Emergent structures in faculty hiring networks, and the effects of mobility on academic performance

Robin Cowan & Giulia Rossello


This paper is about the South African job market for PhDs. PhD to first job mobility involves the preferences of both the hiring institution and the candidate. Both want to make the best choice and here institutional prestige plays a crucial role. A university’s prestige is an emergent property of the hiring interactions, so we use a network perspective to measure it. Using this emergent ordering, we compare the subsequent scientific performance of scholars with different changes in the prestige hierarchy. We ask how movements between universities of different prestige from PhD to first job correlates with academic performance. We use data of South African scholars from 1970 to 2004 and we find that those who make large movements in terms of prestige have lower research ratings than those wo do not. Further, those with higher prestige PhD or first job have high research ratings throughout their careers.

JEL Classification: D7, I2, J15, O3, Z13

Keywords: Academia, South Africa, faculty hiring network, institutional prestige, institutional stratification, scholars research performance, university system, matched pair analysis