First of all, I know that your work speaks for you, and if you have really good papers, you have better chances, but just bear with me, and for the sake of argument lets assume that your research is only one of the points to consider.

I did my undergrad in what could be considered the best University in my Country (Mexico)and got a Magna Cum Laude.

And then, I did my Graduate studies in the University of Tokyo publishing a couple of Journal Papers (I'm really pushing for that 3rd one!)

This question is directed to people in the US, since I'm looking to find a permanent position.

What is the perception Universities in the US have of foreign Universities? I happen to know that UK Universities like Cambridge and Oxford have no problem (for obvious reasons), but a professor friend of mine told me that other Universities are just not that well known. And having a degree from the Hawaii University was better than having a degree from Tokyo University. (As a side note, he is a professor at Haw Univ, and he wanted me to apply over there)

I just want to know how true or false this is, and realistically speaking how hard/easy is to get a position as a postdoc and eventually a full time professor if you are not from a US univ.

For example, do I have the same chances as someone who graduated from a top University (your Ivy leagues, Public Ivy League, MIT, Stanford, etc) or do I least have the same chances as middle range Universities?

As a side note, I have a postdoc in the UCLA lined up, so I guess that'll boost my chances a bit.

  • I'm confused. Are you looking for a post doc as it says in the title, a permanent position (i.e., one with tenure), or a tenure track position.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 10:07
  • 2
    Right now I'm pondering on that, I want to see how many postodcs are a reasonable number to get a tenured position in the US, if I come from a foreign Univ. I just modified the title so it makes more sense, thanks. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 10:13
  • 5
    And having a degree from the Hawaii University was better than having a degree from Tokyo University. (As a side note, he is a professor at Haw Univ, and he wanted me to apply over there) — Yeah, I saw that coming. He's wrong (at least in computer science).
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 20:44

2 Answers 2


A postdoc in a US institution with letters from US faculty can "reset" much of the potential disadvantage from doing a PhD from a non-Us university.

Having said that, in addition to the "familiarity" issue that @aeismail brings up, there is also the issue of logistics. The effort involved in bringing someone who is outside of US over for an interview is high, so the potential expected payoff bar gets a little higher. In your case, since you'd be in the US, this would no longer be an issue.

But getting back to the basic question: There are a number of foreign universities that are "well known" in the US, and applicants from those schools will not be perceived as weaker in any way. Also, for specific subject areas this can be even more specific (i.e a weak university might have a strong specialization in topic X, and so students working in X will be highly rated).

As for how many PostDocs you need, since you work in machine learning (i.e computer science at large) you should read the "best practices for postdocs" document that the Computing Research Association just put out.

  • Your answer seems to contradict another answer which says that hiring committees don't care about brand name they only care about research output? Except you've said that "students working in [highly ranked ..] will be highly rated".
    – Jase
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 1:38
  • Another of my answers ?
    – Suresh
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 3:54
  • Sorry for being confusing. I can't find the question I'm talking about, but it was about the importance of an institution's ranking (where they got PhD) in getting a postdoc position, and JeffE's response got 30 upvotes and the message was that it doesn't matter as long as your research record is very strong.
    – Jase
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 9:05
  • I don't recall the answer, but I do think that because of lack of familiarity, foreign university branding can make a little difference. Ultimately, everything is swamped by your research, but these are more subtle signals that open doors (or not)
    – Suresh
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 9:07

I don't think there's as much of a perception problem with foreign universities as you might think. I'd say the majority of postdoctoral associates are international, and most of them have not gone to universities as well known as Oxford and Cambridge. More likely than not, forging personal connections with the advisor you want to work for as a postdoc will matter much more than the university.

That said, individual professors may have a bias toward hiring people from "known" schools, because the risk factor associated with hiring them is presumably much lower than someone from a school they've never heard of. Such a bias is of course understandable, but it also means that they could lose out on some potentially promising candidates as a result.

You must log in to answer this question.

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