'I'm conscious of making a cultural move so I'm learning as much as

November 16, 2007

The former City businessman is acclimatising to his role as dean of Teeside University Business School.

Though he may be from the new generation of university leaders recruited from business, Alastair Thomson insists that does not mean he lacks respect for the academic culture.

Mr Thomson has just taken over as dean of Teesside University's Business School at a time when argument is raging about recruitment from the private sector.

The 45-year-old Strathclyde University law graduate said it was unfair to caricature business people entering academia as being there to instantly shake up institutions.

"It's an easy tack to take. I'm conscious of making a cultural move here, so clearly I'm learning as much as I'm talking.

"While I'm not an academic in the true sense, my dad was an academic. So it's not one of those things were I held my hands up in horror about working in a university."

Mr Thomson began his career with the then City accountants Thompson McLintock, now part of KPMG, before embarking on a series of management roles in business, including being managing director of Loop Customer Management, a FTSE 100 company.

"It's certainly a big career change, that's for sure. But that said, the reason I am here is because the university was looking for someone with the skills I have built up in the private sector, so it's not quite as crazy as it might originally sound."

The new dean said he wanted to forge "teamwork" that includes pursuing "academic excellence" as well as reaching "beyond the walls of our university" to help regenerate an area that has been badly hit by the decline of heavy industry.

"There is a place for truly cutting-edge academic research because that's what gives you the insight into future areas for expansion and so on.

"But if you're not at the same time thinking how you might potentially apply that beyond pure research, then I think you are probably not taking the full advantage of the opportunities that are there. For me it's not one or the other and both are equally valid."

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