I had a brief skype job interview for the position of department head at a mid-size/rank university in England. One of the key questions was about my plans for the international student recruitment. Contrary to other questions, I felt that they are not satisfied with my answer because I really didn’t have a special plan for this. Still, I think a department head can support this but cannot think of any new plan to do so.

Do you have a convincing answer to this interview question?

I plan to enter graduate school (MA+PhD) in September 2018, which means I have something of a ‘gap year situation’ ahead of me [not in a strict sense, as I’ve been working for a number of years now]. I want to use this unstructured time ahead the best way I can.

If you were in my position, how would you spend these spare 12 months before grad school officially begins and the clock starts ticking? How would you prepare for what’s ahead, what would you focus on?

It goes without saying that I have already given these questions a lot of careful consideration, but I’m very curious to learn how others would approach this topic; especially, current PhD candidates, postdocs, and lecturers/professors. Knowing what you now know, if you could go back, how would you spend a spare year like that?

Some background:

  • My field is social/cultural anthropology.
  • My ultimate goal (grad school and beyond) is to prepare a CV and a research portfolio, which will aid me in launching an academic career in Europe.
  • I have a BA in anthropology and an unrelated MA,
  • I currently freelance (unrelated field); I have plenty of spare time, and can arrange my schedule in whatever way I see fit.
  • I live in a mid-size European city (not a capital); can’t move anywhere this year, but can likely do some limited traveling.
  • There’s a small anthropology department here, but I’m not affiliated with it, and never was. My degree is from the US.
  • I can speak the local language fairly well.
  • The grad school (next year) will be in a different county, and learning the new language will be one of my key objectives this year. The language of instruction will be English, however.

Note: Not sure if I made this clear, but I’m not looking for suggestions such as “travel for fun,” or “get a new hobby.” I want to use these 12 months in the most productive way possible.

In response to feedback from comments: I would like the advice focused on: setting myself up to do outstanding work in grad school and beyond (postdocs, etc). I am not concerned with the “getting into grad school” part here.

I’m still undergraduate, have 2 years to graduate but i don’t like my major so much and my college. i go twice a week. i don’t attend lectures too much because professors and the contents are so weak and doesn’t based on understanding just on final exams and i don’t like it. i started to learn from Youtube and other websites but the GPA is not good is about 2.3 so my wish and hope is to do master abroad as Europe (Sweden or other country) to live there and work better than middle east.
So it can be or not ?! is it possible ?!
i don’t search for scholarship.. i can pay for studying but not much from working there but at least understand what i really study not just rules and put them in a paper to get full mark..

In the United States it is not uncommon to apply to academic jobs all over the country. Personally, I do not know a single person who limited his or her search to just one state (i.e. Massachusetts). That being said, the language of instruction and the key aspects of academic culture remain the same coast to coast.

In comparison, what is the situation like in Europe, particularly Scandinavia and Switzerland?

For example, given that the population of Denmark is comparable in size to that of Massachusetts, how does this affect the academic job market? Is it standard practice for PhDs & lecturers/postdocs located in Denmark to search for their first career placement across Europe [and beyond]? Or do they search for employment primarily on the national academic job market? How do the national differences in language/academic culture fit into this equation?

Background: I’m considering PhD/Academic Career in Europe. Ideally, I would like to learn the local language and assimilate as much as possible during the PhD. Given this long-term effort, I would prefer to continue on in the same country following graduation.

I’m especially interested in hearing from those with experience in the social sciences and humanities (working or studying in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, or Switzerland/Austria). However, please consider contributing even if you do not fit this particular set of criteria. My own experience is in Cult/Soc Anthropology (USA).

Study abroad aside, my firsthand experience of academia is largely US-centric. Likewise, much of what I’ve read (books, PhD guides, blogs, association websites, etc.) or heard (friends, colleagues, mentors) is related to the experience of working/studying at an American institution.

I’m considering pursuing a PhD/Academic Career outside of the United States. I currently live in the EU. Based on some preliminary research I have narrowed down my preferences to, in no particular order: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. [Still considering other European countries as well as Canada]

I’m interested in finding out as much as I can about the PhD, research, and academic career prospects (especially for foreigners) in these countries. My aim is to move permanently. Ideally, I would like to assimilate as much as possible and avoid having to relocate to another country post-graduation. However, as moving might be unavoidable, prospects on the international job market are also an important factor to consider.

I would really appreciate some first or secondhand experience. What’s it like to be a graduate student and/or work at a university in one of these countries? For those able to make a comparison: how would you relate it to PhD/working in the US (particularly at R1 schools)? Are there any major downsides or advantages to consider when choosing Europe/Canada over the US?

Finally, what are the prospects for graduates on the national academic job market? Regarding the international academic job market, what are the common destinations for recent graduates from your country?

I especially look forward to hearing from those of you in the social sciences (or humanities) currently studying/working in one of the above-mentioned countries. My own field is Cult/Soc Anthropology. However, please consider contributing even if you do not fit this particular set of criteria.

Lastly, should anyone know any blogs, articles, forum threads (etc.), dealing with academia at large, pursuing a PhD, or working at a university in any of these countries, particularly from a foreigner’s perspective, please share. I’ve located some sources, but I’m sure there must be much more out there.

[side note] I purposely left out my personal reasons for wanting to study/work outside of the US. Please, let’s keep this discussion focused on academia, rather than debating whether country X or Y is a great/terrible place to live.

[in response to juod’s comment: extract some key points that are of particular interest to you]
Sure, here they are, 1 = most important.

1) Attitude towards foreigners

  • Are foreign PhDs given the same consideration for postdocs and entry lvl posts (incl. tenure track or equivalent) – or is there a clear bias towards the locals?
  • What is the attitude towards non-native hires? I aim to assimilate and become proficient in the local language, but English will continue to be my primary working language.

2) National job market

What’s the current hiring climate? How competitive is it compared to US & other countries I listed? Discipline Specific: Are there many opportunities (many respected institutions, large staff) in anthropology/social sciences?

3) International job market

While I prefer NOT to relocate afterwards, what are my chances of competing for a job elsewhere in the world (Europe, US, Canada, Japan) after PhD/Postdoc in country X?

4) Perceived difference between graduate studies in US vs Europe

This is more vague, but if there are any key differences I should be aware of (and might not be) it would be great to find out what they are. I am trying to work out all major blind spots.

For all questions, please assume the PhD is from one of top institutions in a given country.


@juod, @MassimoOrtolano, @JeffE – thank you for your feedback, I have resubmitted the question as: Academic Job Mobility in the European Context

What are some differences between doing a PhD in a STEM field at an American university vs. doing it at relatively unknown schools in Europe and Australia?

Other than ETH Zurich, I have never heard of these other schools that come up in my Google searches for my research interests. There’s no prestige at all, it seems, at European and Australian programs, no Harvards or MITs or Princetons.

Would I even get a quality education in Europe and Australia?

I am considering moving institutions (from a one UK University to another), but an concerned about what Intellectual Property (IP) rights my current institution may retain. Some of my PhD students, one of whom has been funded by my university directly, would move with me, or at least I would like them to. I am also unclear about the rights they/I would have to the research they have already done. Their projects would naturally remain similar, but I see no obvious commercial potential, and have no intention of trying to find some.

My questions are:

  1. The University’s policy is clear that they own all Intellectual Property I produce during my employment. I assume this can’t apply to projects that have not got to the point of being protectable/tradeable but where one project begins and another ends is not always clear. Many of these projects naturally build on work I have published, or is in the process of being published. How can I tell/establish what exactly they have rights to?
  2. How do I ‘leave’ them with what they own so that I can make a clean break.

I recently faced a problem that is, I took a course at my university last year and got some grade for it, so for further improving it I gave the course this year again.

The course is purely evaluated based on oral exams on the take-home assignments that are handed out.

Coming back to the problem, I registered for the same course this year at my university, and apparently, the set of take-home exams are the same as the last year. Since, I know most of the correct answers, I just corrected the ones I made mistake on last year and submitted the improved set of the report this year.

However, it seems that the course instructor is not so happy about it (and does not want to evaluate me) as I just re-did the same assignments by improving the previous one.

Having said these, what I see as the problem is that in the course information they have not said anything that whoever is repeating the course should inform the teacher to get new sets. Also, I registered for the course with a new registration and not a mere re-sit. Since they have given the assignments the same, I don’t agree with them saying that they are not happy with the report that I handed in.

So for avoiding the conflict of interest, however, I withdrew from the exams, also, I know that in an ethical background that is the right thing to do (technically I did not do anything wrong).

Could you advise me who is right and wrong here and also please do advise me on the technical base, who is on the wrong side and what could I have done (I know that ethically this is wrong).

I have heard many people in academics state that a thesis is a students own project and that only the student is responsible for its quality and completion. Unfortunatelythis does not agree with my own observations. I see many supervisors who have very specific demands but take very little responsibility for the consequences of these demands. For example some supervisors demand that the subject of the thesis is in a very small area of research closely related to his own work, even if the student prefers a slightly different subject. Or have very specific requirements for a subject on other non-academic grounds. Switching supervisors can delay the progress of the student significantly. In this case the supervisor severly limits the possibilities of a student. However when this leads to problems with selecting a subject the supervisor does not grant any leniency in terms of deadlines. Isn’t it then appropriate that the supervisor helps more with topic selection/ assumes more responsibilities in issues related to this particular demand? For example the supervisor could be more tolerant on allowing a student to continue work with a new topic if the one the student suggested is not feasible.

This leads to two specific questions:

  1. What kind of demands are reasonable for a supervisor to have, particularly regarding scope and topic?

  2. What kind of responsibility does the supervisor bear for the consequences of those demands?

This question is about master and bachelor theses. I am not sure if it matters but my university is in western europe. My personal opinion is that saying that the student is one hundred percent responsible is a facile argument, since as soon as a supervisor has demands that are not solely to the benefit of the academic value of the thesis, or normal order of business , he should at least take some responibility. However I am very much on the fence about to what extent a supervisor should facilitate their students in this type of situations. If the issue remains unclear I can add specific examples but I want to avoid discussing issues particular to a student, university or even field.

I have heard many people in academics state that a thesis is a students own project and that only the student is responsible for its quality and completion. Unfortunatelythis does not agree with my own observations. I see many supervisors who have very specific demands but take very little responsibility for the consequences of these demands. For example some supervisors demand that the subject of the thesis is in a very small area of research closely related to his own work, even if the student prefers a slightly different subject. Or have very specific requirements for a subject on other non-academic grounds. Switching supervisors can delay the progress of the student significantly. In this case the supervisor severly limits the possibilities of a student. However when this leads to problems with selecting a subject the supervisor does not grant any leniency in terms of deadlines. Isn’t it then appropriate that the supervisor helps more with topic selection/ assumes more responsibilities in issues related to this particular demand? For example the supervisor could be more tolerant on allowing a student to continue work with a new topic if the one the student suggested is not feasible.

This leads to two specific questions:

  1. What kind of demands are reasonable for a supervisor to have, particularly regarding scope and topic?

  2. What kind of responsibility does the supervisor bear for the consequences of those demands?

This question is about master and bachelor theses. I am not sure if it matters but my university is in western europe. My personal opinion is that saying that the student is one hundred percent responsible is a facile argument, since as soon as a supervisor has demands that are not solely to the benefit of the academic value of the thesis, or normal order of business , he should at least take some responibility. However I am very much on the fence about to what extent a supervisor should facilitate their students in this type of situations. If the issue remains unclear I can add specific examples but I want to avoid discussing issues particular to a student, university or even field.