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I received an offer for lectureship at a UK university. Their academic year starts in September. Usually (as far as I've seen), new faculty members start ~ 1 month prior to the start of the academic year. However, they want me to start 3 months prior (basically before summer begins), citing the reason is for me to get used to the new environment and meet new colleagues (which would really only require 1 month if even that!).

My current position (fixed term) doesn't end until much later. And I have plenty of time to hand in my notice (although I rather finish my whole contract, just to tie things up nicely). All the same, I'm quite surprised by this very early start date. I reached out to the University and tried to negotiate with them, but they seem very firm on this (I didn't push because I was afraid they will rescind their offer, which I know is unlikely to happen in the US but this is the UK context so could be different).

No where on the original post advert mentioned a start date (or time). It's my bad that I didn't ask during my interview (as I just assumed).

My questions are:

  1. is it typical in the UK to ask your new recruit to start so much earlier? If not, should this be considered a warning sign? what could be the real reason? They want to put me to work right away?
  2. Can I negotiate (further) on this (How far can I push it)? and what could be my leverage (I see none). This really early start date feels rushed, not to mention it will be insane in terms of relocating (and also breaking the lease on my house). Thank you!
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    It wouldn't surprise me if this is related to REF 2021 – StrongBad Mar 21 at 19:09
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    @StrongBad, ah I see. this is totally valid reason, why won't they just tell me?! – PandaPants Mar 21 at 19:58
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    (A comment not an answer, since my recent experience of UK academia is all second-hand and as such I’m not very sure of it.) No, in my impression this is not typical at all! It’s not hard to imagine good reasons, like @StrongBad’s suggestion, but it seems weird that they wouldn’t tell you, and their stated reason certainly doesn’t seem to justify the firmness. Do you have some personal contact you could write to to ask about this, or perhaps phone/skype, in case the issue is that they don’t want to mention the real reason in writing (if e.g. it slightly conflicts with official policy)? – PLL Mar 22 at 10:38
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    @PandaPants: I agree, it’s a bit disconcerting. I would really suggest trying to bring it up in conversation (over a call or Skype), since if the reason is sensitive or complex it may be much easier to explain verbally than in email. If you have a personal contact who’s sufficiently involved, that’d be ideal, but if your personal contacts don’t know the reason then I’d suggest asking someone directly involved in the negotiation (e.g. the head of dept) for a call to discuss this point. If they still can’t either compromise or offer a better explanation, it seems a bit of a red flag. – PLL Mar 22 at 13:32
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    @PandaPants A year ago I was giving you a suggestion on how to write a short bio when you were "unemployed after 1st postdoc" and now you secured a Lectureship! Congratulations! (even if this sounds a bit dodgy - my UK uni is much more flexible I think - so no, not typical, but can't think of any other suggestions to offer, so, not an answer, and mostly just wanted to say gratz since I remembered you name from that question a year ago) – penelope Mar 22 at 17:08
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1) Doesn't seem too strange. I agree with @strongbad: it's probably an attempt to get your research productivity into their REF schedule. May also relate to when they set their teaching curriculum. 2) It's appropriate to push back. At worst, they just stick to their original offer.

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