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This question is an off-shoot from this one, where it has been agreed by most that securing faculty positions is difficult in general. I would like to know what exactly makes this so.

Though in theory university rankings may be pointless, there is a broad quality-based classification of institutions in any country which many will agree on - for example, the crème de la crème, top tier, middle tier and decent universities, of which there could be a few hundreds. We shall assume the student has passed out with a good thesis and impactful publications.

  • Is it tough for a student graduating from a higher rung to gain a position in the lower rungs?
  • What factors dictate the difficulty in securing a position in a university in the same league?

PS: In India, the answer to Q 1 is "not at all", as there is a heavy crunch for faculty positions even in top institutes. Instead the difficulty arises only when students from low rung colleges seek top positions: in most cases, such students are found wanting in skills.

1 Answer 1

It is difficult because there are more graduating PhDs than there are faculty positions. This is because by and large, academic departments are not growing very fast.

Consider a department that has 40 faculty positions, and is not growing. Suppose each faculty member has a career that spans 40 years (Say, ages 28-68). Then in a steady state, this department will hire 1 new faculty member every year. On the other hand, say each faculty member graduates 1 student on average every three years. (This is conservative: say each professor has only 2 students at a time, and each one takes 6 years). So this department graduates 13-14 students every year.

This is what happens in general: each department produces many more PhDs than it consumes, so there must be many who leave the system.