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Antti Kauppinen

Good stuff. Minor correction: Finland doesn't have a habilitation requirement - though in practice, jobs are so scarce that you will need many post-PhD publications. Also, if I had a probationary period in Ireland, nobody ever told me! Ireland, incidentally, is worth keeping an eye on if you're considering a job in Europe. There's no REF or equivalent, and bureaucracy in general is less cumbersome than my UK friends tell me. I know of several positions opening in the near future.

Conny Rhode

Thanks for this great outline of the situation in Europe! Can anyone maybe add a similar explanation regarding Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong?? Also, Swedish universities currently seem to recruit quite a bit abroad, so the situation in Sweden would be interesting as well. Would be perfect to have them all combined here!


Thank you, this is super good. I would like to add a few words pertaining to the UK market. Others can weigh in whether it generalizes to Europe as a whole. The Covering letter in your application for a UK job is more important than in USA, I have come to learn. Because there are fewer jobs to go around and the departments differ substantially in their focus, UK job candidates usually explain in the letter how they see themselves fitting into the department's teaching and research.

Mitchell Aboulafia

Helen, thank you. This is very informative. If asked about positions in Europe, I can now tell grad students and junior faculty to check out your post.

Michael Thomas

Thank you for this article, Helen. So far, I've been unable to find a comprehensive summary of the European market and the dynamics of their university systems. I've also found a link to a website that provides an overview of the different academic systems across European countries. I am not sure about how accurate the information is at this point, but it has been helpful as I've searched for posts: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesAndFellowships/AcademicCareersObservatory/AcademicCareersbyCountry/Index.aspx


Michael Thomas: I think the website is fairly accurate, as far as I can tell (I provide a link to it in the blogpost), to my knowledge the only one that provides detailed information about European academic systems. I know, for instance, that the info about salary, tenure, promotion, openness to foreigners from the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands is quite accurate.

Elisa Freschi

Thank you, Helen.
A few minot points:
—You need an habilitation also in France and, since only a few years, Italy.
—This means that candidates applying for a professorship in, say, Germany, must either have completed their habilitation or have an equivalent achievement (typically, in our field, a second book out). Candidates coming from a country in which the habilitation exists are rather expected to have completed it if they apply for a professorship.
—I had a similar reaction when I read Marcus' remark about not having ever received a research grant. In Europe as I know it it would be beyond imagination to secure a TT position if one has not been able to show that his or her research is top-class by competing for a research grant and having the value of one's research projects independently assessed.
—I am surely biased, but I tend to like the research-grant system, since it allows also to outsiders to receive grants, if only they have great research ideas and can develop them convincingly in a research project. In this sense, they can learn to be ambitious and to lead a research group, independently of senior professors.

Just as an aside, as I know it was not at all your main topic: Just from an epistemological point of view, I do not think the article (http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/23/why-does-italian-academia-suck/) linked to about the situation in Italy is a reliable source of information. It is not based on sound data, but on anonymous sources or on specific personal cases and on a vague appeal to the authority of its author (see, for instance, the author's comments No. 7 and No. 20). We can perhaps do better than that. (Caveat lector: I was born in Italy and studied there for a while, although I have then been working chiefly in other parts of the world.)


Thank you for your response Elisa!

I do think grants have an advantage, as you have the potential for outsiders to break into a system that otherwise would probably more of an old boys' network. As you say, it is, or could be conducive to a more meritocratic system. For instance, in The Netherlands, one can negotiate a permanent contract if one can get a large grant - I am happy though that it's not yet the case that only large grant holders can get jobs, although it's increasingly the case that only large grant holders can flourish in a research context.

But I worry that grants create an illusion of meritocracy (and I say this as someone who has one over 600,000 euros in grant funding, so it's not sour grapes!).

I dislike the culture of very large grants (e.g., the ERC starting grant is 1.5 million euros). This creates enormous incentives to waste lots of time and energy in unsuccessful grant applications, and creates very few winners who moreover have a specific profile (obvious outreach potential, for instance, previous grants). Smaller grants with more grant holders would be better - there's also research indicating that small grants have a higher relative return on investment than larger ones.

About Italy, I probably shouldn't have linked to that piece, which is a visceral appraisal of the situation. Initially, I thought of linking to this piece: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0021160


This is super helpful and appreciated! During my first (unsuccessful) job market go this year, I was told often to look into the European job market. But I wasn't given any further guidance or information than that.


Just a few corrections and additions about Germany: 1. You do not need a Habilitation to apply for a permanent full professorship (and to get one). However, you need to demonstrate that your academic accomplishments are equivalent to a Habilitation. That does not need to be a book. Sufficiently many papers in good journals typically suffice. It is fair to say though that some older professors view people without books with suspicion.
2. Germany has a central national funding agency, the DFG, that distributes a lot of money (grants, projects, scholarships etc.). Some of the programmes are designed to give younger people the opportunity to develop an independent research program and build up an independent research group (Emmy Noether Programm for example). Those grants are very competitive, but they can fund up to 5 years, and the people who had them in the past were very succesful on the job market (in Germany and abroad afterwards). The DFG is definitely less old-fashioned than the Universities themselves.
3. It is true that in German younger scholars are significantly more dependent on their senior colleagues than in most other places. However, there are many more ways to apply for your own Post-Doc position yourself, rather than to get hired (DFG, Thyssen Foundation, Humboldt etc.). And in this case you can find an environment where with respect to your research you will be your own boss. Not in other respects though...
4. You typically do not need to know German to apply for a Post-Doc in Germany, and in many places people are happy to have somebody around who can teach in English well (there are many visiting students from abroad who want to take Philosophy classes). But you will not be part of the community at your University for real, until you can have conversations in German, Hardly any committee will discuss anything in German just because you are there!
5. Germsany has a public academic system. The wages are determined according to specific scales. Typically, your wage will be better than in the UK, and not worse than Assistant Professorships in the US, but it won't go up very much until you become a Full Professor. And even then, wou won't get rich as a philosopher in Germany! The benefits and the social system are great. Very family-friendly!

Justin Caouette

Thanks for this, Helen! This is very helpful!

Elisa Freschi

@Helen, thanks for the answer. I had lunch today with a colleague who is the principal investigator in an ERC and we have in fact been debating the pros and cons of such big grants (pros: to be able to coordinate a team and see an ambitious project come true, to be able to speak face-to-face with important professors, to set the agenda in a given field through workshops, articles, and the like; cons (as you say): a load of administrative work). It would be interesting to discuss the topic in a separate post, perhaps.

As for the article you linked in the comment, I think it is much better grounded than the one linked to in the post, but still, it fails to prove the point that the Italian academy is closed to outsiders. In fact, the only thing it *might* prove is that there are some academics whose parents or close relatives were academics as well. But is this a phenomenon typical of Italy alone? Of Academia alone? What about lawyers, notaries, pharmacists… (who are, at least in Italy, also not infrequently born in families of other lawyers, notaries, pharmacists…)? Once again, my reservations are merely about the epistemological aspect of how one comes to a certain conclusion.


Hey, I realize this post is older, but, in case anyone's still checking this, a couple questions for Helen or anyone who is familiar with the European market.

First, do European applications generally require and/or encourage a research statement upfront? In the U.S., applicants frequently include both a dissertation summary (if they're ABD or newly minted Ph.D.s) and a brief description of one or two projects they plan to undertake in the future (the "research statement"). Is this similar to what is required for Europe?

Second, in the U.K., where job talks are usually quite short, e.g., 30 minutes, is it expected that one talks on a topic different than what was discussed in one's writing sample? Or is itacceptable to present on one's writing sample? Relatedly, do job talks generally require circulation of a draft in advance?

Thanks so much in advance for any feedback!

Helen De Cruz

Hi anon - in response to your queries and answering to the best of my knowledge (most experience with UK, Belgium, Netherlands, not with other countries):

- For a postdoc or a tenure-track equivalent position, you generally do need a research statement. This can be quite extensive. For jobs that were advertised in Leuven while I was there, you could get a TT job with a low teaching load (2-3 courses per year I think), and you needed a 5000 word research statement. For Oxford postdocs I've seen advertised, one needed a 500 to 1000 word statement on how one would do the project. But for ordinary permanent posts with higher teaching loads (like mine) no research statement is required.

- I think it looks stronger if the topic is different in writing sample and job talk. For instance, during the interview, it is not uncommon to ask questions about the writing sample, which would then overlap with the Q&A from the job talk. Having two different things make you look like having a more active research profile, especially if you are ABD or other early career status and few papers out in published venues.


Anon from 2:06 here again. Thanks so much, Helen! This is very helpful.


Hi Helen,

If you're still checking this -- I have a question about rank in Europe. Looking at European philosopher's CV's, I've noticed that many proceed straight from post-doc status to associate professor status. Is this common? Does this mean North American candidates with a few years' post-doc experience might try for positions advertised as associate professorships in Europe?

Helen De Cruz

Hi anon - Yes, depending on where it is. Most European systems do not have a tenure-track system, so you go straight from a postdoc (or, increasingly, a string of postdocs) on a tenured position. In the UK, these entry-level positions are lecturer positions, in the Netherlands, it's universitair docent. But in some places the tenured position is called "associate professor" to reflect the level of seniority people who occupy the position have (if you've been a postdoc for 7 years, you're hardly junior anymore). In some countries, a habilitation might be required (usually it is stated in the ad). It is uncommon for people to be hired right out of grad school in such a tenured associate professor position but I have seen it happen twice, so it does not hurt to try if you've got a few postdoc years under your belt (and if you have an impressive publication CV - publications matter more in Europe than in the US because of all the metrics and assessments - you can even try when right out of grad school, but you need your PhD in hand).


Anon 10:35 here again -- Thanks, Helen! Very helpful for this confused North American.

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