Saturday, July 22, 2006

How to find work in the UK

Some readers have asked me about advice on gaining employment in the UK, particularly from the US. Of course, British academic jobs are posted with the Chronicle of Higher Education's and the American Philosophical Association's (member's only) websites. That's the part everyone knows.

However, you can also search for jobs on the Guardian's website (it is a major British newspaper) and---the best place to search---http://www.jobs.ac.uk/ An additional resource is the UK-based listserv philos-l which posts new jobs, conferences, journal/book calls for papers, and so on for philosophers.

Those who know the American scene know the following: jobs are generally advertised in the autumn. First interviews are often conducted at APA division meetings, the Eastern Division (27-30th December each year) in particular. Second interviews are held afterwards. You will almost never be interviewed alongside fellow candidates. The process takes quite a while, too.

The UK is entirely different. Jobs are advertised throughout the year, although primarily in the spring. In general, there are not first and second interviews: there is one interview. All interviews will happen in the department and not at a conference or hotel.

In Newcastle, we invite all candidates up to our beautiful city for a meal with academic staff the night before the big day. The candidates will all be together. This is effectively a social interview: etiquette is very much like sitting at high table at Oxbridge. For example, most of the conversation during my meal concerned jazz clubs in the area and musical tastes. We did not chat about philosophy much at all. The next morning candidates enter one by one to give 20 odd minute presentations of their work followed by 10-15 minutes of questions from staff. A buffet lunch follows where candidates can mix with academic staff. The afternoon consists of formal interviews with individual candidates. Decisions are usually made in 24 hours or less.

If hired, the usual relocation package follows, etc etc. One interesting UK vs USA difference is how tenure works. In the USA, facts differ from institution to institution. Normally, there is an expectation that successful candidates will publish x articles and/or perhaps a book (normally one book is required for political theorists in political science departments) over a number of years, varying from about four to as many as eight---all very roughly speaking.

In the UK, publications do not aid/hinder tenure. My probation period was set at three years. During this time, I had to complete a boring Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice: essentially, three graduate courses in education. I didn't get anything out of it, but it was paid for by my department, I was compensated for much of my lost time in our workloading model, and that was it---that's all I had to do.

Unlike in the US where one might publish to gain tenure and then no longer publish unless seeking promotion, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the UK ensures that all British academics are producing roughly one article (on average) per year. I will post on this in future. Suffice to say, publish or perish remains the name of the game. We all know persons who have gained employment in some part due to their great promise, but without publications. Hiring people without publications is no longer heard of in the UK: these people will bomb in the RAE. Thus, the very best advice for getting work in the UK is publishing---you need articles, you need not have taught before.

One final point is worth making. Gaining a work permit in the UK is fairly difficult for most people. This is not true with university positions. I had hardly any trouble at all gaining my work permit---I am an American citizen. Nor do most UK academics look down on Americans applying: in fact, our qualifications are held in very high esteem.

I hope this post addresses some of the queries I've received. Please feel free to comment below if there's anything I've left out.

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