European Review

  • European Review / Volume 18 / Supplement S1 / May 2010, pp S7-S33
  • Copyright © Academia Europaea 2010 The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence <>. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
  • DOI: (About DOI), Published online: 01 April 2010


The Early Career Paths and Employment Conditions of the Academic Profession in 17 Countries

Alice Benniona1 and William Lockea1

a1 Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI), The Open University, UK. E-mail:;


The expansion of higher education systems, new demands on institutions and growing pressures on resources have become common trends across most developed countries. They bring increased expectations of academic staff and appear to lead to greater differentiation in their work roles and activities. At the same time, the backgrounds of some academics are changing and they are developing new specialisms and interdisciplinary collaborations, becoming more mobile domestically and internationally and, for some, the profession is becoming increasingly insecure. The Changing Academic Profession study has produced a rich set of data on the preparation of academics for their roles and the individual circumstances of their working lives, among other aspects of the profession. Respondents to the survey reported on the degrees they have attained, the countries in which they studied for them, the age at which they qualified and the nature of the doctoral training they received. This paper explores the early career paths of academics, makes initial comparisons between different higher education systems and begins to explore how some of these national systems interrelate with each other through academic mobility. Respondents also reported on the disciplines they studied and now teach, the number of institutions worked in and their contractual conditions and income. These data give an indication of the various degrees of flexibility and mobility required of – or chosen by – academics in the early and later stages of their careers and the stability, or perhaps rigidity, of different higher education systems and national career patterns. The data also supplement other evidence of the employment conditions and remuneration of scholars in an increasingly globalised academic labour market.1,2 The conditions of academic work are explored through analysis of the views of survey respondents on the facilities, resources and personnel needed to support it and the degree of research collaboration undertaken. Academics from the 17 countries in the study seem more content with the physical and technical resources provided by their institutions than the personnel and funds available to support teaching and research. Finally, it is suggested that the propensity for collaborative or individual research may be partially related to national differences in academics’ mobility during their training for the profession.