I am writing a job application which lists the universities I have given invited talks at. What I would like some advice on, is whether I should always write each university out in full, or whether I should always use the common acronym / abbreviation associated with that university (if any), or whether it should depend on how well-known that acronym / abbreviation is.

For example, consider the following passage:

I have given talks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Melon University, the University of California Berkeley, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, University College London, the Technical University of Munich, Kings College London, Manchester Metropolitan University.

If I were to use all the acronyms / abbreviations, then it would read:

I have given talks at MIT, Caltech, CMU, UC Berkeley, ETH Zürich, UCL, TMU, KCL, MMU.

Now, some of these acronyms / abbreviations are well-known (the first few), but some are not (the last few), particularly for non-academics.

But would it look strange if I used a mixture? Let’s see:

I have given talks at MIT, Caltech, CMU, UC Berkeley, ETH Zürich, UCL, Technical University Munich, King's College London, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Yes, that looks a bit strange to me. So what rule should I use? Should I be consistent, or should I decide for each university what rule to use?

  • 6
    You certainly shouldn't write "Carnegie Melon." :)
    – wchargin
    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:32
  • Worth keeping in mind that university offices related to maintaining information about rankings (which can affect funding) look for standard names, and may miss informal names. E.g., University of Sydney (correct) vs. Sydney University (incorrect). So sometimes it does matter. This is mostly related to author affiliations in journal articles, but there is a trend to include other sources.
    – beldaz
    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:11
  • 1
    It's TUM not TMU. Jul 29, 2016 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


When the abbreviation is actually better known than the full name, go with the abbreviation. Otherwise, use the full name. That will render the last option you proposed (though it would be fine to write TU Munich as well).

  • 1
    The mixture may not look ideal, but it's the way to go if you have a space limitation. I suggest keeping the abbreviated institutions at the beginning of the list -- that probably correlates quite well with keeping the prestigious ones at the beginning. I'd pick "TU Munich" or "TU München" over "TUM" ("TMU" was presumably a typo, I've never seen this used, and it's ambiguous)
    – Chris H
    Jul 29, 2016 at 8:22
  • I agree with this, but let me add that, in case of doubt, you should go with the full name. I think "MIT", "UCLA", and "Caltech" are fine, but even "CMU" can, in my home area, mean "Central Michigan University". Jul 30, 2016 at 2:38

Assuming you're applying for an academic job, I recommend including a bulleted list of full names in your CV, in either alphabetical order or (if you also include dates) chronological order. There is absolutely no reason to be concise in your CV; ink is cheap, especially since nobody uses it any more. (If you really think a list of all talks is too long, cluster by year, but still use full names in each year's one-line list.)

Invited talks

  • California Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (twice)
  • King's College London
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Technische Universität München
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University College London
  • University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople (14 times)

If you want to emphasize this list in your cover letter, you can write "I have given invited talks at several leading institutions, including Caltech, ETH Zürich, and TU Munich; see my CV for a complete list."

And yes, you should use the word "invited".

  • 1
    I often see page-limited CVs required for things like grant applications. Your approach would use around 1/4 of a page, compared to 1--2 lines for compressing the well-known abbreviations.
    – Chris H
    Jul 29, 2016 at 8:20

Write the full name for each. It's crystal clear and complete. There will be no misunderstanding.

  • 5
    Not necessarily. "Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich" does not have quite the same name recognition as "ETH Zürich".
    – ff524
    Jul 29, 2016 at 1:35
  • Both, however, have better name recognition than if you choose to call it (the also completely correct, by the way) EPFZ. :-) Jul 29, 2016 at 4:52
  • 3
    @WillieWong In 2.5 years in Zurich I have never heard somebody call it EPFZ, same as I have never heard somebody call the equivalent in Lausanne ETHL.
    – xLeitix
    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:55
  • @xLeitix: And that just gives further evidence to its lack of name recognition. (Why would you expect anyone in the German speaking part to use EPFZ anyway?) But in 4 years in Lausanne I've frequently seen references to EPFZ; though admittedly mostly in contexts with human resources or public media. For example, local newspaper editions tend to use EPFZ (24heures, Bilan). Jul 29, 2016 at 13:19

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