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WARNING ABOUT CAMBRIDGE AND OXFORD JRFs:Edit

(if you have different experiences please comment below). The most common word used about all JRF fellowships at Oxbridge is nepotistic (this is from people at the institution). I have been advised that if you do not have a strong personal network at Oxbridge, either undergraduate or PhD from these institutions, and/or letters of recommendation from Oxbridge professors in the department you are aiming for, it is not worth applying. This advice is relevant for JRF positions not for seperate Oxbridge postdoc positions.

Aigrettes 10:38, September 17, 2011 (UTC)

A: "not worth applying" is a value judgement, so while it may be true for some applicants it can't be true for all. The applications require a certain amount of time, and they are extraordinarily competitive, so it's up to individuals to decide if the amount of effort is worth the 1 in 300+ shot at a fellowship. It is absolutely true that if you have a strong network, contacts at the department you're interested in, and/or the people assessing your application already know a little about you & your work (from a conference, at least, if nothing else), you have an advantage. This translates into a significant home advantage for Oxbridge candidates. But hundreds of home candidates are turned down every year; if you look at the JRFs awarded you'll see that it's not the case that all successful candidates are Oxbridge graduates.AFII 16:16, September 17, 2011 (UTC)

A. Applied for an Oxbridge postdoc. Came second. Candidate who got the postdoc was the PhD student of the head of the search commitee. Just sayin'.

28 Sept: I don't think that's an experience limited to Oxbridge! (and the OP seemed to think postdocs weren't the problem...)AFII 21:41, September 28, 2011 (UTC)

30 Sept. Of course you are right. Every company likes to hire people that they already know, and that includes universities. Equally, many Oxbridge grad students do not get JRFs. I merely think it is fair to warn people about the need to have had some kind of prior contact with departments for JRFs, especially for grad students in the USA. For example, my R1 institution in the USA has a major and highly competitive postdoctoral fellows program. They admit a number of people - who may have networked lots before applying - but they never recruit their own grad students. In previous years grad student colleagues and I applied in vain to JRFs, not knowing some of the unwritten rules and assumptions that, it turns out, grad students in the UK may take for granted. Aigrettes.

6 Oct. People still worried about this issue may want to have a look at the origins of newly elected JRFs. The first batch of these for Cambridge has just been announced in The Reporter.AFII 08:30, October 6, 2011 (UTC)

12 Oct. "I merely think it is fair to warn people about the need to have had some kind of prior contact with departments for JRFs". I have a JRF and had no prior contact with the department/college where I am serving it. I wouldn't claim to be a total outsider to Oxbridge, but I also know people who have got JRFs (and you can also consult the list posted by AFII above for more examples) who had no pre-existing connection. I have a friend who had literally no prior connection with any Oxbridge institution for any degree, or through any faculty member, who currently holds a JRF at an Oxford college. I'm pretty sure I'm not making him up and that he is not a pathological liar. Are there lots of internal hires? Yes. But the fact is that these things vary wildly from college to college and depending on which committee is hired each year -- some colleges are more nepotistic, others less so. Some committees consciously want to broaden out, others seem to have a candidate in mind from an early stage. Unfortunately there's often no way of knowing until after the fact. Yes, connections are often important and lots of JRFs do come from inside, but there is no "unwritten rule", just a skewed probability which you can either choose to confront (as some people do, and win) or choose to decide is not worth your time (as others do, and who can blame them?). But to act like there needs to be some kind of capital-letter "WARNING" that it is totally impossible to get a JRF is not really apprioriate IMHO.

10 Dec. I also have a JRF and had no Oxbridge background. Most of the other JRFs I know were also not locals. Before applying, I had met a couple of people in the department at conferences, but that was all. The simple fact of the matter is that these positions are difficult to get (the word 'lottery' comes to mind).
Jan 22, 2012. I've been on the job/postdoc market this year and wanted to share my experience. Basically, I read the wiki, all the warnings about JRFs, and decided to apply anyways. In the end, I was selected for a JRF at one of the Cambridge colleges. I have no connection to any UK institution (all my degrees are from the US). Additionally, my advisor didn't know anybody at the college where I was elected (nor did any of my additional letter writers). I think the moral is that you never really know.

JRF EligibilityEdit

Question: I can't tell from any of these ads whether or not the Cambridge JRFs are restricted to UK citizens. Does the fact that it's not mentioned mean that citizenship is not a criteria for eligibility?

Answer: Some JRFs are limited to people who graduated from UK or EU universities, but AFAIK there are no nationality criteria - but the UK has had major upheavals in its system of educational visas and immigration processes recently which have caused serious problems for higher ed. institutes, so be prepared for a lot of paperwork. AFII 08:40, October 11, 2011 (UTC)


New Grouping of Pre- and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Edit

Q. What is the point of it? It was better (and made more sense) before it was changed.

A. Urgh, what a total mess! Someone has screwed up the formatting, and I can't figure out how to undo what they have (probably by mistake, and due to not previewing!) done. If anyone can figure out how to revert to this page: http://academicjobs.wikia.com/index.php?title=Humanities_and_Social_Sciences_Postdocs_2011-12&oldid=167936 then that would be ideaL. Otherwise I have no idea what to do other than manually reenter all the information - what a pain!

Moral of the story: PREVIEW BEFORE PUBLISHING! AFII 12:56, October 4, 2011 (UTC)

  • OK, I've manually removed the seirous problem, but some entries do still need some formatting work....
  • Phew! Finished! AFII 13:25, October 4, 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for fixing the page AFII!! Sorry I didn't catch it earlier! Una74 14:51, October 4, 2011 (UTC)

The UK's Research Exercise Framework & its implications!Edit

Since this has come up a few times, here's a link to the official website of the REF, with downloadable copies of the report explaining the procedure on this page

In brief: it is a national exercise where the research and other outputs of every single university department in the whole of the UK will be assessed against a set of standard criteria. Departments will be ranked on a scale ranging from 1 to 4 stars, and this ranking will affect the governmental subsidy they are eligible for for the subsequent period (5-8 years although it's not clear when the next assessment will take place).

The assessment is complicated and not necessarily well understood even by British academics themselves! But the headline for applicants is that for a full submission you need a portfolio of four publications, ideally including at least one book. These four publications must not overlap (so you can't count an article if it's heavily based on a book chapter from a book you're also including) and they must have been published (not 'in press') between 1 Jan. 2008 & 31 July 2013.

Assessment panels will take into consideration 'mitigating circumstances' if a staff member submits less than four items. Such circumstances include career breaks, maternity leave, sickness leave, and being an 'early career scholar' (defined as beginning a career as a researcher or in a job combining teaching and research after Aug. 2009). [Note - not as graduating after Aug. 2009 as previously stated on this page. If you graduated earlier but worked in a teaching-only role for a while before switching to teaching plus research then you count as 'early career'.]

The large scale hires - currently advertised at Edinburgh, Manchester, Southampton and (to be advertised soon) Birmingham, are in part motivated by a desire to return outstanding work to the REF to boost income. Therefore, search panels will be particularly well disposed towards scholars with at least four, non-overlapping publications from well regarded presses and in key journals. This is also the case for specific job searches as well as the sweeps, although in my experience there is more willingness to consider less qualified candidates who have a good 'fit' with a Department in specific searches, while the open searches are more ruthlessly focused on REF potential.

AFII 13:03, February 8, 2012 (UTC)

Formatting issuesEdit

[7 Feb] There seems to be some ongoing embedded problem with the formatting on the page. I've reverted edits and fixed it a couple of times but edits sometimes seem to throw the whole page out, adding weird indents. The problem seems to be localised to the two postings relating to the University of Edinburgh, but I can't figure it out. Any ideas? AFII 18:36, February 8, 2012 (UTC)

I think I cleared it up ... sometimes you have to go into "Source" editing mode (the tab next to "VIsual" in Edit) to clear out the html gobbledygook that causes these kinds of formatting problems. Likely they were transferred over whenever the orginal as was cut and pasted to this page. Una74 19:18, February 10, 2012 (UTC)

Ph.D. no later than . . . Edit

Does anyone know if there's any consideration of career breaks, medical leave etc.? I got my Ph.D. in 2009, but was ill for just over a year after graduating. I have a non-tenure track teaching position at the moment, but want to apply for postdoc for next year and am finding my Ph.D. graduation date is too long ago. Many of them don't mention this info on their websites.

  • I don't think there's any useful way to answer this question, other than to say "It depends on the programme". FWIW, every single time-limited post-doc I've ever looked at carefully has allowed for career breaks of some kind, and many have indicated that they're willing to be flexible for the 'right' candidate when I've made informal inquiries. You're just going to have to ask each institution/organisation as you go along. AFII 20:19, April 15, 2012 (UTC)


What about maternity leave? Does a year's break to bring up a baby make you ineligible for JRFs or other early career posts if there is a time limit and with the maternity leave you have exceeded it. I'm not sure whether to disclose maternity leave or not 81.141.174.254 18:03, September 1, 2013 (UTC)

  • [3 Sept] I can only repeat what I've said above - every one I've ever seen allows for career breaks, which would, in an EU context, inevitably include maternity, paternity, medical and general care leave (frankly, I'd expect them to count any career break of any kind, including going off and doing some other job for a few years). I can't comment on whether maternity would be included in non-EU positions, but it definitely would be for Oxbridge JRFs and EU post-docs.  AFII (talk) 07:52, September 2, 2013 (UTC)

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