A Guide to Dating in Academia

A Guide to Dating in Academia

Dating in academia is riddled with potholes, the most immediate of which is do not stray far from your academic discipline. Curious indeed considering that the academic world is meant to be populated by an abundance of young and energetic minds from a variety of different cultures, races and ethnicities, all of whom are hungry for new information and experiences. One would think that such an environment would provide the perfect dating terrain, right? Wrong!


Browse our academic job listings

dating in academia

The problem of disciplines

Inter-disciplinary dating remains a largely theoretical proposition in academia, and that is to say nothing of the taboo against undergraduates dating postgraduates - or vice versa. Whereas the first of these can be termed horizontal dating, and carries casual social penalties, the second, vertical dating, is often viewed with much more serious contempt. Indeed, for all of academia’s professed liberalism, there remains a severely entrenched elitist platform upon which status and seniority carry significant weight. As in every social and professional situation, groups quickly form, select cliques are established and patterns followed, until soon enough you find yourself surrounded solely by people on the same course and level of study as yourself. As noted above, it is a curious thing given that the university environment should provide a warm bed - no pun intended - for open-minded dating. Clearly, though, this is rarely the case.

What becomes apparent when it comes to dating in academia is that it would be helpful if short manuals on dating etiquette and rules were handed out during freshers/orientation week, as these would provide a basic layout of the hostile battlefield. And yes, the library is as hostile a terrain as you will ever come across. Just try asking somebody out in a whispering voice, or try following somebody around the bookshelf corridors without appearing like a stalker, and you will know what we mean. Libraries aside, the whole set-up seems unfriendly. Even career academics seem not to have mastered the art, often electing to stay within the safe confines of their chosen academic field. Perhaps - dare it be said? - the longer you remain in academia the greater the chances are that your dating behaviour fossilises within your disciplinary speciality. In fact, the ever-increasing wave of students and teachers turning to online dating could be a result of the unfriendly character of dating in academia.

In part this can be understood and explained by the nature of academic speciality. After all, how many conversation convergences can there be between a physics PhD and economics Bachelor? That is not to say, though, that it is impossible for them to converse or to find common ground, or that people of common study areas should always stick together. It is just that it sure does help in an opening conversation if there is an easy point of convergence.


Even though horizontal dating is strategically difficult and vertical dating is frowned upon, that is not to say either is entirely impossible - but it's no coincidence that many of those long-term couples who say that their love first blossomed during their university years shared the same disciplinary field. So here, in summary, are the two fundamental principals to dating in academia:

1. If you want to make your dating life both easier and more successful, don’t stray far from your chosen academic field.

2. Never try to begin a romantic adventure in the library.