Open offer to tempt research top talent

May 27, 2005

Aberdeen University this week launched one of the most inventive recruitment drives seen in The Times Higher , inviting academics to apply for jobs it has not advertised and promising top-flight researchers "intellectual playmates".

Aberdeen's ambitious Sixth Century Campaign breaks new ground with a recruitment advertisement that does not specify how many or what type of posts it wants to fill.

It simply invites people to apply for jobs or, it suggests, they may merely want to ring up for an informal chat about working for the university. The lack of detail is deliberate: the university wants to hear from as many potential research stars as possible.

C. Duncan Rice, the principal, said: "It is aimed at anyone who is very able who might be interested in talking to us about coming here. In practice, those who think of putting themselves forward tend to be fully established scholars, but we're extremely interested in hearing from people at all ranks who are fast-trackers."

The full-page advertisement reads: "Great minds don't think alike. They just work together."

Aberdeen has been attempting to break down barriers between disciplines by reorganising itself into broad-based colleges and schools.

Professor Rice said: "Creating bigger units makes it possible for us to show individuals that they will have intellectual playmates who are not just in their own discipline.

"A multidisciplinary academic community is something most intellectuals find very attractive."

Professor Rice added that appointments were being made through a combination of the campaign and naturally occurring vacancies, and that there was no fixed recruitment target.

He stressed the openness of Aberdeen's interest. There were some disciplines in which it had no recruitment interest, such as nursing, because it had no school of nursing. "But if it were research on policy about nursing, we might be very interested indeed. There is always a conversation to be had," he said.

Professor Rice agreed that Aberdeen might be seen as distant from the golden research triangle of Oxbridge and London.

But he said: "The kind of people who have the courage to uproot themselves are often more interested in their intellectual environment than the particular city they live in. The quality of life (in Aberdeen) is unusually high. And it has considerably lighter rainfall than London."

In the past 18 months, Aberdeen has appointed 40 professors, 17 of them from overseas, as part of its £9 million campaign to boost research excellence.

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