Employer branding for academia – an urgent necessity

What do companies like Apple, Tesla, Alibaba, IKEA, and Spotify all have in common? They all believe that in order to achieve greatness, you have to attract greatness. This is where employer branding comes in.

Over the last decade, employer branding has become a billion-dollar industry that helps companies around the world attract and retain top talent. However, there is one major sector that has not yet embraced employer branding: The academic sector. Universities and research institutes cultivate top talent, but they don’t actively seek to retain or attract it. As a leader in academic recruitment, we decided to use our expertise to look into why this is the case. Can academia benefit from employer branding or is it just for the private sector?

Everyone in the higher education sector knows that the top universities are able to draw top academic talent from around the world, and the internationalism of an institution’s staff, students, and research are important performance indicators in major university rankings. But there are other ways that universities benefit from attracting research talent from abroad, as a recent study by Dr. Cassidy Sugimoto highlights. According to the study, international researchers have greater scientific impact than their non-mobile peers.

"...it’s not a stretch to say that greater researcher mobility contributes to better science."

The study examined how junior researchers’ country of affiliation changed (or didn’t) between 2008 and 2014. Dr. Sugimoto and her colleagues tracked where researchers moved as well as the number of citations they got before and after they moved. The results make a strong argument for internationalization. On average, mobile scholars had a 40% higher citation rate than non-mobile scholars, meaning it’s not a stretch to say that greater researcher mobility contributes to better science.

As scientists move around the world, so do their skills, expertise, and ideas. Science happens on a global scale and collaboration and mobility are essential parts of that process. But how do you ensure that your university is able to attract those outstanding mobile researchers who will produce ground-breaking research?

This is where employer branding comes in — again. In the last nine years, we have seen firsthand that employer branding is not only necessary for academia, but urgent. Today, most universities and research organizations believe that their academic achievements and rankings are enough to attract stellar researchers. While these are important factors for establishing an academic brand, “no good idea is successful unless properly promoted,” as the saying goes. In this case, this means that universities also need to strategically promote their employer brand in order to attract the best candidates. By positioning themselves not only as great academic institutions but also attractive employers, these universities can ensure they become places top academic talent actually want to work.

Our nine years in the academic recruitment sector have given us valuable insight into the positive effect that a strong employer brand can have on international recruitment. We have used the insights gained through Academic Positions and Academic Stories to develop tailor-made solutions for the academic sector, becoming the only global full-service provider of employer branding solutions specifically designed for academia.

In the time of “alternative facts”, it is more important than ever to help institutions attract the best candidates and thereby strengthen the academic sector as a whole. This is why I am very happy to introduce Academic Media Group, a new digital media company and a strategic employer branding partner that aims to support international research and encourage people to pursue an academic career.

There’s never been a more important time to support researcher mobility.

Press release, 20181015 ⟶


This is the first of many blog posts that Academic Media Group will write about academic employer branding and talent attraction. Keep checking back for more quick tips and insights to help your organization achieve academic excellence.