Little appeal in jobs outside the university

September 17, 2004

The future of Britain's higher education sector will be shaped by academics now in the early stages of their careers. But the voices that are heard most often are those of the old guard, who have spent a working life in the sector. For the first time, The Times Higher has surveyed the opinions and aspirations of academics in their twenties and thirties to establish their particular concerns and views on university life. ICM Research surveyed 318 academics aged under 40 in a telephone poll of university staff in Britain, revealing the clearest picture yet of their views

Assumptions that academics are so fed up with their jobs that they are seeking employment outside the university sector are completely debunked in The Times Higher survey.

The lure of the world outside universities has limited appeal to academics aged under 40 who were questioned in the study.

One in seven lecturers was actively seeking a job outside academe at the time the poll was conducted, but 85 per cent rejected the proposition that they were looking elsewhere, with 62 per cent of academics strongly disagreeing.

Those aged 31 to 40 were slightly more likely to admit that they were looking outside the sector for employment than those from younger age groups.

Senior lecturers, meanwhile, were also more likely to admit to looking beyond academic life, compared with either more senior or more junior staff - possibly reflecting mid-career uncertainties over promotion prospects.

The academics questioned in the survey were mostly convinced that they could secure promotion without having to move to another university.

A third of respondents thought they might have to move elsewhere to climb the academic career ladder, compared with 61 per cent who were happy to stay at their current institution. There was little variation across subject areas or geographical regions in this respect.

Predictably, it was academics at the start of their careers who were prepared to consider moving overseas to enhance their career prospects.

Two-thirds of those aged 24 to 30 would consider leaving the country, compared with 55 per cent of all under 40-year-olds. Those working in medicine showed the greatest inclination to move abroad (63 per cent).

The US was the preferred destination for those academics who said they would consider working overseas. Of the two-thirds ready to travel, 53 per cent chose the US, 11 per cent opted for Australia and 9 per cent opted for Canada. Europe as a whole attracted 14 per cent of lecturers (Spain 3 per cent, France and Germany 2 per cent each, and Italy 1 per cent).

Other destinations appealed to 9 per cent while a further 5 per cent were uncertain. The pull of the US was particularly strong for those working in the arts (73 per cent) and for readers and professors (67 per cent).

Despite Australia's macho image, women were more likely to consider it as a career destination than men (16 per cent compared with 10 per cent).

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