I am from Eastern Europe with a strong research record. This year, I applied for similar professor positions in the US and UK. From 5 applications in the US universities, I was invited for interviews for 3 positions. I got one offer and one is still pending.

However, all 4 applications I submitted to the UK universities were unsuccessful. The last position was relisted after my rejection, which means they had not received strong applications.

I prefer to move to the UK since I still do not need a work permit. I am now confused if the standards and criteria for recruiting a faculty member is this much different in the US and UK. The 9 positions I applied for were all similar, full professor in the same field in mid-level universities.

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    I have the impression that "full professor" in the UK system is a more senior and prestigious position. In the US, the vast majority of tenured faculty eventually become full professor, typically by about 15-20 years past the PhD. I have heard that in the UK it is more rare. Sep 26, 2017 at 20:57
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    @NateEldredge I agree with your general impression, but it should be "rare" in the UK. When comparing similar departments in the US and the UK, you do not see fewer professors in the latter (at least, I have not noticed such a thing).
    – Googlebot
    Sep 26, 2017 at 21:20
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    The criteria for faculty positions (not standards but rather what kinds of qualities they look for) certainly differ a lot between the University of Michigan and Denison University! (Both in the US) Sep 26, 2017 at 21:36
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    @Googlebot: 1) Denison is not a research university. 2) Even for positions where research is the first criterion, there are a variety of ways of measuring research. Some departments may judge by the quality of your best paper. Another may judge by the number of papers above a certain threshold. Some may just count all papers, or total number of pages. Different departments may weight different subfields differently. Different departments may weight differently your papers outside your main subfield or main line of research. Some judge more based on your plans or on accomplishments. Sep 26, 2017 at 23:58
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    It might be that due to Brexit they are not very keen to hire EU people. My embassy circulated a document citing informal reports of this happening behind the scenes. Sep 27, 2017 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


The two systems are different. Professor in the UK is the most senior academic position, while, as far as I understand things, it is a fairly junior post in the USA. The application systems and standards are also different and the sort of rhetoric you would use would also differ. A CV and covering letter/supporting statement in the UK will need to be worded differently from one for the US. The UK is hyper-aware of metrics and evaluation systems like the REF, so you need to show that you have a certain number of publications, in journals of a certain type, and you also need to show impact beyond academia. I'm from the UK, so know more about that than the US system.

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    In US a professor is not junior. Simply, the word "professor" does not qualify your seniority. US jobs are Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Full Professor. It is not entirely clear how to map more senior positions between UK and US, see this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_ranks
    – famargar
    Oct 26, 2017 at 10:18
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    "Full professor" is just a nickname. My actual job title is "Professor".
    – JeffE
    Nov 18, 2017 at 16:05
  • @famargar, that link does provide a mapping: UK Reader ~ US Full Professor, UK Senior Lecturer ~ US Associate Professor, and UK Lecturer ~ US Assistant Professor.
    – user2768
    Nov 20, 2017 at 11:56
  • The mapping suggested above doesn't sound quite right: there are Professors in the UK as well, which would map to the (full) Professor positions across the pond. UK Reader is more like Associate Professor, and Senior Lecturer is (at least here at U of Edinburgh) at the same seniority level as Reader, except more teaching-oriented, and with no path up to Professor. From Senior Lecturer you would need to become Reader before being eligible for a promotion to Professor. Nov 20, 2017 at 12:34
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    @user2768 you are right - my comment wasn't clear. Unfortunately I cannot edit it anymore.
    – famargar
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:20

There are several levels to answer your question.

There is a large variation in quality in both US and UK institution, from world best to the end of the spectrum. We do not know - and you can only rely on available university ranking - if both US and UK institutions you applied to lie in the same range.

Now, statistics. You said you applied to 5 jobs in US and got invited to 3 interviews. Applied to 4 UK jobs and got 0 interviews. If we use the hypothesis that US and UK institution quality is the same, then your average success rate is 3/9=33%, and the chance to get 0 interviews instead of the (less than) 2 you would expect could be entirely due to randomness. I see no reason to think of biases to start with.

You do mention that one UK position has been reopened, which means that they thought you did not meet their requirements. Which leads to the requirements issue: I would find it unlikely that all 9 institutions are looking for somebody with the same profile. Perhaps some institution care more about teaching, others about the ability to get grants, other about seniority in the field, etc.etc.

Last, you say "I prefer to move to the UK since I still do not need a work permit". US institutions are eager to sponsonr visas for people they wish to hire - and the government makes it easy to issue visa to academics at any level; you certainly need not worry for a full professor position. And with academic visa you can get a green card in a short as a year. They'll probably pay for relocation as well.

Moral: I am not aware nor is reasonable without data to say that there are fundamental differences in general criteria for hiring faculty between US and USA. There are certainly large variations at both university and department-level strategies. Visa is not a problem at all.

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    It's extremely easy for US institution to issue visas in academia at all levels -- Not as easy as it used to be. And, to be precise, universities cannot issue visas at all. Only the US government can do that. But the university can apply for an appropriate work visa on your behalf, typically successfully. Sep 27, 2017 at 13:32
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    @MarkMeckes Do you know any case where academics who were employed by universities in US did not get appropriate work visa? I've not heard of any unsuccessful case so far.
    – user69180
    Sep 27, 2017 at 14:13
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    @Hosea: I've known of several cases in which the visa application took long enough that the position had to begin in a later academic term than expected, and at least one in which the job candidate eventually withdrew because the process was taking so long. Sep 27, 2017 at 14:37
  • Not to imply that those cases are typical. But it can happen. Sep 27, 2017 at 14:38
  • @MarkMeckes thanks for correcting me on who issues the visa. I think your remark can potentially scare the OP off the offer. I have seen at least a hundred position being issued with no visa delays. Would assume that the chances of significant delay would be below 1%, and probably happen mostly for citizen of countries considered at risk, not Europe.
    – famargar
    Sep 27, 2017 at 16:25

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