I have a Ph.D student (in a science related field, I don't want to be too specific) who seems to think that getting a professor job in New Zealand (his home country) would be no problem since he "knows people" who "like him" and just has to "ask around". New Zealand is his native country.

I have some very serious doubts about this since I know how hard it is in the US to land a good postdoc, much less a tenure track appointment. Can anyone who knows about New Zealand's universities fill me in? Is it really an "old-boys club" like the student seems to suggest? Are there really a lot of jobs to go around to New Zealander's with a degree from a good university and good postdoc experience. (I do mean good, not top 5 etc.)

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    When you say 'a professor job', I assume you must mean a job in which one would be called a professor in the US, rather than a job that would actually carry the title of 'professor' in New Zealand? (In New Zealand a professor is a very senior academic and many academics with permanent jobs never become professors.)
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 23:54
  • Yes, something equivalent to a "tenure-track assistant professor" in the US. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:02
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    NZ doesn't traditionally have a tenure-track system, so I guess what you would be talking about is a lectureship (which is generally expected to be a permanent position, but we don't have actual tenure like in the US).
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:08
  • Related question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/2689/… (however, the two current answers are Australia-focused)
    – Aru Ray
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


This may be subject-dependent, but my impression is that it is certainly not like that in mathematics (my subject). I come from New Zealand and would probably like to return to live there eventually, but I'm expecting to have to do at least one more postdoc (I'm already on my second, but my first was just one year) before I have any chance of a permanent job there. (And I do know people there who I think probably like me and, more importantly, are interested in my research.)

There are so few universities in New Zealand (eight, but one is small and primarily agricultural, I think) that there are by no means anywhere near enough academic jobs available to employ all New Zealanders with PhDs and postdocs from 'good' universities.

Still, I can imagine that if your student does indeed 'know people who like him' in New Zealand, his chances may very well be better there than for US universities of comparable standard (this is assuming that 'liking him' partly includes being impressed with his academic work).

  • Thanks Tara B, this very helpful. He seems to think that the basic plan is to get postdoc at a `good' place and then he'll be able to somehow find a position at one of the more regional schools. Then "many" people season there and move to one of the more desirable places. All of this also sounds suspect. His basic premise is that not too many New Zealander's want to come back, which I also find unlikely. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:01
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    I only have anecdotal evidence, but I agree with you that it's unlikely that not many New Zealanders who have done their PhDs overseas want to go back to NZ. Additionally, plenty of people from other countries are keen to move to NZ, so competition for jobs is not only from other New Zealanders.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:06
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    By the way, I don't even know what 'one of the more regional schools' and 'one of the more desirable places' are supposed to mean. As I said, there are only eight universities anyway, and six of those have campuses in one of the four main cities.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:14
  • Thank you. I apologize since I really don't know the layout of schools in NZ. His actual terminology was closer to the "lower ranked" schools, but I guess I felt like translating (incorrectly) to matter of locale. Do people move around much (after finding a "permanent" position) in NZ? I would say that its not usually the case in the US. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:18
  • I don't really feel confident to answer that, especially as I haven't lived in NZ since 2007. I know of at least three mathematicians, one German lecturer and one music lecturer who have moved between different NZ universities after already having a 'permanent' position, but I don't know how prevalent it is in general.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:22

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