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.


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.

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