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Australia, Academic Career Structure




Competitiveness: the Australian academic system is highly competitive. In 2009, 8 out of 39 Australian universities made it to the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings in 2009.

Openness to non-nationals: Australian universities are keen on hiring foreigners. However, there are immigration and visa requirements to be fulfilled, see relevant section.

Postdoc: most universities advertise thei own post-doctoral positions. The Australian Research Council finances a number of post-doctoral grants.

Entry positions: there are several entry positions available at Australian universities, which are roughly equivalent to standard lecturer or research assistant statuses.

Career requirements/progress: All matters of recruitment and advancement are for universities to negotiate with their staff and the Australian Federal Government plays no direct role in these negotiations. For a detailed example of such recruitment/advancement process see the related section.

Temporary/permanent positions: Australian universities encourage employment respecting a work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements including: part-time employment, job share, temporary/contract employment, maternity and adoption leave, planned career breaks, family leave and study leave.

Salaries: Universities offer individualised, rather competitive salaries, which are topped up with a number of additional benefits. Click here for further details.

Gender: gender equality is taken rather seriously in Australia. Both with regards to total academic staff (54.7%), teaching only staff (48.2%) and research only staff (49.4%), women were in 2008 well represented. Less so among mixed research and teaching staff (41.1%). 

Universities and research instititutions: click here for a list of Australian universities 


Higher Education in Australia

The education system in Australia is governed by each state, individually. Australia consists of 6 states (New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria), 2 mainland territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory) and other minor territories.

A higher education provider is a body that is established or recognised by or under the law of the Commonwealth, a State, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. The provider has to be approved by the Australian Government Minister for Education before it can receive grants or its students can receive assistance from the Commonwealth.

A provider is either a university, a self-accrediting provider, or a non self-accrediting provider. All these institutions are guaranteed to provide through the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) comprehensive, nationally consistent qualifications in post-compulsory education and training. The Framework was introduced Australia-wide in 1995. A nationally recognised higher education award includes a degree, status, title or description of bachelor, master or doctor. It may be an award of graduate diploma or graduate certificate, or any other award specified as a higher education award under the Australian Qualifications Framework.

A self-accrediting higher education provider is an institution authorised by government to accredit its own awards. Self-accrediting providers that are not universities are institutions whose name is included  in the Australian Qualifications Framework Register. There are 44 self-accrediting higher education providers in Australia, most of which are universities.

A non self-accrediting provider is recognised under relevant State or Territory legislation, is included in the list of Non Self-Accrediting Higher Education Institutions contained in the Australian Qualifications Framework Register, and
offers at least one course of study that is accredited as a higher education award. There are approximately 120 non self-accrediting providers in Australia. 

A private provider may be either a university, a self-accrediting provider, or a non self-accrediting provider. The term generally refers to bodies which have not been established by governments. A private provider must be recognised by a government accreditation authority listed on the Australian Qualifications Framework Register before it can deliver higher education awards.

Australian universities are very open towards international students (especially from the Pacific Rim) and have in the last decades climbed up in most international university rankings. 

The most prestigious institutions created the Group of Eight (Go8), a coalition of leading Australian universities, which concentrate most of Australian research activities (University of Adelaide, Australian National University, Monash University, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, University of Sidney, University of Western Australia). Go8 also offers a vast range of scholarships for foreign researchers.

For further information on the state of affairs in Australian higher education, check the website of the the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.


Career Curriculum

Available positions are as follows:

  • Associate or Assistant Lecturer, Senior Tutor, Tutor, Research Officer - Level A appointments.  
  • Lecturer - Level B appointments, equivalent to Assistant Professor in North American universities (Most universities now require applicants for Lecturer positions with PhD degree). 
  • Senior Lecturer - Level C appointments, equivalent to Associate Professor in North American universities. 
  • Associate Professor and/or Reader - Level D appointments, equivalent to Professor in North American universities.
  • Professor - Level E appointments, equivalent to Chair Professor in certain area in the North American universities.

Unlike the USA, the Australian public services or government organisations also employ a large number of academics or researchers. Different organisations have their own established title systems, however, it is the level rather than the title that determines the equivalent academic rank.


Requirements for Positions

Each position is individually advertised at university level. The establishment of a new position or filling an existing vacancy undergio careful planning, which consists of a thorough job analysis and the approval process (usually the Head/Dean of School or teh appropriate budget manager have the final word).

How the position is advertised crucially depends on whether the university aims at internal or external recruitment. To each position is then appointed a Selection Committee, whose task is to carry through the whole screening, shortlisting, interviewing and final appointemnt processes.

Each position has then attached specific selection criteria, which are usually agreed by the university itself. In the case of the University of New South Wales,  the university has specific guidelines for each position regarding general requirements (scholarship and leadership), research (publications and funding), teaching (courseware development and supervision), administration, outside links (cooperation with industry, business, authorities, professional organizations), equity & diversity (implementation) and knowledge of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues.

In most cases, applications can be done online and have to follow the rules set down by individual universities. In general, one has to prepare an application letter and a resume and submit them to the Selection Committee. The application letter must convincingly address all selection criteria. The resume should, at a minimum, include: personal details, education and training, employment history (names or organisations, periods of employment, job titles, major duties and responsibilities and main achievements), skills and/or experience gained, copies of academic transcripts and qualifications, details of 2 referees (3 referees for senior positions) - it is preferable that one's most recent, direct supervisor is nominated as one referee.

The rest of the process is rather standard. The Selection Committee shortlists the applicants who are both eligible and who best match the selection criteria. At this point, the applicant is invited for an interview, which consists of the same core questions for all. In addition to the interview, the Selection Committee may use other forms of assessment eg. copies of written reports, books or journal articles, or an assessment task. The nominated referees are contacted as well. Successful applicants are then notified and a job position is being offered.

This is done by the HR Consultant/Officer. Salaries are negotiated within a range offered by university (also depending on the hours worked per week). It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that the successful appointee is eligible to work in Australia. If the manager/supervisor has any concerns about the eligibility, then they may request a copy of a valid work visa or residency information before commencement.

Academic promotion is mertit-based and the applicant has to demonstrate to a committee of peers that there will be an increase of the quality and impact of his activities. Applications cannot usually be made before 2 years passed since the previous application, advancement or recruitment.


Research Career

Australia has highly competitive research facilities, which are open to international applicants. A complete list of all research-related institutions in Australia is to be found on the Australian Researchers' Mobility Portal.

As for research funding, there is a number of responsible agencies. However, a special mention goes to the Australian Research Council (ARC). The ARC manages the National Competitive Grants Program, a significant component of Australia’s investment in research and development. Through this program, the ARC supports high-quality fundamental and applied research and research training across all disciplines.

The ARC Discovery programs fund individual researchers and projects. The ARC Linkage programs help to broker partnerships between researchers and industry, government and community organisations as well as the international community. The ARC Centres programs build research scale and focus and strengthen major research partnerships and networks.

Across Australia a number of Centres, Centres of Excellence (CoE) and Special Research Centres (SRC) exist in order to pool together expertise and resources on specific topics. Many are funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). See the ARC website for funding opportunities and job offers.

As mentioned above, the ARC developed its own title system, which is summarised here - the minimum entry qualification is having a PhD:

  • Research Associate, equivalent to the top 3 steps of Academic Level A
  • Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (awarded by the ARC), equivalent to the top 3 steps of Academic Level A
  • Australian Research Fellowship (awarded by the ARC), equivalent to Academic Level B
  • Senior Research Associate, equivalent to the first 4 steps of Academic Level B
  • Queen Elizabeth II Fellow (awarded by the ARC), equivalent to the top 4 steps of Academic Level B
  • Senior Research Fellowships (awarded by the ARC), equivalent to Academic Levels C, D and E


Career Barriers

As mentioned above, gender issues do not seem to be a major issue in Australian academia. However, the statistics on individual positions were not available, hence, there still might be lower representation at higher career levels.


Job Security

Australian universities do not offer tenure track positions any longer, hence, occasional scrutiny occurs and advancement is neither guaranteed nor automatic. 


Contracts and Duties

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Sabbatical Opportunities

Again sabbatical leave or Special Studies Program (SSP) has to be contracted with an individual university's administration (see for example the website of the University of New South Wales).

The SSP  is a period of release from normal duties to engage in research or other scholarly work or to undertake a project related to teaching or to academic administration.

Eligibility is granted at the discretion of the Dean of the faculty, however it is normally available to research active academics who have been employed for at least 3 years, and is normally for a 6 month period, but may be granted for shorter or longer periods (of up to 12 months) where an appropriate case is made.

An SSP leave includes financial assistance, such as payment of the staff member's airfare, grants towards SSP living expenses and, grant support for spouse and dependant child, for family members accompanying the staff member for six weeks or more.


Gross Salaries

Academic salaries are in Australia contracted between the university and the scholar. In order to attract competent staff, there are several additional incentives (salary loadings, household allowances, relocation grants etc) that are being disbursed. The following table contains indicative gross salary data in Euro per month (and in Australian dollars) for 2009: 


Associate Lecturer 


(4,190 AUD)


(4,909 AUD) 


(5,687 AUD)



(5,986 AUD)


(6,660 AUD)


(7,109 AUD)

Senior Lecturer


(7,333 AUD) 


(8,006 AUD)


(8,455 AUD)

Associate Professor


(8,830 AUD)



(9,727 AUD)

Full Professor


(11,374 AUD) 



Sources: see the academic salary scales of the University of Newcastle Australia. As salary rates and packages vary widely accross Australian universities, these are just indicative figures. Check UniJobs' website for salaries at individual institutions.

Expect to chip off 37.5% of the figures above to pay for all taxes and social security contributions.


Number of Existing Positions

Number of existing positions in university sector in 2008

   All Disciplines

Below Lecturer (Level A)


Lecturer (Level B)


Senior Lecturer (Level C)


Above Senior Lecturer 


Source: see the statistical breakdown by academic institution and for further details the website of the Department of Education and the Department of Employment


Internal Recruitment

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Accessibility for Non-Nationals

Australian universities widely advertise positions overseas and employ a multicultural non-national staff. 

However, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires universities to provide documentary evidence of having tested the labour market in Australia by advertising nationally before nominating an overseas employee. Labour Market Testing (LMT) must occur within 6 months prior to lodging the nomination.

For more information about visas and employer sponsored immigration, see the Booklet 5 Employer Sponsored Migration.

National Universities

List of 39 Australian Universities, including links to the Home Page, Library and University Guide.

Check also the state-based search of Australian universities.


Research Institutions


Academic Unions


Useful Websites


Info for History


Info for Economics


Info for Law


Info for Social and Political Science


Postdoctoral Information

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Websites for Job Postings

There are a number of Australian websites advertising academic jobs and positions, including:

For a complete list of links, check the the website of the University of New South Wales.



Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.  

Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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