Finding University Jobs in the United Kingdom

A university lecturerUK  job seekers, much like their counterparts over in the US, are facing an uphill battle when it comes to landing a job. In mid-October this year, UK unemployment reached its highest point in 17 years at a rate of 8.1%, which equates to 5.6 job seekers for every vacancy. In the academic jobs market, there’s added pressure after a recent hike in tuition fees put a significant dent in next year’s application numbers. So where should job seekers who want to find a position at a UK university be focusing their attention? Is there anything they can do to increase their chances in such a competitive jobs market? We looked into the state of hiring at a number of universities around the UK to find out.

Where do I find job openings?

Taking a look at the listings on the UK’s top jobs websites, it quickly becomes clear that while there are plenty of openings in the education field, only a small percentage of the jobs listed are actually academic level jobs. As is often the case with an academic job hunt, specialist academic job boards such as, of course usually have a better selection of openings than the more general job websites.

What are UK universities looking for in employees?

It goes without saying that the right qualifications, relevant experience and strong references will take any applicant far in an academic job search. But what are the factors that will give applicants the edge when academic vacancies are so few and far between? “Aspiring lecturers must view their career planning in the context of a competitive market as there are more university graduates than ever before,” explains Audrey McCulloch, Head of Careers Services at the University of Strathclyde. “A PhD is almost always essential now and that research must be actively combined with attendance at a wide range of conferences and events which will challenge, develop and use both intellect and high levels of personal and professional skill.” “Contributions to books, journals and papers will have to extend to a long list,” McCulloch adds. “And as if that was not enough, potential lecturers will need to be great in their use of technology for teaching Generation Y undergraduates and have excellent interpersonal skills.” Networking is another vital skill for academic job seekers who want to boost their chances of landing position. By making contact with the main players in your field, as well as with academics who you could potentially work with in future, you make yourself known to people who will almost certainly be influential in your future career. If you find face-to-face networking challenging, remember that a well written introductory email can often be just as effective.

What are UK academic salaries like?

UK academic pay levels hit a high back in 2007, with Times Higher Education reporting that UK academics earned an average of £43,486 per year. Unfortunately, the onset of the credit crunch meant that trend couldn’t be sustained. Currently, the University and College Union recommends a salary starting point of £18,555 for an unqualified lecturer, £23,382 for a qualified lecturer, and £35,304 for people working in advanced teaching and training. Unsurprisingly, the salaries advertised on university job pages vary slightly depending on the institution and the subject area. At the University of Cambridge, for example, a lecturer in marketing is being offered between £36,862 and £46,696, depending on experience. Meanwhile, the University of Belfast is advertising for a lecturer in management at between £32,751 and £42,096 per year.

Tips for Applications

  • In such a tight jobs market, making the most of any university teaching experience you already have is essential. Highlight this at the start of your application to show you have what it takes.
  • Start putting together a list of all your published articles and other contributions, along with the details of any conferences and events you’ve been to. This information will be vital in making sure your application stands out from the crowd.
  • Prepare your referees by letting them know which positions you’ve applied for. Don’t be afraid to let them know which of your achievements you’d most like them to mention if and when they get a call. Finally, it’s important to outline what your research plans are, and how this research will boost the university’s profile. Make sure your application shows exactly how you in particular will be an asset to the university of your choice.