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Meet your colleague: Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz

In building 1431 on the second floor and overlooking the University Park, we find Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz’ office. Anne is a professor and director of studies at the Department of Political Science. Since 2017, she has also headed the Aarhus BSS School Board of Studies. In this interview, she talks about what drives her – and why you need to be careful about measuring quality.

2018.10.29 | Sinne B. Jakobsen

Photo: Folkeuniversitetet

 

We arrive at Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz’ office on a warm October afternoon. It is the Friday before the autumn break, and the University Park is at its most beautiful. Anne’s office is light and cosy.

Anne, can you tell us a bit about your work here at the Department of Political Science and at Aarhus BSS?

Well, first of all I’m a member of the academic staff and conduct research and teaching. In addition, I have a study-related managerial responsibility, as I am also director of studies and head of the Aarhus BSS School Board of Studies.

How do you feel about having a key administrative role at the school?

For me, assuming responsibility is an important part of working at a university, and I also have an interest in administrative matters. For that reason, I readily accepted the role as director of studies when I was approached. Aarhus BSS is a complex organisation with lots of people and systems, and I’d like to contribute to making sure things run smoothly for all of us.

I also enjoy the strategic work of developing our degree programmes. New things happen all the time; new courses are introduced, existing courses change - it’s very exciting. But the fact that I’ve taken on an administrative role doesn’t mean that I care any less about my teaching or research, although I haven’t got as much time to do research as I would perhaps like.  

What motivates you as a researcher?

A combination of believing in the importance of good social research and of finding research a lot of fun. As a researcher, I’m particularly interested in power and influence in politics and in special interest organisations. I enjoy the whole process of developing research questions, collecting data, analysing this data and cracking the code.

What characterises a (good) researcher, in your opinion?

First of all, you need an inquisitiveness and a drive that make you want to know more about a topic and explore it. To be a good researcher, you also need talent and integrity. In my opinion, our integrity is under pressure because the current incentive structures push our research and our other work in a certain direction. Here it’s important that we as researchers are driven by our own interests and our obligation to conduct research of value to Danish society rather than by what is most likely to be published in the large recognised journals.

Finally, you need to be good at handling defeat. The research world is tough and you’ll receive a lot of criticism. That’s why you need to have a strong belief in yourself and be able to pick yourself up.

Is it tougher being a researcher than it used to be?

Yes, it probably is. The demands for teaching and research are very high, and the academic level is also higher than before. In addition, we’re not able to employ all of our PhD students as we used to. This means that we bear a major responsibility for offering proper supervision and making sure that our work environment is transparent and honest. In general, we need to be good at acknowledging and helping each other. We can’t avoid competition, but we can create the best work environment and the most constructive communication as possible.

How do you feel about teaching?

I really enjoy it. It’s exciting to get the chance to educate young people and also one of the core responsibilities of a university. As lecturers, we’re all responsible for delivering teaching that meets the requirements both in terms of content and pedagogical elements.

In my experience, all lecturers at Aarhus BSS take their responsibility very seriously. People are committed, prioritise their teaching, develop their courses, etc. The degree programmes are our lifeblood. So much so that it can sometimes be difficult to find time for our research. That’s why you should be careful not to add more responsibilities to the employees’ workload – such as the many tasks related to measuring the quality of our degree programmes. 

You're not that positive towards measuring quality?

Naturally, it makes very good sense to monitor the quality of our degree programmes. However, we need to be careful not to erode this quality in our very attempt to manage it. Today, we apply a number of management tools that measure quality in, say, the number of classes. However, we’re dealing with people and education, and these things cannot be measured.

Quality is not simply a matter of whether the students have eight lessons in a specific course. What matters is the content of these lessons.  Today, we have a lot of motivated and committed employees, and it’s important that they stay that way. This is something we discuss a lot on the School Board of Studies.

We’ve talked a lot about the professional Anne. Who is Anne in private?

I’m a family person. I love travelling and experiencing new things. We’ve also got a summerhouse in Mols that we often go to. It’s great just to get away. My travel habits have probably developed a bit since I had children. Before, we’d go on big-city holidays and visit places like Greenland. When the children were small, we’d go camping and on family-friendly trips round Europe. Now that they’ve grown, we’ve been to Thailand, and when they’re bigger we’ll probably be back to big-city holidays!

There’s a lot of talk about the so-called work/life balance. Are you good at taking time off?

Yes I am, actually. As a researcher, you have to be able to shut down, because there are no limits as to how much time you can spend on your work. I’ve always been very aware to take time off for the sake of my children. It’s important to have time with your family where you forget all about work. If I need to check my emails, I’ll do it in the evening when my children are asleep.

Find out more about Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz

Find out more about the Aarhus BSS School Board of Studies

Aarhus BSS
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