Because of Brexit issues with my large grant, I'm considering a move from a permanent research+teaching post at a university to one of Europe's large research institutions. I'm not particularly familiar with these entities and I'm finding it difficult to gauge the long term implications of this move. Can anyone tell me:

What are the key differences between basing research at a university and basing research at a (large, European) research institution?

What might the long-term effects on one's career be due to making the switch, e.g. from not teaching or supervising phds?

For the record I'm not STEM, I'm a social scientist who does a lot of humanities/arts work.

  • Can you say country? There are major differences between different EU countries' national systems.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 3:04
  • This would be CSIC so Spain. Specific comments would help me of course. However I was hoping for a slightly more general comparison of the two types of environments so as to make the answer relevant to more people. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 5:48
  • What might the long-term effects on one's career be due to making the switch, e.g. from not...supervising phds? Can you clarify why you believe you cannot supervise PhD students?
    – user2768
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 7:03
  • Because the research institute in question does not have PhD students. No PhDs to supervise means no PhDs supervised. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:27
  • 1
    @GrotesqueSI that doesn't necessarily follow (although it may in that institution). I've worked at research institutions where staff have jointly supervised PhDs with universities.
    – Flyto
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


I don't think that a generic answer would be valid for every European continental country as University careers are already quite different from country to country. As you are mentioning CSIC I am going to focus in Spain.

Short answer: Making your career at CSIC or any other Spanish research institution means that you have the opportunity of focusing on your research in a high quality institution. It also means that the possibility of changing to a University (again in Spain) decrease the longer you stay there, virtually becoming zero after some five years

Explanation: Spanish academia requires that you go through a system of pre-qualification (acreditación) for any of the four current faculty positions. Other countries such as France (Qualification) and Italy also have a similar system but I believe that the particularity of the Spanish case is that you need to fulfil a lot of different requirements in teaching, research, knowledge transfer, etc. You can check the requirements in this link (sorry, no English version). Being able to fulfil these requirements is relatively straight-forward for the first faculty position (profesor ayudante doctor) but it becomes increasingly difficult for the next ones if you are not employed at a University. It has been often quoted that a Nobel prize not previously employed at University would not be able to become tenured in Spain regardless of the quality of their research.

As you mention being currently in a research + teaching position at the UK, your previous teaching + supervising experience might allow you to become qualified (acreditado) for faculty positions. But both Spanish universities and the organism that evaluates research (ANECA) are extremely picky with the certificates that you need to bring from your home university. It is possible that some are deemed not valid because they are not signed and stamped by the right person, etc.

  • Thank you for this, it was extremely helpful! Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 20:43
  • That's so kind of you! In part because of your observation of the difficulties of re-entering the University system post-CSIC I've decided to go the "safe" route and stay within a Uni. I'll be heading to the Netherlands. A bit sad because I speak Spanish and would love the Barcelona weather, but with everything else changing so quickly, I think it best that I stay in the system that I know. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 9:29
  • OK. I feel a bit sad of depriving my country of a potential researcher as you. But those barriers do exist and it is good that you are aware of them before making a decision
    – Toulousain
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 16:52

What are the key differences between...research at a university and...research at a...research institution?

At a university, researchers may have teaching duties (as in the OP's case), whereas researchers may not have such duties at a research institute (albeit, institutes may vary), hence, a research institution (without teaching) provides a more focused researched environment, compared with a university (with teaching).

What might the long-term effects on one's career be due to making the switch, e.g. from not teaching or supervising phds?

As above, not teaching facilitates a research focus. (Moving to a teaching-focused institute later might be more difficult. (Moving to an institute with teaching less so, assuming they focus on your research results, rather than your teaching.))

As discussed in comments, you can supervise PhD students.

  • Hmm. Thanks for trying but this isn't really a detailed or helpful answer. It simply states the surface distinction that is already obvious, and speaks nothing towards career implications. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:24
  • @GrotesqueSI It answers the question you asked. If you can add more to your question, then I can provide a better answer.
    – user2768
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 12:27
  • No need. I got a thorough and knowledgeable answer already. See above. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 15:26

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