mentions fees in higher education and ponders whether student demand from the UK will increase with the UK undergraduate course fees now as high £9,000 per year.
“The Netherlands are positioning themselves to meet the concerns of UK students. A four-year degree in the UK could leave students with around £36,000 of fee-related debt. In the Netherlands this would only be around £5,600 and most teaching is in English. Sweden has much in common with the Netherlands in terms of quality of teaching and atmosphere. Both have this European style of teacher-student relationship where challenging and asking questions is permitted, encouraged even, a style that is hard for a student from China or Korea to get used to. So if Sweden wants to, there is definitely ground to be gained with attracting UK students”.
Alf Crossman has now returned to the UK, but he will be back at Linköping University in February, to work on research methods for the master’s programme in Strategic Management in International Organisations. Next autumn Alf will be here again to teach and undertake more joint research projects. What started as a short visit has grown each year and Alf himself has become part in adding that international feel that surprised him on his first visit.
Therese Winder, 10 October 2012
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Last updated: 2013-06-18