I have heard that universities tend not to hire people who earned their PhD there for professorships (tenured or not). (I've read this question, but it's about postdocs: Is it normal that research institutes do not hire their own PhDs for postdoc positions?)

If one graduated from a university, and then did a few turns as a postdoc or non-tenured professor, would a university/department still be disinclined to hire them 10 years post-graduation?

I know there's a lot of factors that go into hiring professors, as well as many reasons to go to different universities/institutes (addressed in the linked question), so I'm mostly curious about this specific truism I've heard.

Although I live in the U.S., I'm curious about North American and European practices (so as not to invalidate answers already given).

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    Possible duplicate of Is it normal that research institutes do not hire their own PhDs for postdoc positions?
    – Nij
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:09
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    @Nij I linked that question in my post. That's about postdocs, my question is about faculty positions. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:14
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    In France (in math at least) you cannot even be promoted to professor from a maître de conférences position in the same university. You have to move. The "upside" is, you can apply to a professor position where you did your PhD, if you were hired as MCF elsewhere.
    – user9646
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 7:15
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    This question is just too broad to answer. Different countries, different universities and even different fields of study have wildly different practices. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 12:49
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    @AzorAhai, I don't mean to be pedantic, but I have taught in more than 5 different "Western" countries and the systems and standards are not comparable. U.S.A., U.K. Canada, Germany, France, Spain, all Western right: different answers to your question. Perhaps you could ask that people tag their answer by country. Or something. :-)
    – PatrickT
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 16:28

6 Answers 6


At my university - or at least in my department - the norm seems to be that they prefer to hire externally for tenure-track jobs (speaking from experience serving on a search committee for a tenure-track position). The line of reasoning is, "if we're the ones who taught/mentored/molded Candidate X, then they're not bringing in anything new in terms of scholarship."

This is less applicable to non-tenure track jobs, as those faculty members are usually teaching lower level classes and don't have any research obligations. There are several PhD faculty members in my department that were hired internally who work as lecturers.

Anecdotal, of course, but I've studied at/worked at a few universities over the years, and this is the pattern I've tended to see. Tenure-track: external. Non-tenure-track: internal OK.

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    That’s what they say but do they actually honour that? Some numbers would be good. I have an inkling that the numbers might say something quite different. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 9:57
  • Which country/area are you referring to? Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 16:32
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    @KonradRudolph this was anecdotal, so I don't have any hard numbers. I can think of 3 full-time faculty members in my department who were hired internally (over the course of maybe 10 years or so? I've only been here a couple of years) and they're all non-tenure track. When I was on the tenure-track search committee that I mentioned, the committee chair said (and everyone else concurred) that we would not consider any internal candidates. Because of that, we did have to cross off a couple of candidates from our initial list. And for context, this is in the U.S., in a foreign languages dept.
    – Ace
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 17:00
  • @Ace At an R-1? Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 19:19
  • Currently, yes, at an R1.
    – Ace
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 23:39

As there is no "US" tag, the German universities have a general and quite strictly enforced policy that no one may be "simply" given a professorship at the same university where they were postdocs. No Hausberufung.

The rule is about "promoting" people to professors internally. If you were somewhere else, it's not a problem. If you have a position offer from somewhere else it should not be a problem.

The basic idea is to "validate" people in tenure positions from outside and to prevent folks "growing into" a tenured position from a life-long career at the same place.

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    What is a "Hausberufung"? Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 23:22
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    The German term for the opposite of what I just described. An "in-house tenure". Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 23:34
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    That is true, but not that strictly. It is possible to give a junior professorship (maybe even tenure) to a postdoc who is currently working "in-house" if they have previously held positions abroad for at least 2 years.
    – skymningen
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 6:48
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    That’s an answer to a different question though. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 9:57
  • skymningen: Yes, but the candidate should have been not in-house at the moment of the tenure-track call ("Ruf"), even if she was in-house before. Some other exceptions are also possible, but seldom. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 19:24

2nd hand knowledge here, take with a grain of salt:

In the university I'm familiar with, a PhD who wants a career in the same university is required to do several post-docs abroad.

This makes following career paths possible:

  • PhD at A, post-doc at A, career at B
  • PhD at A, post-doc at B, career at A
  • [and more complex]

This seems like a compromise between your original statement, your post-doc link and appointments from within the organisation which could lead to cronyism.

I believe there's deeper rationale at work as well, scientists' responsibility is not only research but also spreading the knowledge and methods. An arrangement like this ensures that both A's progress is shared with B, as well as B's progress is brought into A.

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    Abroad? As in another university or literally another country? Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 3:25
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    It's about a university in a small country, in which case, literally abroad. I image for a university in a large country, another state would do. Another city in same country feels like PhD is not trying hard enough maybe?
    – user91817
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 9:55

I'm currently working at a Russell Group university in the UK, which apparently goes against this general trend. I've heard that internal candidates are actually preferred. The reasoning is that hiring an internal candidate minimizes the risk, particularly the risk of personality or culture mismatch. There are plenty examples of former PhD students (or even former students since the undergraduate level) who are now Lecturers, Readers, or Professors.

While this preference itself might be a department-specific thing, it's certain that there are no university-wide policies against it. Also, to my knowledge, this is definitely not typical in Europe (source: previous experience in the Swedish academic system).


I have heard the same thing by way of rumour (never confirmed by any official policy) in my own alma mater in Australia. My understanding is that this aversion comes from a concern that hiring one's own PhD graduates does not yield any outside academic standard bearing on the process. This gives rise to a danger that a university could lose its academic standards over time by failing to test its hires against the standards of other institutions. I would imagine that this concern is obviated if the person holds a position at another university in between their PhD graduation and their later application to the same institution.


Adding my two cents worth: in my English university - internal hires are the exception rather than the norms. That said, several that have been shortlisted or hired have had some experience teaching and clocking up publications with a stint elsewhere. So to this question: If one graduated from a university, and then did a few turns as a postdoc or non-tenured professor, would a university/department still be disinclined to hire them 10 years post-graduation?

Yes, as they are judged, pari pasu, with other worthy candidates.

  • I'm confused - you say that a department would not want to hire their internal candidates, but then say they are judged "pari pasu" (which is a phrase I've never heard before), but means "on equal footing," which suggests that the department wouldn't consider their status in making a decision. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 22:06
  • I did not say they would not want to hire. I said they are the exception rather than the norm. These mean very different things.
    – MHL
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 22:10
  • I remain confused by your post. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 22:14
  • @MHL It sounds like you're describing a "disinclination to hire" that decreases with time and work elsewhere, so 10 years out the department is no longer disinclined, but not inclined either. Is that about right? Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 3:00
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    Yes @cactus_pardner! You got it perfectly (and written it better) as I intended it to mean.
    – MHL
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 10:38

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