Jobwatch: Big ad splash makes waves

February 13, 2004

Sussex University is pushing the boat out by advertising 46 academic vacancies in one go. Pat Leon looks at a trend in advertising lots of posts at once to signal universities' expansion plans.

Sussex University is expecting a "tidal wave" of applications for jobs next month as a result of its second annual push on recruitment.

The seaside university is advertising 46 academic vacancies in all five of its newly restructured faculties.

Vice-chancellor Alasdair Smith says that a big two-page advert "sends a signal" that the university is actively recruiting. "It's not to do with our recent restructuring, or retirements, or that Sussex has any more money. We are expecting to have more income in future - 2006 and tuition fees - and are strategically investing in advance of that."

He says that the changing pattern of student demand "is clearly influencing areas in which we recruit. You see examples of posts in psychology, international relations, English and film studies."

Like many cities, Brighton is served by more than one university, and competition for students is growing. Demand is rising for degrees, such as media and the creative and performing arts, which have always been strong in post-92 universities. Smith says: "This is an area across the country where we are seeing a blurring between universities."

The downside of mass recruitment is the burden on staff. Barbara Bush, Sussex director of human resources, says: "It's not just HR that is affected. We're the first line. We might get up to 30 applications per job - that can mean about 1,500 applications. It's like a tidal wave out from the HR office and across to faculties."

Deans and other staff will be involved in sifting applications, reading applicants' work, interviewing and shortlisting. "We got a flood of applications last year when we had the same closing date. It was too much pressure. This year we have two deadlines," Bush says.

Newcastle University is joining Sussex and seven other universities - Exeter, Manchester and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Reading, Royal Holloway, Southampton and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London - in deciding this month to each pool their vacancies in one big advertisement.

Newcastle is advertising 23 chairs and 30 or more academic posts. Veryan Johnston, director of human resources at Newcastle, says: "The timing is partly because Newcastle has been through a restructuring and we are looking to reinvest a substantial amount in key research areas with an eye to the next research assessment exercise.

"We are investing £6 million in the recruitment campaign; we have to make sure it addresses our strategic needs. The advertising might improve the hit rate of people coming forward, particularly internationally."

Newcastle seeks people working in areas, such as health, science, literature, education, engineering and the rural economy, that will benefit the Northeast. One post is as director of Culture Lab, a £4 million digital and creative arts centre to boost research.

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