What’s academia like in China?
By Sophia Donaldson, on 25 April 2018
Last week Professor Limin Zhu from Donghua University kindly gave a talk at UCL about careers for PhDs in China. It was an illuminating session, largely highlighting that academia in China isn’t too different from academia in the UK. Here is what Professor Zhu told us:
Publish, and publish well: It was no surprise to hear that publications are key to academic success in China. Professor Zhu focused the majority of his attention on the very top universities in China, where he felt you would need a 10+ impact factor publication to be considered.
Institutions matter: Where you studied will influence your eligibility, with higher prestige institutions in China tending to only recruit those who gained their first degrees and Masters/PhDs from high-ranking universities.
The benefits are good: We heard that packages for new lecturers – which might include research budget and accommodation assistance in addition to salary – are good, allowing a very comfortable life.
The pressure can be high: Getting a lectureship position isn’t the end of the process. Every couple of years your performance will be reviewed to assess publication output and research funding generation.
Foreigners are welcome: Professor Zhu referred to a drive to attract top talent from abroad, saying that high-performing post-docs should be very welcome.
There are lots of options outside top-tier universities: Although his talk focused largely on the highest-ranking Chinese universities, Professor Zhu told us there are ~2,300 formally recognised universities in China, and many more private universities too. He said the pay doesn’t differ too much between them (although in lower-ranking universities there is less chance of attracting large research grants or bonuses for e.g. Science and Nature publications). And just like in the UK, outside of the highest-ranked research-intensive universities, lecturers may have a heavier teaching load and less time (if any) to focus on research. Accompanying this will be a reduced pressure to publish.