I am from South Asia and am doing a Ph.D. in molecular simulation in the EU.

My long-term goal is to become a world-class research professor with a good supply of research funds at a top-ranking, prestigious university anywhere in the world.

Suppose, when I am done with my Ph.D., I get two offers at around the same time:

  1. A postdoc in the EU
  2. A permanent position as an assistant professor at a Chinese or Southeast Asian (e.g., Malaysia, Thailand, etc., but not Singapore) tier 2 or 3 university.

Which one would be more helpful in achieving my long-term goal in the future?

  • How can we know? What's your long-term goal? "Academic career" is a rather generic goal, surely you have more specifics in mind! Jul 13, 2023 at 4:22
  • 1
    I think that there is a vast gap between the best universities in China and most of the ones in SE Asia. You have to be more specific about your options. Surely there is a difference between going to Peking or Fudan University, and going to Mae Fah Luang University. Jul 13, 2023 at 7:07
  • I think it is clear that a postdoc at a good place in Germany will get you much further than a low-Tier professorship almost anywhere. This presumes you want to end up in a Tier-1 institution in the end.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 13, 2023 at 13:06
  • 3
    "Suppose I get" meaning you don't actually have these offers in hand yet? Is there some practical, answerable problem that you're actually currently facing that we can address? My understanding based on the Don't Ask page is that you should ask about actual problems that you have, not about problems you might theoretically face in the future. The question is also rather subjective as written; what do you mean by "better"? Jul 13, 2023 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


If you want to be (become) attractive to a top research university you will need to build a significant resume. A mid level assistant professorship isn't the best place to do that, but it is possible, depending on what sort of research the other faculty there do and their success.

A postdoc at a top level university in Germany (or elsewhere) seems to be a much better path if it doesn't require teaching and has, again, a very active faculty in your field.

But pay attention to the quality of the other faculty in your field, not just the reputation of the university as a whole. You will want to do a lot of collaboration early on as it can lead to more publications as well as better breadth in your own field.

But, be aware that nothing is guaranteed. There are many paths to the top, but none of them are easy. Most require sacrifice of other things in life. How far you get depends on you and what you produce. You can piggyback a bit early on, but not forever.

Caveats: Note two things. First, it is possible to have a fine and rewarding career at a mid level university even without the extreme focus on research. Second, not many of us get to make such a choice, especially in a difficult academic marketplace.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .