Britain lags behind in worklife survey

February 18, 2005

Only two British universities feature in the top 20 places to work as a postdoctorate student outside of the US, according to The Scientist's third annual survey.

Bristol and Cardiff universities come in fifth and 12th places respectively. Nordic and Canadian institutions feature heavily in the top-15 places, with Sweden's Umea Plant Science Centre, Uppsala University, the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Dalhousie University in Canada occupying the top four places.

Of 66 non-US institutions in the survey, Oxford University came in at 22, followed by Dundee University. University College London was ranked and Leeds University 28, with Birmingham University at 34 and Edinburgh University at 35. Cambridge, Liverpool and Glasgow universities were placed 38, 39 and 40 respectively.

Newcastle was the lowest-ranked British university to be included, coming in at 62. A Newcastle spokesperson said: "To qualify for inclusion in this table, only five self-selected postdoctorates need fill in the survey. I am sure that we will be luckier with our position next year."

The magazine's survey covered 125 US institutions and 66 non-US institutions that had five or more responses. More than 3,500 postdoctorates responded, rating their institutions against ten criteria, including: the amount of training and experience gained towards their future careers; access to books and journals; whether their research gave them a sense of pride; and the quality of their lead researcher, including whether he or she understood family and personal obligations.

Jim Ewing, general secretary of the National Postgraduate Committee, said: "British universities have to look to working conditions. They cannot get by on the idea that researchers, even at postdoctoral level should be grateful for the privilege."

Mark Spratt, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Research in Energy, Waste and Environment at Cardiff, said: "I don't see these results as negative, but (I am) surprised other universities aren't higher up. A lot of our work is linked to industry so there is a good 'real- world' feel to everything we do here.

"We get to go to a lot of conferences and that gives people a sense of worth - they are trusted to represent the university."


The top overall results for non-US institutions are

1 Umea Plant Science Centre, Sweden

2 Uppsala University, Sweden

3 Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

5 Bristol University, UK

6 Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada

7 University of Zurich, Switzerland

8 University of Calgary, Canada. 9 Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark

10 University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

11 University of Bergen, Norway

12 Cardiff University, UK

13 Utrecht University, The Netherlands

14 Wageningen University, The Netherlands

15 Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas-CSIC, Madrid, Spain

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