In the last years, even in countries where it was traditionally easy to find a place as a researcher or professor’s assistant (such as France, for example) have gradually reduced offering new positions, and consequently there are less opportunities for young people.
This is one of the reasons, perhaps the most important one, why ever more researchers or aspiring professors look to the East, where the university market is still expanding. Leading the way is inevitably China.
Having worked from 2006 to 2012 as a researcher both in Europe and in China, I thought I’d list the pros and cons of Chinese universities, hoping to clarify things for all those people – and they are many – who are considering such an option.
The reason for working at a Chinese university
- Despite the worldwide economic crisis, in China there is a constant demand for specialists both in the fields of research and instruction. Such demand is fed by State subsidies and a growing number of young ones in a position to pursue a college career. Landing an academic position is therefore relatively easy.
As if that weren’t enough, the fact that there are very few foreigners in China has generated among Chinese universities a course of internationalization. Yes, being able to add a foreign researcher to their faculty is still a sign of prestige in the Middle Kingdom (even if that situation won’t last forever).
- China has hundreds of research and development centers, often equipped with tools and machines that would make even the most renowned American university jealous.. It’s a necessary condition for anyone who wants to develop a serious research project in fields such as biology or industrial robotics, where the limit is often dictated by the cost of tools and materials necessary for the experiments.
- Contrary to what happens in many other countries, Chinese universities have one staff an elevated number of researchers and technical support . It is therefore common to work closely with twenty or thirty people engaged in themes closely related to your field of research.
- In the last few years China has exponentially increased the percentage of PIL dedicated to research . Such economic effort has allowed China to become the second country (after the United States) in number of scientific publications (although the quality of the articles in average is still lower than the one of the articles published by Western Universities.
- Being the country in which a good part of the world’s manufacturing industry takes place the cost of tools and materials needed to advance research in a Chinese laboratory is usually less than that of a similar laboratory in Europe or the United States. Moreover the delivery times are much less.
- China offers economic incentives for publication. Or, besides just a salary, authors of published articles receive a sum of money proportionate to the impact of the scientific magazine in which it has been published. Also salaries are usually accompanied by various bonuses that can go from reimbursement for total transport expenses in China (including taxis) to covering the cost of renting an apartment. Actually, the most prestigious universities have entire buildings just to house – either freely or at a very discounted rate – professors and researchers.
- Knowing both the Chinese and Western academic systems – two polar opposite worlds, – you can brand yourself as a “communication bridge” between East and West, leading joint research projects, carrying out bilateral exchange programs (interns, masters students, etcetera) and thereby increasing your chances of success in the event that you wish to return to work in Europe in the future (useful people are always welcome).
- Moreover in recent years several “hybrid” universities have emerged (or institutions collaborating between Chinese universities and universities abroad) based out of Chinese territory such as UM-SJTU Joint Institute (University of Michigan and Shanghai Jiao Tong University). Not only do such universities need to continuously take on new staff to fill in the gaps, but they often pay “American” salaries (even 4,000 USD a month plus benefits like rent, health insurance, etcetera).
- Last but not least, these days living in China and being able to communicate in Chineseopens professional highways that no other language can guarantee (except for English, but if you’re thinking about working for a Chinese university then I’m sure you already speak English).