“Thanks for the enquiry, but (…) we’re not looking at overseas [applications]”

I did my first degree in continental Europe, and my PhD in the UK. When I was applying to PhD programmes in the UK I had a bafflingly candid response to an inquiry about a funded PhD position: Thanks for the enquiry, but we have been overwhelmed by UK applications, so we’re not looking at overseas ones. (Not the exact wording as this was many years ago, but that’s exactly what they said).

Many years later I went on to get a permanent academic job in the UK.

ignoring “small” universities

I am an academic in the humanities. On two occasions, and during 4 years, I have had double affiliation. In both cases, the main institution (the one financially supporting me) was in Spain, and the secondary institution a big name in North America (one in the US, the other in Canada). It happened to me many times in conferences, meetings and workshops that, even though I always put the Spanish institution name before the North American institution, I would receive a name tag only with the Northamerican institution’s name on it. It also happened that when people introduced me to other people during those events, they would only mention the North American affiliation. I understand that recognition heuristics played a big role here: everyone knows those two big universities in North America, and not many know the ones in Spain. And that’s why I wouldn’t complain when that happened. However, now I regret my silence. I think it is worth the effort to vindicate those “small” names, so we all start learning the names of more institutions in different countries – otherwise, how are they ever going to become recognizable for all the great work that people are doing there?