My friend Michael Rosen, who taught philosophy for many years at Oxford before taking up a post in the Government Department at Harvard, sent the following remarks that others might find useful:
I looked at your blog yesterday and noticed you had a story about Oxford hiring new faculty. You reported that Oxford had offered “College Fellowships (in some cases in conjunction with University Lectureships)” to two people. To someone who knows how Oxford works, that read oddly, and not just for the quantification. That outsiders don’t fully understand how Oxford works is, of course, no surprise and I would not mention it except that Oxford is at present re-filling a number of posts (and will, I expect, be advertising more in the future) and, as your story shows, is open to the merits of philosophers who do not already have established Oxford connections. Since a number of your readers might be thinking, however casually, about applying, I thought that it would be useful if you were to host a discussion about working there. I have recent experience and so perhaps you would like me to start things off.
Let me first gloss your story by explaining the different sorts of post that there are at Oxford.
The vast majority of jobs in Oxford are what are called there “joint appointments”: that is, people have obligations to both an individual college and the central university. Such people have two contracts of employment and get two pay-slips (which helps to keep the tax authorities confused!) These joint appointments come in two sorts. One, which has until recently been the model for philosophy, combines a college “Tutorial Fellowship” with a University Lecturership (C.U.F.) and the other combines a Tutorial Fellowship with a University Lecturership. In the jargon, they are referred to as CUFs and ULs. Both have teaching duties to both an individual college and to the University as a whole and both are, effectively, “jobs for life” (there is, officially, no such thing as “tenure” in the U.K. and the university requires appointments to be confirmed by review after five years, but this hurdle, though real, is nothing like that of a tenure review at a U.S. institution). The difference between CUFs and ULs lies in how the duties are divided up. In general, the split has been two thirds: one third, with the College taking the bigger share in the case of CUFs and the University in the case of ULs. The joint appointments system has been very severely criticized over the years and attempts have been made to reform it but, for the present, it remains. I take it that Scott and Frank’s jobs are probably a CUF and a UL.
Beyond these posts, there are other kinds of job. There are a variety of temporary teaching jobs (often called College Lecturerships and Faculty Lecturerships, depending on who is paying) and Junior Research Fellowships (post-doctoral posts, for the most part). At the other end of the scale are the established professorships (those held by Williamson, Hawthorne, Broome, Irwin, Davies). They are employed by the University, although they are also Fellows of colleges, from whom they receive benefits (rights to meals, office space, etc.) but not salary. It is also possible for holders of other posts (the ULs and the CUFs) to apply for the title of “Professor” – something that gives them no further money or benefits except for making clear to those outside Oxford what distinguished people they are. Finally, a few of Oxford’s better-known philosophers (Harvey Brown, Dan Isaacson, Simon Saunders) are University Lecturers without a corresponding Tutorial Fellowship.
Obviously, if you are thinking of applying for a job at Oxford, the first thing to do is to figure out which of these categories it falls into, since the duties and salary vary quite considerably. That should be made clear in the “Further Particulars” that are sent out to prospective applicants but, in my experience, that isn’t always the case, not least because these documents are very often written by people for whom the Oxford system is second nature. In the past, jobs at Oxford have been offered with a pre-determined set of duties and a pre-determined, age-related salary. The latter was so set that it didn’t make a difference to the aggregate salary whether the post was a CUF or a UL. Thus there was little scope for negotiation between prospective faculty member and University. This has changed slightly. For established professorships, the University now negotiates salary on a case-by-case basis. The other posts are still on a scale, but there is, apparently, some possibility of advancement up the scale. Beyond this, different colleges offer different degrees of assistance with housing in the form of extra salary, joint mortgages or some combination of the two. These benefits are, so far as I know, not individually negotiable, but vary quite a bit from college to college. Often the Further Particulars are quite coy about spelling out exactly what is on offer. But, since Oxford is an incredibly expensive place to buy a house, and, since in the best case Oxford salaries are still quite low, it is well worth exploring this explicitly with the college in question (ask what is being offered and how it compares to what is offered at other colleges).
In general, the hiring process is very different from what you may be used to. Unlike the U.S., where job talks are staggered, decisions come slowly and offers are negotiated at length, Oxford has a tradition of interviewing, offering and asking for decisions very quickly. This has led to misunderstandings and bad feelings in the past. It is still assumed that if you applied for the job and put the University to the trouble and expense of interviewing you, it was because you wanted the job rather than to have a lever with which to negotiate with your original university. No doubt, the superiority of American culture will assert itself in time but, for the present, this naïve idea still has a strong hold.
Comments are open for additional, pertinent information--either about Oxford, or other U.K. posts to which foreigners might be applying. As always, post only once--comments may take awhile to appear.