Research on professional identity of lecturers at British universities
Senior research fellows of the Laboratory for Social and Anthropological Research Alexander Sorokin and Mikhail Gribovskiy have conducted fieldwork at British universities. Their research has to do with studying British universities lecturers’ professional identity.
The researchers have taken over 20 in-depth interviews, each about an hour long, with British lecturers, researchers and administrative staff.
All informants come from a TOP-100 lead group of universities according to the world rankings – University of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, to name a few.
We consider a university community as a special corporation which formed in Russia in the 19th century and much earlier in Europe. This community has always played one of the key roles not only in the academy but also in cultural, political and economic processes in society, – says Mikhail Gribovskiy. By professional identity we mean a set of perceptions of a person about his/her profession and him or herself in the profession.
The researchers’ hypothesis is that models of professional identity flow from historically formed characteristics of national educational systems – German, French, British, etc. At the same time, they believe that studying professional identity will help specify this conventional typology through more nuanced regional case studies. It seems to be the case that professional identity can be developed by a lecturer not only under the influence of more general attitudes specific to a certain educational system but also through each university’s inherent unwritten traditions. For example, a University of Birmingham lecturer sees him or herself to be different from a TSU lecturer, while identifying him or herself with the same professional group.
The processing of the interviews will take us some time, however we can now note that differences between British and Russian lecturers are quite striking, – says Alexander Sorokin. – These have to do with career building: in Britain, young specialists, as a rule, do not stay to work at the same university they graduated from. Also, British academics maintain mostly working relationships, rather than those of friendship, and the distance between a university lecturer and a student is less.
From the interviews we can also see that a modern university teacher has to develop the so-called soft skills along with being a highly-professional educator and researcher. It is especially true of such skills as project managing, financial planning and team-building.
Mikhail Gribovskiy and Alexander Sorokin have already arranged to take online interviews with a number of Sheffield and London universities faculty members. The research is still ongoing and the geographical scope of it is to be broadened covering universities of Germany, France and Eastern Europe. It is being carried out within the LSAR project ‘Man in a Changing World. Identity and Social Adaptation: Past and Present’.