6 Expat academics talk of their experiences in globalised higher education job market

As I begin to approach the end of my PhD  I, like so many others, have to start thinking about jobs once again. As a result, you end up attending a huge number of sessions on post-PhD life.

Some are, of course, not very helpful other are very helpful indeed (for example, see my notes on the HistoryLab event on “Getting Grants, Getting Published and Staying Sane: Life After the PhD“). One of the things that is often mentioned is the internationalisation or globalisation of Higher education. However, in the most part, we don’t get to hear experiences of this “from the horses mouth”. Inevitably most who could offer advice are abroad and unlikely to think it worthwhile to travel to the UK to give a simple talk on their experiences.

This is where this article in the Times Higher Education* supplement on 26 June is interesting. The article includes the stories of six different academics who struck out abroad with their careers. They include:

  1. Someone who left for the University of Hong Kong from London–Mixed, but a little more on the negative side. High pay, plenty of research time and vibrant city is marked as excellent. However, various administrative issues and conflicts in the “one country, two systems” of post-1997 Hong Kong are flagged up against.
  2. One who left the University of Edinburgh for the University of Auckland, New Zealand–Very positive. Subtitled “Oceanic openness and intellectual vibrancy” which I think says it all. Informality feeds everything and students appear highly engaged. Part of the vibrant oceanic intellectual environment (see also 5 below).
  3. Another who shifted from the University of Strathclyde to the University of Helsinki, Finland–Originally positive, then less so. Highlights the difficulty of finding a permanent post in Finland as a non-Finnish academic.
  4. Someone who moved from the US to the University of Nottingham–Seemingly positive. Highlights how “confusion is the default state” when working abroad. Talks of developing a midatlantic sense of having two homes: the US and UK.
  5. Another who moved from Dublin to the University of South Australia–A very positive experience. highlights that for Australian institutions “internatationalisation” of higher education is a core part of their operations not a bolt on. You get a sense that it is an energetic environment to work in.
  6. Finally, one who is teaching at the University of Verona–Quite a negative experience. As with the Finnish experience, non-nationals seem to be considered second-class citizens in Italian universities. However, I suspect if you only planned to work in Italy for a short period of your career it would not affect you as profoundly.
Although I am certainly not intending working abroad at present, I remain open-minded. There are plenty of options available and the cases in this article are excellent food for thought (although it is sad that cases from the Netherlands, Canada and other largely HE “anglophone” countries were not included). They offer a nice look at some of the opportunities and pitfalls of working abroad as an academic.
If anyone else has any experiences of being an expat academic working abroad please do add some comments either on the original THE article or here. It would be very interesting to hear.


* You will have to have a THE account to read the full article. But it is free to register and is well worth it.

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