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Battle of the universities is sparking an influx of professors from abroad

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The increasing pressure on UK universities to improve their ranking by attracting high calibre staff is leading to an influx of professors from abroad, according to a leading global mobility expert.

Latest reports from Crown World Mobility, an international company which helps  organisations manage talent around the world, shows the number of professors moving into UK universities is on the increase with the company having assisted with over 300 relocations in the last 18 months, many of which are from overseas.

“This is a significant trend and one that is accelerating,” said Ruth Lyons, Business Development Manager at Crown World Mobility. “Many professors are coming from the United States but also from France, Germany and the UAE in particular. Universities are driven by global competition and by league table rankings which help them demonstrate a return on investment. “Attracting high calibre professors is key to achieving those aims and also helps Russell Group universities in particular  bring in research grants from investors or sponsorships from private companies.

Having a Nobel prize-winning professor at your institution is very attractive and competition for the very best staff from around the world is certainly increasing.” This new trend was also reflected in a list of the world’s ‘most international’ universities published recently by Times Higher Education. The table was collated based on each institution’s proportion of international staff, international students and research papers published by authors from another country.

Qatar University came out top but there were also 21 UK universities in the top 60 and 64 in the top 200; an indication that things are certainly changing in the sector. “It will be interesting to see whether this intense drive to attract talent from abroad results in more attractive relocations packages being offered,” said Lyons, who is based in London. “At present many universities simply want to provide shipping services but Manchester University, for instance, has also provided orientation, home search, school search and cultural training for its new staff.

“Most relocations in this sector are long-term or permanent and there can be significant cultural and practical issues for professors arriving from abroad. For those relocating from the United States, for instance, the size of properties here in the UK compared to the US can be a big shock – and many have never moved before.” Universities are already starting to become more strategic about recruitment, planning two years ahead, and now operate in an environment in which they need to be more accountable and more transparent than in years gone by.

Lyons added: “There’s doubt that the world of university recruitment is evolving and we are likely to see similar developments in student acquisition. Already some universities are targeting the most talented pupils by giving A Level students unconditional offers based on their GSCE grades in an attempt to take them out of the market. In that kind of environment having the best professors on board is going to become even more important.”

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