Lecturing abroad: A necessary step for many Irish academics

Precarious contracts in Ireland push lecturers abroad to advance their careers

Third-level educators have long had to accept the need to travel to get on in academia. Young, aspiring academics in Ireland may have to wait for older members of staff to retire for openings to become available. Even then, there is no guarantee of getting that job.

International experience is hugely valuable in building an academic career. It exposes third-level teachers to new ideas, cultures and people, and broadens their learning. The most ambitious lecturers look at which universities around the world have the highest-ranked departments in their subject area.

Where is hiring?

This isn’t always clear-cut, but there is growing demand for qualified lecturers in the science and engineering subjects worldwide.

Right now, the best opportunities appear to be in the Middle East, where the young population in the United Arab Emirates is being trained to fill future jobs in a growing economy. There are opportunities for lecturers with as little as one or two years’ teaching experience, as well as those with 10 years or more.

In Europe, a growing number of universities are offering degrees taught through English, which is an advantage for English-speakers. Jobs are currently advertised in a number of institutions around Europe, but union representatives here say there aren't any notable shortages in any particular countries outside of the Middle East.

Given the diversity of roles available, the best bet is to search online. A number of websites are useful for academics looking to move abroad.

In Europe, the site UniversityPositions.eu details vacancies in such countries as France, Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Most serious researchers are turning away from the UK at the moment, however, given the loss of EU research funding that will follow Brexit.

TES.com, the international teacher network, also lists opportunities, as does Jobs.ac.uk.

Many senior academics move around to advance their careers. In Ireland, this includes the president of University College Dublin, professor Andrew Deeks, who is from Perth. He left the University of Western Australia in 2009 to take up the post of pro-vice chancellor, science, at the prestigious Durham University in the UK, before being appointed to the Irish position in 2014.

Salary, benefits and working hours: How do they compare?

Salaries vary depending on experience, as is the case in Ireland, so it's difficult to give even a ball-park figure for a given country. With this in mind, Greg Rogan of Expat Teaching Recruitment says a university lecturer in the Middle East can earn between €2,800 and €5,000 per month. Flights, medical, paid holidays and housing are provided also.

If, however, you are an academic in Ireland looking to move, the Teachers' Union of Ireland, which represents lecturers in institutes of technology, has useful information on Irish salary scales at third level, starting at €35,743 for assistant lecturers on the first level of the scale.

General secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers Mike Jennings says Irish pay rates may be higher than those in competing countries, but the federation is repeatedly contacted by international academics who are discouraged by what they perceive as relatively poor healthcare, maternity and paternity benefits, public transport and housing in Ireland.

“Most academics are clever enough to look behind the headline figures of salary and, in our experience, decide that Ireland does not present a very attractive package,” he says.

The industry in Ireland

Ireland’s universities and institutes of technology are in a difficult financial situation, and the question of how to fund them adequately has turned into a political issue. As a result, many of the best lecturers feel they can build a better career abroad.

A Government report by an expert group last year found some colleges and universities were relying on precarious and zero-hour contracts for employing lecturing staff. The Cush Report also found two-thirds of third-level teachers in Ireland were not in full-time or permanent jobs.

If the Cush report recommendations are introduced - including the reduction of the qualification period for a contract of indefinite duration from three years of continuous employment to two - many lecturers and teaching staff will still be on part-time hours. Building a career without getting international experience will remain challenging.

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