What's in a name? Plenty, scholars attest

University reputation is the most important factor for academics deciding whether to take jobs in another country - although the small size of European houses is also a consideration for US scholars.

March 8, 2012

Those are among the findings of Choice Factors in International Academic Job Change, a study compiled by the World 100 Reputation Network - an international group of research-intensive universities attempting to "enhance professional activity in and around reputation management".

The study conducted interviews with 51 academics in 12 "world-ranked universities". Participating institutions included University College London, the University of Helsinki, the University of Hong Kong and the University of Western Australia - all World 100 members.

University reputation was the most important factor, followed by salary, departmental reputation, quality of life and family considerations.

The study found reputation to be "defined by academics as a complex amalgam of research excellence rather than brand or public acknowledgement".

Academics are "cynical" about rankings, the study suggests, although they "still refer to them all the time when talking about where they work and where they will work next".

The study also reveals that American academics are shocked by the "lower salaries and smaller houses in Europe", but appreciative of the firmer contracts and wider availability of jobs on offer.

Making a series of recommendations for improving international academic recruitment, the study concludes that "personal overtures from known academics seem to be the most effective way of encouraging a promising candidate to apply".

Another recommendation states that "as reputation is the main motivator for job change, the world ranking needs to be kept high in any (recruitment) literature".


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