Hundreds of applicants are chasing every junior research post at top universities, an investigation suggests.
Competition for postdoctoral research posts is intense, says the Times Higher Education magazine.
Journalists sent Freedom of Information requests to several universities.
Some of the posts are part-time but seen as stepping stones to permanent academic jobs and receive hundreds of applications, says the magazine.
Among the over-subscribed posts in the academic year 2013-14 was a single junior research fellowship in science at Clare College, Cambridge, which received 230 applications.
The year before, the same college received 657 applications for three posts, including two in the arts.
Christ's College Cambridge, received 417 applicants for two junior research fellowships in 2013-14.
At Peterhouse College, 325 people applied for three junior research fellowships last year, down from 150 applicants per post in 2012-13.
Hertford College, Oxford, had advertised one single junior research fellowship between 2011 and 2014 and received 127 applications, the magazine's investigation learned.
Freedom of Information requests to other Russell Group universities, also revealed fierce competition for early career academic posts.
At the University of Warwick, 116 people applied for five postdoctoral fellowships in 2012-14 and 143 in 2011-12.
The University of Birmingham's fellows scheme resulted in nearly 1,400 applications for 50 posts in 2012-13 and 433 applications for six posts the following year.
Alison Mitchell, director of development at the research career development organisation, Vitae, said finding a research post was incredibly tough, with UK postgraduates "competing in an international market against highly talented individuals".