Delivering talent: Careers of researchers inside and outside academia


Reading some of the ‘popular press’ about employment perspectives for university researchers, one might be tempted to conclude there’s a lot of doom and gloom around… Not so, LERU argues in its latest position paper published today: career prospects for researchers are good, if one takes into account career options inside and outside academia. As the research landscape is changing, so we need a changed perspective on the careers of researchers, one which addresses varied career paths inside and outside universities and which takes into account what universities (can and should) do to support researchers to develop their careers whatever pathways they choose.

“Delivering Talent”, as the paper is called, is the result of intensive consultations among LERU universities about how their career and HR policies are changing. The paper offers data, analysis and insight on researchers’ employment perspectives and expectations. It shows how universities’ career and HR policies respond to both universities’ needs to attract and retain talent as well as researchers’ aspirations and abilities. Such efforts, while challenging, need to be strategically developed and supported, sustainable and responsive to differing needs. 

The paper includes examples of good practice in skills training and career support at LERU universities, including academia-industry initiatives to support transitions out of academia. “Indeed”, says Mr Jan van der Boon, lead author of the paper, steering group member of the LERU Thematic Group Research Careers and Director of Administration at Leiden University, “one of the main messages in the paper is that the mechanisms by which early-stage researchers find their way from academia into other sectors need to be strengthened. This is particularly crucial for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers”. Together these researchers represent a growing or even largest cohort of researchers at LERU universities, with similar (but different) needs in terms of career development and training. It is crucial that they can develop independence and leadership qualities.

The paper not only explains what universities can do. It also lists what others can do: employers outside academia, researchers’ supervisors, researchers themselves, research funders as well as governments. Says Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General of LERU: “With this paper we aim to send a number of positive messages, for example to non-academic employers, urging them to fully use the high potential of researchers moving out of academia and inviting them to work with universities to achieve successful transitions”. 

Another message is directed at researchers themselves, in particular doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, calling on them to take full advantage of the professional development and skills training opportunities offered by universities and to demand them where needed. Equally, LERU suggests that research supervisors openly and regularly discuss career development and options with their staff, while they in turn should be supported in this by professional services. Funders and governments can help with researcher development, training and mobility schemes.

Download the paper

Policy enquiries
Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General: +32 499 80 89 99 / Dr. Katrien Maes, Deputy Secretary-General: +32 473 97 70 14 / 

Media enquiries
Bart Valkenaers, Policy Officer: +32 498 08 43 49 /