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I've been involved in a recruitment process of a Danish institute for an STEM-based tenure-track position. I was invited to a first, a second, and a third interview in the span of only 10 days. At the end of the third interview, I was told that I would hear about the final decision within days, but to no avail. After a week, I followed up with the search committee head (telling him I have another offer whose deadline is in just 48 hours, and if their decision regarding my candidacy is negative, even an "unofficial no" would be appreciated), and he didn't reply but 10 days later, saying I am of high priority for them, and he has been negotiating and dealing with some challenges related to the position's budget. While asking me to be a little bit more patient, he said he would have two related meetings in that week, and he will get back to me soon. It is now over a week after those two meetings of him, and I still have no decision. Overall, I've been waiting for a month, from the day of the third interview, for their decision.

One thing that I don't understand is the claimed budget issue. As far as I know, when a position is supposed to be announced, a tone of planning has to be done including its budget, meaning, if the budget is not secured, no position will be announced, let alone thinking about the budget after all interviews and logistics. Moreover, this position supports no start-up package. Thus, there is nothing for them to worry about except the position's salary. I am wondering how one can interpret this. One viewpoint is that I am not the top applicant. They have already offered the position to someone else. But they also find my case pretty promising. So, they are trying to open a new position on-the-fly for which such a budget issue has to be managed.

Does anyone, potentially aware of the mechanics of tenure-track recruitment in Denmark, know whether there is any other explanation for this budget issue at this point?

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    @mkennedy: According to what they said during interviews, nothing is negotiable about this position, meaning salary is fixed and (as stated in the question above) there is no start-up cost that they cover.
    – User
    Nov 25, 2023 at 5:22
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    I don't know anything about Denmark, specifically, so not an answer. But finances evolve all the time. Maybe the latest quarterly update is more pessimistic about upcoming student numbers. Maybe the roof of the physics department has just started leaking. Suddenly everyone is told they need to trim 5% from their budget. And the easiest person to cut is always the person who hasn't been hired yet.
    – avid
    Nov 25, 2023 at 7:13
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    @User No matter how much money is available theoretically, it's likely that people who have influence on spending it do not share identical thoughts about how it should be spent. Any money spent on one thing can't be spent on others.
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 25, 2023 at 15:49
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    @BryanKrause: Maybe it is a common theme in your department to announce a position, spend a lot of time and resources to go through all rounds of interviews, and suddenly figure out that people "do not share identical thoughts about how [the money] should be spent."!
    – User
    Nov 25, 2023 at 23:19
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    @BryanKrause: I never said they are lying to me. You assume that either your interpretation (which may be only the case in the US at best) is correct, or they are lying. There might be something more subtle here. Anyway, thanks for your comment.
    – User
    Nov 25, 2023 at 23:46

2 Answers 2

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I have found the wheels turning slower in Europe than the US. I once had an offer for a position in Germany; the details of the negotiation are with someone in central administration, and I was told that he did not have any availability to discuss the details of the job that was offered to me within the next four months! So if your contact was hoping to resolve the situation soon, I am willing to believe that that can take weeks (and may be pushed back at short notice) and that the fact that you had a different deadline was not going to make a difference to them.

As for reasons for things not being settled: Money is not something a department or a university prints. It is subject to legislative provision, and if the Danish or state parliament on short notice finds that it has different priorities, then whether a position has been advertised or not is not going to make a difference -- the money might simply not be there, and a department cannot do anything about that. In fact, at least in Germany, the legislature approves positions, not money for these, and so if the legislature eliminates the position, it doesn't even matter whether the department has the money or not -- nobody can be hired because there is no line available.

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  • Thanks for sharing your very relevant experience. (That 4-month delay part is quite scary!)
    – User
    Nov 26, 2023 at 7:49
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Large organizations are terrible at financial planning. This has nothing to do with academia, Denmark, or this particular university.

A common scenario is:

  1. Somebody decides they want to hire a professor.
  2. They ask somebody else to approve it.
  3. The approver waits months and then does some financial modeling before approving the hiring.
  4. The job is advertised.
  5. After several months, a candidate is selected.
  6. The approver goes over the financial modeling again and realizes the model was totally wrong.
  7. The hiring is cancelled.
  8. The entire process is repeated.

Private companies do the same thing, but usually a bit faster.

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