Did you miss jobs.ac.uk’s live Q&A video on pursuing an academic a career in China? Don’t worry, you can now watch the video on our website or read below for our snappy summary of the main points made by our panel of experts.
Why work in China?
- China welcomes foreign experts and there is quite a lot of funding to support their research, as well as high salaries
- It is easier to get funding and of to establish a research group
- More opportunities for youngsters and great social status
- If you have your own lab in China, the cost of hiring Lab Assistants is covered by the government
How does funding work?
- Funding can be divided into two major groups, one is government funding and second is industry funding.
- In engineering, we have the state’s Natural Science Foundation of China, which is close to EPSRC in the UK.
- NSFC invites personal applications, based on your research – it could be a proposal for three years for investigators below the age of 35 and for senior researchers, you can apply for four years’ grant.
- The amount of funding is around 30k for young investigators, maybe 80k on a four year proposal.
- You can also have a research group and apply for bigger amounts of funding but the amount of funding does depend on the project.
- Provincial government also provides funding across the country, there are many different funding opportunities – some will require collaboration with companies or industry
- Different accounting system to western countries – for example, Postdoctorates and Research Assistants are paid for by the government, not by faculties, which means money can be spent on travel grants, conferences, publication fees, power in laboratories, water, natural gases.
- Another portion of the money is spent on facilities, to buy air conditioning and laboratory equipment etc.
- The main difference between China and western countries is that funding is used for research purposes and not human resources.
What are the career prospects?
- Chinese universities vary widely, so if you want to join top 100 universities in China, you should at least have your PhD. Then, you may want to progress to Professor/Associate Professor level.
- When you join a university as a PhD, you will be lecturing and doing research so you can get ideas for how you wish to progress in your career.
- The more established you are in academia, the more choices you will have.
Do I need to learn Chinese?
- International PhD students tend to say that Chinese is too difficult for them.
- Nowadays, Chinese students have a good level of English to understand international students, so language is not the biggest problem. Most staff who have their Master/PhD degrees can speak English.
- Learning Chinese does not matter and everyone will try to speak English with you, rather than Chinese.
What is daily life like in China?
- In the large cities, teachers or researchers in the high-profile universities can have a larger workload than usual.
- At other universities, there can be more time to carry out administrative duties.
- Working hours are Monday to Friday, an average day begins at 9 and ends at around 5 or 6 o’clock, and you are expected to stick to this schedule.
- The working atmosphere is fairly relaxed for university teachers in general.
What funding opportunities are there for the humanities?
- Funding can go in two directions; government funds and industrial funds. Government funds are further divided into central government grants and local government grants.
- When it is time to apply for funds, administrative officers will give advance notice.
- When you receive your funds, you go through an easy process as the accounting system is very easy.
Can you progress and achieve a work/life balance?
- The tenure system is more close to US than UK.
- A lecturer role is equivalent to Assistant Professor.
- In some schools, we sometimes have Distinguished Professor but it depends on the university.
- Tenure evaluation usually takes 4-6 years.
- After you receive your tenure, you have more security. Beforehand, the work load is quite intensive.
- Tenure evaluation will normally look at publication record, teaching evaluation and the amount of funding you have obtained – so there is a bottom line for each criteria.
- Success also depends on the number of people applying for tenure that year, if you have more competition it could be more difficult.
- The administrative workload is relatively low and Assistant Professors are allowed to work out what their research interests are.
- If a research group has funding opportunities, they can submit joint proposal to industries. There are also regular group meetings and monthly reviews.
What impact does the China firewall have?
- Access to communication tools is quite similar to western countries and you still have access and do everything you want for academic purposes.
- VPNs can be used too to access some websites.
- There are alternative communication tools to Facebook, such as WeChat and Kooboo.
What are the requirements for job applications?
- The high-quality publications are important in finding a job in China and can result in getting funding to set up your lab, but you can find more junior positions such as Research Assistant Professor or Research Associate Professor.
- Even without publications, it is easy to find a Postdoc position in China and as you complete more publications and finish your postdoc, you could then move up to Associate Professor.
How to apply to the talent programmes?
- There is no one clear path so it can be difficult to evaluate the requirements of the various talent programmes available in China.
- You should first look for a hosting university then contact someone from the university to find out more about the expectations – it is like a blind date!
- You can contact the Head of Departments directly by finding their e-mail address on the website.
What is the application process like?
- When preparing for universities, you should choose your area and city. Then, look at the top 100 universities in China and look on the personnel department websites for more information on how to apply.
- Create a CV with publications and previous experience to demonstrate your academic skills and send it to the Personnel department of your chosen university.
- You then may have to give a short lecture around 30 minutes on your major, there will be a large audience of scholars from that school. You will then be asked something about your research. The university from which you graduated and publications are important.
What are the differences in applying to Chinese universities and British-affiliate universities in China?
- Lots of western universities have branches of their universities in China. If you want to work for those joint institutions, they may require you to work in China for 4-6 months per year, and you may be based in the UK for the rest of the time.
- Some joint institutions may use the UK tenure system while others may use the Chinese tenure system – this depends on which school you work for
- Your performance could be evaluated based on your work in China or the UK, this depends on your institution.
- The good thing is that you can apply for funding in both countries
- Joint institutions can often be contract based and so means, in terms of work/life balance, family life should be considered
- Joint institutions or ‘affiliate’ universities can offer cultural diversity as staff will come from a wider talent pool
What can I expect in terms of salary?
- Cheaper living costs in China compared to western countries
Can I apply to a joint programme with corporations/science groups?
- Funding is available for international collaborations
- Talk to faculties’ Chinese staff members to find out more
- Collaboration happens through personal relationships and networking
How do I collaborate with Chinese researchers?
- One difference between eastern and western culture’ is that many researchers aren’t adapted to the email culture. We rely more on instant messaging.
- One good way to collaborate with Chinese researchers would be to attend international conferences and talk face-to-face to build confidence. Then, exchange contact details.
When would I be able to lead my own research?
- As a new member of staff, you will be part of a research team.
- If you want to simply focus on teaching, you can carry out research on your own initiative.
- As a social science researcher, funds and publications are more important.
- When you are a new member of staff with a PhD degree, you will also be an Assistant Professor. You can then progress to Associate Professor in 2-3 years, giving you more time for your own research and forming a research team.
- Teaching well and publishing as much as you can are important factors to allow you to advance quickly and to show that you are capable of leading your own research.
- Universities are much bigger in China, for example, there are 260 science and engineering faculties at Jiangnan University. You have to get started by being part of an established group.
- You have a lot of freedom and you may be able to study in a laboratory as a PI.
- Try to attract new faculties to your group for more autonomy and opportunities for leadership.
What opportunities are there for female academics?
- The salary is the same for all academics, it only depends on your position at the university. A year of maternity leave is also available
- Postdoc and research positions are available and if you decide to work in China, it is possible to find a position and don’t worry about not being ready with a publication record.
- Be strong so you can adapt to the cultural differences, but please note that we offer pleasant, friendly environments. The academic journey will be both challenging and rewarding and you can achieve much more than you can imagine in China.
- We live in a global village so before you come to China, work hard and get as many publications as possible. Chinese nationals and foreigners are treated as equals in China. If you want a different experience, welcome to China.
To watch the full Q&A video, visit our Careers Videos section, where there is a full transcript available too.
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