We are recruiting a lecturer in international politics at the University of Stirling – emphasis on human rights and gender

The details are here

I am the pre-interview contact point and these are my personal thoughts on that process, which blend background information and some helpful advice.

The lectureship is in International Politics, with a particular emphasis on human rights and gender. We see it as a way to connect the research of Politics staff with colleagues in human rights law and the Centre for Gender & Feminist Studies. The appointee would be asked to deliver undergraduate modules in International Politics (including the 1st year course Political Concepts and Ideas), and to develop Masters level modules for our MSc in International Conflict & Cooperation (as well as, perhaps, my MPP).

Our department currently has 7.3 permanent lecturers, and most of us are fairly new, so you will have the chance to play an important part of a group which is small enough to act collectively – to, for example, influence its research direction (as a group, we hold 6-8 90 minute research workshops per year).

6.3 of those lecturers are men and I would be happy if the best candidate proved to be a woman. However, I have not set up the advert to make this inevitable. Rather, we are doing our best to make sure that the current set up does not put off women from applying. By this, I mean that the profession is still dominated by men, and the supply of candidates will likely reflect that imbalance – particularly since there is a very good chance that we will appoint at ‘grade 8’ (an established lecturer post) rather 7 (straight from a PhD or post-doc post). There are also parts of the profession with more men than the average (perhaps including international politics), which has already led, in my short experience, to at least one all-male short-list. So I have worded the ‘further particulars’ to make sure that people know we won’t be simply reinforcing that imbalance; that we have realistic hopes of producing a gender-balanced short list. I hope that, although there is less emphasis in the formal advert, its welcoming tone will have the same effect on applications from people of colour or ethnic minorities. We are not interested in simply reinforcing the imbalances that are already there.

Here is some generic advice, to give you the chance to focus on specific follow-up questions:

  • At this stage, the main documents are the CV and the cover letter.
  • I think you should keep the cover letter short (1 or 2 pages), if only to show an ability for concise writing. Also remember that we are likely to read over 100 applications.
  • Shortlisted candidates will almost certainly have a PhD and a promising publication record. ‘Promising’ is hard to define at this early stage of your career, but things like publication in recognisable journals (perhaps with a mix between single and co-authored) may stand out.
  • My preference is to focus on what people have already done, rather than what they promise to do over the next five years. I find those plans more realistic if there is already some sort of track record.
  • Although research has a tendency to dominate University life, we take teaching very seriously. We plan an overall curriculum together, discuss regularly if it is working, and come to agreements about how to teach and assess work. We pride ourselves on being a small and friendly bunch of people, open to regular student contact and, for example, committed to meaningful and regular feedback. You might think about how you would contribute in that context. In particular, you should think about how you would deliver Political Concepts and Ideas. This does not have to be your specialism, since we might expect all staff to be able to teach most courses the ‘sub-honours’ level (make sure you know what ‘sub-honours’ means!), and you might want to start off by keeping the course ticking over until you learn how it works, but you should still be able to show that you can do what is required of you (it would also be legitimate for you to say that you’d like to balance some ‘traditional’ discussions of power and ideology with, for example, modern discussions of theories on feminism, race and/or sexuality). Then, you should think about which UG and PG specialist options (closest to your research) you would offer.
  • The presentation to divisional staff (likely the morning) and interview (afternoon) will be on the same date – May 18th. I’m almost certain that if you can’t make the date, you can’t get the job.
  • Again, I recommend keeping the presentation compact, to show that you can present complex information in a concise and clear way. Presentations are usually a mix of what you do in research and what you will contribute in a wider sense to the University.
  • The interview panel will likely be five people: me, the Head of School of Arts and Humanities, a senior manager of the University (in the chair), a senior academic in another Division, and a senior academic in another School (again, have a look and see what these terms mean at Stirling). It sounds daunting, but we are a friendly bunch and want you to do well. You might struggle to retain all of our names (nerves), so focus on the types of question we ask – for example, the general question to get you started will be from the senior manager, and the research question from someone like me. There will be 3 men (the senior manager, the Head of School, and me) and 2 women (one academic from our school, but not in politics, and one Professor from a completely different school) on the panel.
  • ‘Why Stirling?’ or ‘Why this division?’ is usually the first question in an interview, so you should have a think about it in advance. I recommend doing some research on Stirling and the division/ school, to show in some detail that you have a considered reply (beyond ‘it is a beautiful campus’). We will see through a generic response in a heartbeat and, since it is the first question, will give you the stink eye for the rest of the interview. You might check, for example, who you might share interests with in the Division, and how you might  develop links beyond the division (in particular, the new Centre for Gender & Feminist Studies in our school) or school (such as the School of Applied Social Science) – since this is likely to be a featured question too. Then you might think about what you would bring to the University in a wider sense, such as through well-established (domestic and international) links with other scholars in academic networks. Further, since ‘impact’ is of rising importance, you might discuss your links with people and organisations outside of the University, and how you have pursued meaningful engagement with the public or practitioners to maximise the wider contribution of your research.

I am happy to answer your questions. We can try email first – p.a.cairney@stir.ac.uk – and then phone or skype if you prefer. If appropriate, I can also use those questions to update this page.

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