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One in two Chinese researchers consider leaving UCPH

New survey shows that job opportunities are a key factor in Chinese researchers' decision making. Zhiyu Liao, a spectroscopist, will move to another European country if he doesn’t find a job, he says

The University of Copenhagen’s (UCPH) stated objective is to attract the most talented scholars from around the world. But it seems to be having a hard time retaining the international researchers who are already here.

A new survey done by the International Staff Mobility (ISM) office at UCPH shows that half of the approximately 113 Chinese researchers currently working at the University as PhDs, postdocs and assistant professors are not sure if they want to stay.

Of those that are considering leaving, one third say their decision to stay or to leave will depend on the job opportunities. One fourth of those who are uncertain if Denmark has a future for them are simply homesick and plan to go back home to China. One fifth of those who are not sure they want to stay point to family related problems with their spouse or children. Others state that they plan to move to another country and that Danish is just too hard to learn.

Wants to work

“Most do want to continue working at UCPH, so the question is if they can get a job or not,” says Mingrong Zhang, academic officer at the International Staff Mobility office.

The survey also shows that it is the possibility to use advanced research equipment, the Danish working culture, their own personal career objectives and higher salaries that are the main reasons Chinese scientists applied for a position at UCPH at the first place.

The Danish welfare system scores lower as an attraction.

Looking for job

28 year old Zhiyu Liao is one of the Chinese researchers who is standing at a crossroads, considering leaving.

He studies the photophysical properties of organic fluorophores at the single molecule level as a member of the Tom Vosch research-group at the Nano-Science Center.

But he handed in his PhD thesis and is now on a six month contract as a research assistant.

“I´am searching for a job, but I only have until the end of February when my current contract expires. I really have to make up my mind if I want to stay in the academic world or shift to private business. If I don’t get a postdoc position at UCPH I will try to apply in another European country,” he says.

Plans to go back home

He chose to come to Denmark because he liked the lifestyle and because the researchers here have more freedom on their projects than in China, but he still plans to go back home eventually.

First he needs to work in Europe for at least three to five more years to qualify for a professorship at a high-ranking Chinese university.

“I want to be with my family and it’s also the culture in China that the children are responsible for looking after the parents when they get old, so at some point I have to go back,” he says.

See more survey results in fact box right.

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