An Academic Career

Which type of university would suit me?

Where do your strengths and interests lie?

The university at which you gained your undergraduate or postgraduate degrees may not be the ideal university for you as an academic. Different institutions have different strengths; experience which may make you very attractive to one university may not be of much interest to another. You can either:

  • decide where your strengths and interests lie and target appropriate institutions, or
  • decide which universities you want to target, and develop whatever research, teaching, collaborations or professional experience would be valued by those institutions.

Tough questions to ask yourself

If you are in a highly regarded research department:

  • Am I one of the best researchers in my field (nationally or internationally, with publications and reputation to prove it) or should I consider other departments where I am more likely to stand out?

If you want to stay in your current department:

  • Are permanent academic posts likely to arise within a reasonable timeframe - is anyone likely to leave in the near future, or is there funding available to allow the department to expand?
  • If so, how likely is the university to recruit at the level for which I could apply?
  • What would make me the best candidate?

Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami explains how she sought a job that would allow her to teach and research.

Focus on research, or focus on teaching?

It is too simplistic to split universities into 'good at research' or 'good at teaching'.

Whilst the older Russell Group universities have a strong reputation for research, many post-92 universities (those which gained their university charters in 1992 or later) have departments where research has achieved international recognition.

Similarly, although post-92 universities were founded on supporting vocational training and have a strong reputation for teaching, many traditional universities now provide strong business and industrial support, and have developed innovative approaches to teaching.

The RAE results from 2008 give some indication of where institutions excel in research, broken down by discipline.

The Higher Education Academy subject centres may give some idea of the where innovative teaching is carried out in your discipline.

You will need to dig below the surface to understand which university would best suit you - your network of academic contacts would be invaluable here.