Some of you may already read articles on The Guardian Higher Education Network but one caught my eye today that I thought I’d mention. It was part of the anonymous academic series and was about the benefits of working as an early career researcher in a ‘less prestigious’ university. You can read the article yourself below.
While the article is obviously very subjective it does make a valid point that the type of university you work in can influence the experience you have while employed in an academic role. Those of you interested in pursuing an academic career once you complete your PhD may wish to reflect on not just the type of role you would like to enter but also the type of institution you would like to work in. What’s important to you? Questions you may want to consider include:
- Are you more interested in research than teaching? Would the balance of time spent on those activities differ in the same type of role at different universities?
- Is the status of the university or department important to you? What do you mean by status? Ranking in the REF (Research Excellence Framework; an indicator of research performance) or the NSS (National Student Survey; an indicator of undergraduate student satisfaction)
- Do certain universities seem to offer a more collegiate atmosphere? Is that important to you?
- What kind of support do you want from colleagues and more senior academics? Is there other more formal support available for the career development of early career researchers?
- Do academic staff have targets for winning research funding, publishing, student recruitment, measures of student satisfaction, or other things? What would you be most comfortable with?
There are probably many more questions you could ask but you probably get the idea. In this competitive job market you may be excused for thinking that you can’t be too selective when thinking about your next (or first) academic post. However, I have seen researchers who dismiss the idea of working at certain types of institution. I’d just like to encourage you to think carefully about the benefits and disadvantages of working in different universities and how they may fit with your own values and interests.