Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ask CJ: How to get a job at non-English speaking universities?

From the inbox, a very good question (slightly redacted and edited for clarity): 
...Faculty openings in Canada are few and far in-between so [I] have been exploring the possibility of Europe, but [am] not sure about the whole foreign language thing? [I] know of a couple examples of English-speaking people working at non-English institutions but were wondering if you have any experience or advice? For example is there a way to know an institution would be open to hiring someone that is not fluent in the institution's operating language? 
Sorry for the lack of specific questions. We really aren’t sure where to start... any insight would be appreciated.
I'm not sure if I have anything helpful to add, other than that I have notice that many European professorship advertisements will have some kind of statement about language requirements.

Readers, what has been your experience? I honestly don't know of very many American or Canadian ex-pats who are teaching in Europe on the tenure-track, but I haven't tracked it too much. (There's always Nazarbayev University!) 


  1. In general, Switzerland is fairly open to hiring non-native speakers to their universities.
    Some European universities offer Masters & Doctoral-level courses in English to attract more international students. If the department/university offers English-medium classes or has prominent English webpages, you may be in with a good chance.

  2. anon electrochemistApril 3, 2018 at 6:32 PM

    There's no easy rule, it depends on the local political sensitivities, including size of school, comfort with English, cultural expectations etc. Good luck getting a French or Italian position without being a native, even if you were completely fluent.

  3. If you think you will be a great fit for the department and you have the corresponding publication record, you should apply, especially if they are in big urban center. It may be only anecdotal, but my impression is that networking in Europe is extremely important. Thus, the completion of a Postdoctoral research in a high ranking European university may help. The European system appears less open than in North America, unless you are a recognized rising star among the rising stars!

  4. You could try the UK or Ireland. They speak a type of English there.

  5. Drawing on my experience as a British researcher in South Korea...

    Research and teaching will be mostly ok. Most universities teach a lot of their courses in English since they have a significant number of international students. The university I work at has students from all over the world. Grad students help out foreign researchers with day-to-day problems. We also have bilingual support staff for the center to deal with immigration, tax and so on.

    Where you might find problems is in the admin side of things. If the operating language of most of the staff is different to English (even in bilingual university), you might get left out of the loop on a few things. I think the other problem might be grant acquisition, while many agencies allow submissions in English smaller organisations might require it to submitted in the home countries native language.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20