I'm currently a Lecturer in Computer Science at a (medium ranked) institution in the UK and I've been given the opportunity to join one of the (top ranked) universities in Australia.

While I do consider the above to be very good news, I'm a bit uncertain what to expect in terms of the different academic cultures and expectations (from me) compared to being a Lecturer in the UK.

Also, are there funding opportunities in the Australian research funding landscape tailored to new staff? In the UK one can apply for an EPSRC First grant scheme but I couldn't spot such schemes for AU.

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    You will want to check your eligibility for the ARC DECRA program. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 8 '17 at 23:40
  • Another option is to find someone with a Laureate Fellowship to hire you. These are later-career fellowships given to a select few, and they include money for postdocs etc. – Gimelist Jun 13 '17 at 5:25

I happen to be a PhD student in Computer Science in one of top 8 universities in Australia. I don't know much about the available grants, but there seems to be an early career research grant. More information about that and the grants in general in here: http://www.arc.gov.au/discovery-early-career-researcher-award

The Australian Research Council (ARC), in general, is the go-to source for information about government grants. Apart from that, if you are female, there are additional opportunities available such as this one: "APEC Women in Research Fellowship" and for Women in STEM through WISE program.

I don't know about the academic culture in the UK, but here is Australia research staff usually have a teaching load which is about 0.5 of your FTE. It can be more or less depending on the academic, but I'm not sure how it is decided. There are research only academics as well, with no teaching load, but they have a publication target to meet, I'm not sure what happens if they don't, most probably they receive teaching load.

In our university, there is a formal annual review for academic where you fill a form much like the one PhD students fill, but you have to meet targets on publication, teaching and PhD completions under your supervision.

Other than that the academic culture depends on your local research group. I am not sure about the expectations; I think it can depend. Most academics have a crew of PhD students and postdocs and these pump out publications like there is no tomorrow. A few others just chill and hang out, and I have seen them doing that for the past five years that I have been here, no publication or anything and they seem to be doing fine. So I think the expectations depends on non-trivial factors.

Congratulations on your move to Australia. I am just a PhD student so hopefully some academic can give you more detailed information.


Before saying anything specific, it is worth noting that the culture, expectations and rules varies a lot within Australia. Universities differ; faculties and departments differ within a university. So, it's definitely worth starting conversations with people who might be your mentors at your new university, and reading material on the university website (e.g., grants office, rules about probation and promotion, information about the workload model, etc.).

Funding: Regarding funding, most Australian universities will have internal funding programs designed for different levels of experience. In particular, there will often be programs for early career researchers.

The ARC (non-medical) and the NHMRC (medical) are the two main government funding schemes. They each have schemes designed for early career researchers. They are highly competitive. Your new university should have a grants office, and probably an academic in your school or faculty who can advise you about grant strategies. You'll want to learn more about ARC Discovery (for more pure science) and ARC Linkage (where you have an industry partner who is providing resources) funding schemes.

You ask about funding "tailored to new staff". If this exists, it will generally be at the university-level. Funding schemes outside the university are generally based on time since you were awarded PhD. So early and mid-career funding schemes will typically look at time since PhD possibly with adjustments for career interruptions and so on. Thus, whether you have changed universities is not really relevant.

That said, universities will often provide additional support to new staff to help them get their research program started. In some cases, you will be given a default allocation of research time which is protected in the first few years regardless of performance, but after a few years, your research allocation may be based on performance.

Probation. You ask:

In the UK most people pass probation (at a much higher rate than passing tenure in the US). Is the same true for the probationary system in the Australia?

Yes. I think that most academics pass probation. The expectations for probation vary between institutions, but it is not like the U.S (although see @daaxix's comments that some Australian universities are moving more to the U.S. model of probation/tenure; I've particularly heard this from those at Group of 8 institutions). The academic hierarchy seems similar in Australia and the UK. In general, the challenges in the Australian system are less about passing probation and more about getting promoted. So for example, each jump from B (lecturer) to C (senior lecturer) to D (associate professor) to E (professor) is where you need to prove yourself. Many So for example, someone who is doing less well with research, teaching, service and so on will struggle to get promoted. More generally, only a few academics get to level E. It is common for academics to plateau at a particular level (e.g., C or D).

In addition, the concept of tenure is different in Australia than in the United States. My understanding is that Australian academics on ongoing contracts and who have passed probation do not have tenure. Rather, they have an ongoing job. Thus, you could presumably only lose your job for performance issues or redundancy. In general, redundancies are quite rare, but they are not unheard of.

Teaching/research/service mix: Universities and departments vary a lot in how they allocate workloads. @daaxix mentions that you may be notionally allocated 50% of your time to teaching. This is perhaps a useful guide, but there is a lot of variability. For example, in my department, the default allocation is 40% teaching, 40% research, and 20% service. The 40% research allocation is protected for your first three or four years. After that, it is based on research performance metrics (e.g., publications, grant money, PhD completions). So, academics who achieve less in the research domain will be asked to do more teaching or service. And if you consistently excel at research, you can get a greater research allocation. More importantly, universities and departments vary substantially in the hours they assign to all these activities. Some universities have very strict and bureaucratic workload models (e.g., you make $49,000 instead of $50,000 in grant funding, then you might find yourself taking extra tutorials, etc.), whereas others are more fluid and flexible.

  • Note that there has been a move in the Go8 (the top 8 older Unis in Australia) to move to a more US style tenure like system. – daaxix Jun 10 '17 at 10:13
  • At my institution, the allocation is supposed to be 40/40/20, but it isn't realistic. It ends up being more than 50% for most lecturers for teaching. Also, we have the same policies for additional teaching and service being assigned to low research output lecturers, however, the inverse is not true. If a lecturer has high research output, but does not have high grant income, their teaching and service allocation will not be reduced. Only grant income is used to reduce teaching and service allocations. – daaxix Jun 13 '17 at 21:24
  • Could you share some insights regarding the confirmation and probation system? What does it mean to be on probation vs being in the confirmation period? Thanks – Peter Jun 15 '17 at 23:09

Dan and Jeromy answers cover much of the culture. I would like to add that

  • You will be assigned 0.5 FTE to teaching, but you typically can buy out of that with research grant money, provided that you can get any.

  • Research output is high in Australia, and funding is low. The funding situation is not good here, and we spend an abysmal amount of money compared with other OECD countries. This makes grants very competitive. Furthermore, the major grant awards (the ARC Discovery grants) assign 40% of the score to your past publication output. If you are more than 5 years past your PhD, this will put you at a serious disadvantage unless you are a super star.

  • The caveat to the above is that if you are on not yet past the 5 year mark past your PhD, you can try to get a DECRA (for early career researchers). This looks really good down the road and isn't as competitive as the discovery projects. is similar in competitiveness to Discovery grants (16.4% and 17.7% award rates for 2016 respectively).

  • There are also the Linkage grants, which are even less competitive than the DECRA and DP (31.1% award rate), but they require a non-academic partner who is willing to put in some money. The linkage will then match the money.

I came from the US culture, and it seems like there is a lot more administrative work put on researchers here as opposed to the US, but there is more paperwork in general. The other strange thing that I noticed in the academic culture here is that all Lecturer's in a group/department rotate through various classes in order to maintain a collective expertise. This increases the number of teaching hours required over the long term. In the US, research heavy institutions have academics teach one or two courses which they specialise in, and the academics often teach those same courses for years on end.

  • FWIW some of the things you mention in the last para, as AUS practices that seem different from the US culture, sound pretty familiar from the POV of the UK system. (Familiar doesn't mean they're better or worse, of course) – Yemon Choi Jun 12 '17 at 4:41
  • How much teaching is an FTE of teaching? – Federico Poloni Jun 13 '17 at 5:34
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    @FedericoPoloni It would depend on the university and there would always be a fuzzy calculation specific to the faculty/school that you belong to. I would say 1 course / semester would account for the 40% in the 40/40/20 distribution in most universities and would translate to 1FTE teaching. – o4tlulz Jun 13 '17 at 5:56

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