Hard work, not money, key to luring research stars north

April 21, 2006

Scottish universities claim that academic resources rather than telephone-number salaries are the key to luring academic research stars, writes Olga Wojtas.

C. Duncan Rice, principal of Aberdeen University, told The Times Higher that it was usual to match someone's earnings. Negotiations focused on what research fellowships or equipment would be provided as part of the post.

He said: "We've done nothing remotely approaching what you would see in America, where they would be talking £800,000 to set up a new lab."

Anton Muscatelli, vice-principal of Glasgow University, said that appointees did not ask to be underwritten for a lengthy period since they were expected to bring in new grant money.

Professor Muscatelli said: "Recruitment can be difficult for senior positions, but only because the international environment is highly competitive. Happily for us, in all but a handful of cases, we have been able to fill the positions we have advertised, although at times the search process can take a little longer."

This is repeated across the sector. Aberdeen is implementing an ambitious £9 million restructuring exercise and has appointed more than 50 chairs in the past two and a half years as well as dozens of other staff.

Professor Rice said that small universities could have recruitment difficulties because of the small size of intellectual groupings. Aberdeen had now reorganised itself into three colleges.

"Instead of saying 'come here and work with a small number of sociologists', we can say 'work with a very large number of social scientists'. It does seem to make a difference to the way people perceive things," he said.

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