The academic structure of institutions within the higher educational system of the United Kingdom is a very competitive one, with universities striving to outshine one another and stand out as the best in terms of academic excellence and performance. This struggle for supremacy is reflected in the stringent selection and hiring processes into lectureship and research positions adopted by each university.
Therefore, in as much as getting a work placement into the UK academia is open to everyone within and outside the UK, the academic job market is strongly influenced by candidate's academic performance, research and publication records, and teaching experience.
You will have to decide which academic role you're better suited for, whether research, teaching or managerial. Generally speaking, a postdoctoral research post is mainly research-focused, but not entirely without some measure of teaching and supervisory duties. The responsibilities for university lectureship, however, is multifaceted and involve teaching, research and administrative duties. As a lecturer you will not only have to creatively design and develop your own courses, but will also evaluate and mark students scripts, conduct research and get them ready for publications, present papers, represent the university at conferences, and may be co-opted to handle some administrative tasks for the department.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to note that the academic research positions available in the UK higher education system are mostly on a fixed-term basis.
If you're looking to get an academic job in the UK below are vital steps and requirements you should consider seriously.
To begin with, you should have a good undergraduate degree, with preferably a 2:1 or a First Class overall grade. You also need to get a PhD related to the subject area you intend to teach.
In recent times, having a PhD in the subject area has grown to become a prerequisite to getting a job placement in the academia. For academic research posts particularly, a doctorate degree in the subject matter is indispensable. Although for lectureship in vocational courses, a good level of expertise obtained over some years of working in the field, together with a relevant Bachelor's degree is considered as valuable as having a doctorate degree.
In addition to the above, it is a common practice these days for lecturers to acquire a teaching qualification such as Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) or Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The PGCHE is designed to help equip aspiring lecturers with the skills they need to provide high-quality teaching and learning. Some universities might require that you have a HEA Fellowship, with a teaching qualification compliant with the HEA UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).
If you have an ambition of taking up a career in the academia, strive to achieve a brilliant academic record right from your undergraduate stage, as this improves your chances and reflects your focus, enthusiasm and suitability for an academic position.
Principally, relevant skills required for academic roles across most disciplines include expertise in the subject area, enthusiasm in research, excellent teaching capabilities, ability to seamlessly transfer knowledge, good oral and written communication skills, capacity to network with other researchers, analytical skills, ability to impart knowledge satisfactorily, proficiency in the use of Information Technology, administrative skills, and an ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
Work experience helps you build and improve your skills and prepares you for greater opportunities and challenges ahead. It also showcases your zeal for your profession and bears testimony of your commitment to your career ideas.
As stated previously, lecturing roles entail teaching, research and administration. Priority placed on these three responsibilities will differ depending on which university you are applying to. Most Russell Group universities like University of Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford London School of Economics, etc are typically research-intensive and hence place most priority on research. More recently established institutions tend to tilt more towards teaching than research.
Enhance your chances of getting into the academia by gaining adequate teaching and research experience. You can utilise the period you are studying for your PhD to develop good teaching and research skills. Some universities offer their lecturers opportunity to acquire a teaching qualification while studying for a PhD or during the early years of working in the institution. Take advantage of any opportunity offered you to teach during your doctorate studies to develop and build up your teaching skills, as a good teaching experience improves your chances of securing a permanent academic position in a university.
Contribute and participate in organising tutorials, seminar presentations, workshops and conferences. Do not hesitate to help in marking undergraduate exam scripts and assisting in designing curriculum, if ever offered the chance.
Moreover, previous work experience not related to teaching/research is equally useful and is considered important by institutions keen on expanding students' employability and future prospects.
Publish your work:
Work on building up a credible research profile by publishing as much papers and articles as you can. Essays, research works, thesis and dissertations from your undergraduate and post graduate studies should be published as series of articles. Try to also present your papers at conferences, workshops and seminars, as doing so would help to expand the reach of your research.
Publishing your work in reputable academic journals, and presenting papers at workshops and conferences, are both great ways of building up your portfolio and boosting your marketability in the academic job market. They are also a way of proving beyond doubt that you can disseminate research results correctly and communicate your ideas across.
Build a Network:
Establish a strong network with your colleagues and members of the academia. Registering as a member into professional and academic bodies, apart from enriching your CV and giving you an advantage over other applicants, is also a good way of networking and establishing connections between you and other members of the academia in your field. These are the people who would usually have firsthand information about vacancies and job openings in the department.
Craft a good CV
A good CV should be detailed and clearly highlight all your relevant qualifications, skills, experiences, and other attributes that make you the most suitable candidate for the academic position you are applying for. Learn how to professionally craft winning CV for different academic roles and positions, as this is the first step towards making a great first impression and landing the academic job of your dreams.
For better clarity and readability, arrange your CV in sections such as Education, Work experience, Publications, References, etc.
Where To Find Academic Job Vacancies
Universities, further education colleges, law schools, business schools, and other specialist postgraduate institutions in the UK offer opportunities for employment into the academia from time to time. Information concerning these vacancies and job opportunities can be obtained from the institutions' websites.
You can also find academic job vacancies in research journals, website of professional bodies and academic associations, and on job boards that advertise academic job openings in the UK.
If you're looking for a reputable HE platform where you can find current academic job vacancies in the UK, careersinhe.com is the place for you. Thousands of academic job openings available in all major UK universities are regularly advertised on the platform, and in a neatly organized format. You will also find several other useful articles in the Careers Advice section of the website to help facilitate your ambition of getting an academic job in a UK university.Check out how to become a university teaching fellow or lecturer in the UK for more helpful information.