Questions to Ask before Accepting an Academic Post Abroad

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1)  Is this a permanent or temporary position?

  • If temporary will you be able to return to your old job?
  • If not, what will be your prospects on returning to the UK given the present job-market?

2)  Have I researched the new post in detail?


Teaching issues

 Style, e.g. teacher-led, interactive, participative?

  • Hours per week
  • Course content, structure and delivery
  • Is the discipline similar?
  • Lecture or seminar size


  • Home students versus international?
  • Age-span
  • Previous industry or other work experience?

Kim Talus, Lecturer in International Energy and Resources Law at UCL SERAus in Adelaide found the students’ diverse backgrounds and wide age-range enhanced his own work. “Most of the students here have extensive industry experience which brings a new perspective to my teaching and research.”

Language Barrier

  •  Is teaching conducted in English?
  • What is the main language used at the university?
  • Are language classes readily available locally and what is the cost?
  • Do you learn new languages readily?

Richard Hewitt, Senior Lecturer/Course Leader at the University of Central Lancashire, based in China, was very fortunate as languages come naturally to him. “When I arrived in China I didn’t speak a word of Mandarin or Cantonese but was determined to learn to communicate with local people as quickly as possible. I  learnt by listening to people speaking the language and working out what people were saying, rather than attending formal language classes.”


  • Size
  • Location
  • International reputation
  • Facilities
  • Support given to overseas staff

 Research Issues

  • Will the necessary resources and time be given to enable you to conduct your own research?
  • How does the department’s existing research profile fit with your own interests?
  • Where is their research published, i.e. in reputable journals? Frequency?
  • Will there be an opportunity to attend conferences, either local or international and present your own research papers?

 General Issues

  • What are the working hours
  • Do the team socialise together outside work?
  • How long is the contract?
  • Is this a promotion or a sideways step?

3)  What impact will the move have on my immediate/extended family and friends?  


Emotional impact

  • If you are single, how do you feel about going abroad on your own?
  • If not, how do your partner and any children feel about the move? 
  • Will you start your new post ahead of your family? 
  • Have you responsibilities for extended family in the UK, e.g. elderly parents? 
  • Will your partner be able to work? 
  • How easy will it be to make new friends?

Dorette Morgan, Human Resources Adviser at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand found that joining in with local groups and activities helped her to settle in quickly to New Zealand life. “Joining the Dunedin Choral Society was a great way to meet like-minded people and make new friends. I even keep in touch with many of these people now I am back in the UK.”


  •  How often will I be able to visit home? Costs?
  • Will family members be able to visit me? 


  •  Schools/childcare – availability and costs
  • Will your children be able to go to your chosen school if you return home?  
  • Have you got teenagers who will want to go to University in the UK later on? You need to make sure your time abroad will not affect their future eligibility as a home student. This can depend on whether or not your post overseas is permanent or temporary and how long you spend working abroad.  

Dr Stephen P Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai, India advises parents to plan their children’s education very carefully. “When we returned to the UK our youngest child was not initially offered a place at our first choice of primary schools, although we were delighted when a place unexpectedly became available a little later in the term.”

4)  What sort of accommodation will be available?


  • Does the university provide suitable accommodation?
  • Location 
  • Facilities 
  • Furnished versus unfurnished 
  • Costs, including re-location 
  • Renting versus buying 
  • What will happen to my accommodation in the UK? 

5)  Will you be better or worse off financially?


  • Salary and benefits
  • Accommodation costs 
  • Pension 
  • Transport costs 
  • Taxes 

6)  What will life be like in the new country?


  • Health services provision
  • Recreation 
  • Shopping and availability of products 
  • Other cultural issues, e.g. the position of women, the role of faith and religion 
  • Are there opportunities to get to know people locally, or will your social life be restricted to the university?  
Careers in China

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