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Though I am at the very beginning of my PhD journey, I am somewhat disturbed by the apparent lack of tenured positions in the US and Western Europe, especially concerning the humanities. All these horror stories about eager graduates looking in vain for years make me wonder how to prepare for my future, apart from publishing vehemently etc. Teaching and research are my passions, and I am willing to make significant sacrifices with regard to my family life and salary expectations in order to stay in academia.

To be more specific, I am willing to move (almost) anywhere if it means I can continue on my chosen career path. In fact, it would probably be beneficial to see the world and interact with different cultures. I am thinking of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and CIS-countries, Southeast Asia and other regions which recently underwent an economic boom; if this also implies an expanding tertiary education, I imagine they may be more interested in hiring Western graduates from older/more reputable universities. Industrialisation and population growth almost necessarily mean a higher enrolment rate and new institutions, and the faculty may consider employing researchers from more distinguished places a valuable marketing tool, at least in the beginning.

According to your experience, is this assumption correct? Is it reasonable to look for academic positions outside the US and Europe? Is the administration more likely to welcome me among their ranks at such places, ceteris paribus? If so, do you have any special advise on the application process or on the difficulties I may encounter? Thank you.

ETA: Just to be clear, I am specifically referring to second- or even third-tier target institutions, not Tokyo University or Peking Uni, though I welcome all suggestions.

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    I am surprised that nobody pointed out how broad and overly general your question is. – Greg Dec 28 '19 at 16:47
  • which nationality are you? cultural background, native languages you speak? Academic career is about spotting chances and developing your qualities, not planning to become professor in country X in field Y. This much too much hypothethical and you just started PhD – user48953094 Dec 28 '19 at 17:01
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I have no firsthand experience on this, but based on what my friend told me and some educated guesses:

  • It's probably easier to find a job as a professor in these developing countries. My friend said that the qualifications as a postdoc in Singapore are sufficient to qualify as a full professor in Malaysia (both countries are in SEA, but Singapore is developed while Malaysia is developing).
  • Expect lower living standards. Again using Malaysia vs. Singapore as an example, you get a lot of conveniences in Singapore such as better lecture theaters, top-notch internet, nicer offices, and so on. This extends outside of academia: factors such as public transport, crime rate, and salary are all better in Singapore. On the flip side, Malaysia is generally cheaper, especially if you want to own a car.
  • Expect weaker students. Unfortunate but true, because all the best students leave for better universities elsewhere.
  • Expect less resources. You won't get as much money to create grand research plans, and the country might not be able to join big collaborations like the Large Hadron Collider. You might also have fewer opportunities to attend conferences or to meet other researchers (e.g. by visiting or have them visit).
  • Expect a significant cultural gap. These countries don't usually have English as a primary language. Some people might still speak it, but they are usually more comfortable with another language, and you might e.g. have students ask you about something, you explain it, and then they discuss your answer with each other in your presence in a language you don't understand. There are other cultural things such as how much responsibility a professor should have over his or her students (for example, Yoshiki Sakai committed suicide over the academic misconduct of his student even though he was cleared of misconduct). You can work around this, but it'll take time.
  • Finally, don't forget that your choices will affect your family as well. Finding a suitable school for your children, for example, can be a problem.

Edit: I talked to a senior lecturer in astronomy at a university in Malaysia. He found his job immediately after graduating with his PhD. He says he cold-mailed his CV to the various universities with physics departments in the country. One of them responded with an interview request which led to the job.

Clearly the job market is less competitive - I asked him who the lecturers are if fresh graduates are senior lecturers, and he said the lecturers are usually those with Masters degrees. In the West, it'd be virtually impossible to land such a position without multiple postdocs, let alone without a PhD degree.

Among other things: he said he's somehow supervising PhD students even though he's a fresh graduate himself (which doesn't make sense to him or me, but from his description it was forced onto him). He also said students are indeed weaker overall, but there are also good students.

On the flip side, he was critical about Malaysia's promotion system since there apparently was a requirement where you must publish two papers a year, which clearly emphasizes quantity over quality. Also, the university's canteen only had Malay food. If you work in the country, hope you like curry.

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It depends on what you mean by "Eastern Europe", but my experience with EU Eastern Europe is that randoms from other countries with little experience and who don't speak the language are not particularly well-regarded as applicants for positions. If teaching is primarily in the local language, there isn't much use for you. Some Eastern European EU countries have mandatory large amounts of teaching, mandated by law as academics are civil servants, so there's little way out of teaching, even if you get, say, a large EU grant (found this out at an h2020 PI meeting, it goes a little way to explaining why some of those countries have low EU grant success rates).

All told, academia in many EU Eastern Europe countries is quite good.

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I am thinking of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and CIS-countries, Southeast Asia and other regions which recently underwent an economic boom

I have had some experiences in regions that would fall under these general groups. Although what I will say it is not at all representative of the entire situation it might give you some ideas. I think you are overall right. There are few things to be cautious about.

they may be more interested in hiring Western graduates from older/more reputable universities ... , and the faculty may consider employing researchers from more distinguished places a valuable marketing tool, at least in the beginning

This can be true. I have seen people get very excited because their department hired a top US school PhD without knowing much of what this person had done in their careers. I have also seen too many cases of western fetishism. Students/academics are eager to go to west for education/jobs. You can be a valuable bridge in that sense. There are huge differences between countries and their academic systems. For example university admissions are significantly different in different parts of the world. Oppurtunities like REUs are very common in US but they hard exist, say, in Europe. Universities in these "second world" countries are often valued (by the public) on the rate which they send students abroad. Your background might be valued by default. You can provide your students very valuable insights into how US system works.

Industrialisation and population growth almost necessarily mean a higher enrolment rate and new institutions.

This is not necessarily the case. I know at least one example where the economic and population boom did not result in stronger institutions. What have happened is they have raised the quotas in Universities (almost all are public) without much increase in their budget. They have also formed new Universities but these almost always are pretty shady and corrupt. There are various department wide plagarism scandals. I have heard dreadful stories from my fellow student friends in these institutions. Furthermore, in the previously strong institutions, increased quotas and their substandard budget resulted in a visable decrease in education, research and campus life quality.

Just to be clear, I am specifically referring to second- or even third-tier target institutions, not Tokyo University or Peking Uni, though I welcome all suggestions.

I would suggest you to look at first tier universities at least in their respective countries. This will help you avoid few problems such as:

  • Expect weaker students

    This need not be the case. Going to west is almost impossible (at least to a decent institution) unless you are increadibly wealthy in the second-world country standards. SATs, GREs, application fees are huge when the minimum wage is around 300 dollars. Not to mention that these countries will NOT have school systems built around these exams. These people will not have any experience in getting tested in English or understand how the admission game works. The US oppurtunity exists for the very few. These are usually the extremely wealthy who can afford private schools and private tutors aimed in this direction and the extremely smart if they have a conventional way to prove it (like mathematical olimpiads). Even at graduate level capable people hessitate to leave their country or return back without completing their phd abroad. There can be many cultural and economic reasons for that. Humans tend to be philopatrical. There is a huge between going to California from Alabama and going to US from Malaysia. Especially after the current wave of Islamophobia. But yes, overall expect weaker students. But I would bet the good ones you are going to get will be pretty good.

  • Expect less resources

This is true on avarage but an elite institution of a second world country can easily have more resources than a second rate US university. It is really case specific.

do you have any special advise on the application process or on the difficulties I may encounter

Difficulties vary but you should expect some. For example the country may have strict regulations for Universities. The titles might be subject to certain criterias (x many publications, y many books etc.). These are unpleasant. I have seen top tier researchers getting stuck with a lower title not because the university does not recognize them. Because the country will have some weird numerical criteria attached to that title.

Is the administration more likely to welcome me among their ranks at such places, ceteris paribus

This again is very case specific. If you get an offer from a university I would suggest you to get in touch with people in that university first. My institution is pretty decent in that regard. I would say at least half of the faculty is foreign and around two thirds of it are post-Soviet / East Bloc academics. Although I wouldn't be suprised if some other institution's department head / dean / President would have an issue with a certain foreign nationality.

One key point that you have not mentioned is political unrest. In Hungary, Orban forced out Central European University. In Turkey, Erdogan did serious academic purges. In US, misinformation and pseudo-science are spread by politicans including the Mr. President. Countries like Iran, Indonesia, Libya, Egpty are still heavily shaken by their previous political struggles and many of their strong academics have fled the country.

Overall

I think you should consider such oppurtunities but you should be cautious. Research the institution well. Is there plagirism, fraud, nepotism, sexual abuse, bullying or censor? Is the institution reputable in its own country? Is the research aspect valuable or is it just a glorified high school with more advanced topics? You should try to understand the countries policies towards the academica as well as public opinion towards higher education. For example, Indian public seem to value humanities far, far less than engineering. In that case you might have a harder time in India as a humanities researcher. Or if politicians look at school budgets and drool then those institutions might be in slight trouble. Most notably in US some state legislatures cut their State's funding in very small portions year by year. Now, state universities are also a part of the University cost crisis. US economy is huge and they so far have survived this crisis with somewhat managable consequences. I am not so sure how it would play out in a much poorer country.

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