Lecturer is an academic rank within many universities, though the
meaning of the term varies somewhat from country to country. It
generally denotes an academic expert without tenure who is hired to
teach on a full- or part-time basis. They may also conduct research.
1 United Kingdom
1.1 Historical use
1.2 Current uses
1.3 Tenure and permanent lectureships
2 United States
5 Other countries
Academic ranks in the United Kingdom
In the UK, the term lecturer is ambiguous and covers several academic
ranks. The key distinction is between permanent/open-ended or
A permanent lecturer in UK universities usually holds an open-ended
position that covers teaching, research, and administrative
responsibilities. Permanent lectureships are tenure-track or tenured
positions that are equivalent to an assistant or associate
professorship in North America. After a number of years, a lecturer
may be promoted based on his or her research record to become a senior
lecturer. This position is below reader and professor.
Research lecturers (where they are permanent appointments) are the
equivalent in rank of lecturers and senior lecturers, but reflect a
research-intensive orientation. Research lecturers are common in
fields such as medicine, engineering, and biological and physical
In contrast, fixed-term or temporary lecturers are appointed for
specific short-term teaching needs. These positions are often
non-renewable and are common post-doctoral appointments. In North
American terms, a fixed-term lecturer can hold an equivalent rank to
assistant professor without tenure. Typically, longer contracts denote
greater seniority or higher rank. Teaching fellows may also sometimes
be referred to as lecturers—for example,
Exeter named some of that
group as education and scholarship lecturers (E & S) to recognise
the contribution of teaching, and elevate the titles of teaching
fellows to lecturers. Some universities also refer to graduate
students or others, who undertake ad-hoc teaching for a department
sessional lecturers. Like adjunct professors and sessional lecturers
in North America, these non-permanent teaching staff are often very
poorly paid (as little as £6000 p.a. in 2011-12). These varying uses
of the term lecturer cause confusion for non-UK academics.
As a proportion of UK academic staff, the proportion of permanent
lectureships has fallen considerably. This is one reason why permanent
lectureships are usually secured only after several years of
post-doctoral experience. Data from the Higher Education Statistics
Agency show that in 2013-14, 36 per cent of full- and part-time
academic staff were on fixed-term contracts, down from 45 per cent a
decade earlier. Over the same period, the proportion of academic staff
on permanent contracts rose from 55 per cent to 64 per cent. Others
were on contracts classed as “atypical”.'
Historically in the UK, promotion to a senior lectureship reflected
prowess in teaching or administration rather than research, and the
position was much less likely to lead direct to promotion to
In contrast, promotion to senior lecturer nowadays is based on
research achievements (for research-intensive universities), and is an
integral part of the promotion path to a full chair. Promotion to
reader is sometimes still necessary before promotion to a full chair;
however, some universities no longer make appointments at the level of
reader (for instance, the University of Leeds and the University of
Oxford). Senior lecturers and readers are sometimes paid on the same
salary scale, although readers are recognized as more senior. Readers
in pre-1992 universities are generally considered at least the
equivalent, in terms of status, of (full) professors in post-1992
universities. Many academics consider it more
prestigious to have been a reader in a pre-1992 university than a
professor in a post-1992 university.[who?]
Many open-ended lecturers in the UK have a doctorate (50.1% in
2009-2010) and often have postdoctoral research experience. In
almost all fields, a doctorate is a prerequisite, although
historically this was not the case. Some academic positions could have
been held on the basis of research merit alone, without a higher
The new universities (that is universities that were until 1992 termed
polytechnics) have a slightly different ranking naming scheme from the
older universities. Many pre-1992 universities use the grades:
Lecturer (B), Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor.
Meanwhile post-1992 grades are normally: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer,
Lecturer (management-focused) or Reader (research-focused),
Professor. Much confusion surrounds the differing use of the "Senior
Lecturer" title. A Senior
Lecturer in a post-1992 university is
equivalent to a
Lecturer (B) in a pre-1992 university, whereas a
Lecturer in a pre-1992 university is most often equivalent to a
Lecturer in a post-1992 university.
According to the Times Higher Education, the University of Warwick
decided in 2006 "to break away from hundreds of years of academic
tradition, renaming lecturers 'assistant professors', senior lecturers
and readers 'associate professors' while still calling professors
'professors'. The radical move will horrify those who believe the
"professor" title should be reserved for an academic elite."
Nottingham has a mixture of the standard UK system, and the system at
Warwick, with both lecturers and assistant professors. At Reading, job
advertisements and academic staff web pages use the title associate
professor, but the ordinances of the university make no reference to
these titles. They address only procedures for conferring the
traditional UK academic ranks.
Tenure and permanent lectureships
Since the Conservatives' 1988 Education Reform Act, the ironclad
tenure that used to exist in the UK has given way to a less secure
form of tenure. Technically, university vice-chancellors can make
individual faculty members redundant for poor performance or institute
departmental redundancies, but in practice, this is rare. The most
noted use of this policy happened in 2012 at Queen Mary University of
London where lecturers on permanent contracts were fired. The
institutions now has a stated policy of firing and replacing
under-performing teaching staff members. This policy is complicated by
the 2008 Ball vs Aberdeen tribunal decision, the distinction between
teaching and research faculty is blurring- with implications for who
can and cannot be made redundant at UK universities, and under what
Despite this recent erosion of tenure in the UK, it is still practiced
in most universities. Permanent contracts use the word "tenure" for
lecturers who are "reappointed to the retiring age". This is
equivalent to a US tenure decision—references are sought from
world-leading academics and tenure and promotions committees meet to
decide "tenure" cases. There is normally no title elevation is such
instances—tenure and title are independent.
Academic ranks in the United States
As different US academic institutions use the term lecturer in various
ways, there is sometimes confusion. On a generic level, the term
broadly denotes one who teaches at a university but is not eligible
for tenure and has no research obligations. At non-research colleges,
the latter distinction is less meaningful, making the absence of
tenure the main difference between lecturers and other academic
faculty. Unlike the adjective adjunct (which can modify most academic
titles, from professor to lecturer to instructor, etc. and refers to
part-time status), the title of lecturer at most schools does not
address the issue of full-time vs. part-time status.
Lecturers are almost always required to have at least a master's
degree and quite often have earned doctorates. (For example, at
Columbia University in New York, the title of lecturer actually
requires a doctorate or its professional equivalent; they also use the
term for "instructors in specialized programs.") Sometimes the
title is used as an equivalent-alternative to instructor, but schools
that use both titles tend to provide relatively more advancement
potential (e.g. multiple ranks of progression, at least some of which
entail faculty voting privileges and/or faculty committee service) to
Major research universities are more frequently hiring full-time
lecturers, whose responsibilities tend to focus primarily in
undergraduate education, especially for introductory/survey courses.
In addition to the reason of higher-ranking faculty tending to prefer
higher-level courses, part of the reason is also cost-savings, as
non-tenure-track faculty tend to have lower salaries. When a
lecturer is part-time, there is little practical distinction in the
position from an adjunct professor/instructor/etc., since all
non-tenure-track faculty by definition are not on the tenure-track.
However, for full-time lecturers (or those regularly salaried above
some stated level, such as half-time), many institutions now
incorporate the role quite formally—managing it with performance
reviews, promotional tracks, administrative service responsibilities,
and many faculty privileges (e.g. voting, use of resources, etc.).
An emerging alternative to using full-time lecturers at research
institutions is to create a parallel professorship track that is
focused on teaching. It may offer tenure, and typically has a title
series such as teaching professor. (This is analogous to the
research-only faculty tracks at some universities, which typically
have title series such as research professor/scientist/scholar.) A
related concept—at least in professional fields—is the clinical
professor or professor of practice, which in addition to a teaching
focus (vs. research), also tend to have a
practical/professional/skills oriented focus (vs. theory and
In some institutions, the position of lecturer, especially
"distinguished lecturer", may also refer to a position somewhat
similar to emeritus professor and/or a temporary post used for
visiting academics of considerable prominence—e.g. a famous writer
may serve for a term or a year, for instance. When confusion arose
about President Barack Obama's status on the law faculty at the
University of Chicago, the institution stated that although his title
was "senior lecturer", the university considered him to be a
"professor" and further noted that it uses that title for notable
people, such as federal judges and politicians, who are deemed of high
prestige but lack the time to commit to a traditional tenure-track
position. While other universities instead use the term "senior"
as simply a matter of rank or promotion, all such references to
lecturers of any rank are consistent with the normal U.S. practice of
using lower-case-p "professor" as a common noun for anyone who teaches
college, as well as a pre-nominal title of address (e.g. "Professor
Smith") without necessarily referring to job title or position rank
(e.g. "John Smith, Assistant/Associate/Full
Professor of X").
Academic ranks (Australia and New Zealand)
In Australia, the term lecturer may be used informally to refer to
anyone who conducts lectures at a university or elsewhere, but
formally refers to a specific academic rank. The academic ranks in
Australia are similar to those in the UK, with the rank of associate
professor roughly equivalent to reader in UK universities. The
academic levels in Australia are (in ascending academic level): A)
associate lecturer, (B) lecturer, (C) senior lecturer, (D) associate
professor, and (E) professor.
Academic ranks in India
In India, one can appear for interviews for a post of a lecturer after
passing the competitive exam of
National Eligibility Test conducted by
the University Grants Commission.
The position is equivalent to assistant professor in the US system.
The term is not universally applied, with some universities preferring
the lecturer/reader /professor titles, while others work with the
assistant professor/associate professor/professor title.
As such, most lecturers' position can be considered tenure track.
In many states of India, the term lecturer or Post Graduate Teacher
(PGT) is also used for the intermediate college teachers. The
intermediate colleges or Junior Colleges are equivalent to higher
secondary schools. Such lecturers are subject experts specifically
engaged to teach a particular subject in higher classes.
Further information: List of academic ranks
In other countries, usage varies. In Israel, the term has a meaning in
academia similar to that in the UK.
In France, the title maître de conférences ("lecture master") is the
lower of the two possible academic ranks (the other being professeur
des universités or "university professor").
In German-speaking countries, the term lektor historically denoted a
teaching position below a professor, primarily responsible for
delivering and organizing lectures. The contemporary equivalent is
dozent or . Nowadays, the German term lektor exists only in philology
or modern-language departments at German-speaking universities for
positions that primarily involve teaching a foreign language. The
equivalent rank within the German university system is something like
Juniorprofessor, Dozent, Hochschuldozent, Juniordozent, Akademischer
Rat or -Oberrat, Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben, and the like.
In Poland, the related term lektor is used for a teaching-only
position, generally for teaching foreign languages.
In Norway, a lektor is an academic rank, usually reached after three
or five years of post-secondary education, which enables a teacher to
lecture at Ungdomsskole (secondary school) or Videregående skole
(high school) level.
Sweden and Denmark, a lektor or universitetslektor is an academic
rank similar to that of senior lecturer in Great Britain and associate
professor in USA. The lektor holds the position below professor in
In South Korea, the term gangsa is the literal translation of
"part-time lecturer". A gangsa is usually part-time, paid by the
number of hours of teaching. No research or administrative obligation
is attached. In most disciplines, gangsa is regarded as a first step
in one's academic career. In Korea, the tenure position started from
"full-time lecturer". The tenure track positions in
South Korea are
"full-time lecturer (JunImGangSa)", "assistant professor (JoKyoSu)",
"associate professor (BuKyosu)", and "professor (KyoSu)". Therefore,
"full-time lecturer" is the same position as "assistant professor" in
other countries, including the USA.
In the Netherlands, a "lector" used to be equivalent to the rank of
associate professor at universities. Nowadays, it is the highest rank
at so-called "applied universities" (i.e., school providing higher
vocational/professional training to their students). At regular
universities, this rank does not exist anymore.
A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear algebra, at Helsinki
University of Technology, Finland.
An Iranian young associate professor, teaching C language programming
and microcontrollers in Mohajer Technical And Vocational College of
^ Else, Holly (4 June 2015). "Zero Points: the persistence of
temporary measures". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 22 January
^ University of London, Academic Promotion to Senior Lecturer, Reader,
and Professor, Accessed 5 June 2011, 
^ "The rise and rise of PhDs as standard". Times Higher Education.
www.timeshighereducation.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
^ For example, David Fowler retired as a Senior
Mathematics at Warwick in 1990 without having obtained a doctorate.
See "Obituary: David Fowler", The Independent
^ Graham Webb, Making the Most of Appraisal: Career and Professional
Development Planning for Lecturers, Routledge, 1994, p. 30,
^ Lee Elliot Major, "Get the drinks. It's professor all round", Times
Higher Education, 31 March 2006
^ "Section XI Election and Appointment to Professorships or
Readerships or Senior Lecturerships" (PDF). Ordinances of the
University of Reading (2010-11). pp. 23–25. Retrieved 18
^ Court, Stephen (5 December 1997). "Memories of jobs for life". Times
Higher Education (THE).
^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13
March 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
Barack Obama really a constitutional law lecturer?" Archived 17
June 2008 at the Wayback Machine., Fact Check
^ "KENDRIYA VIDYALAYA SANGATHAN". kvsangathan.nic.in. Retrieved 27
^ Alam, Shah Manzoor (2011). Urban Growth Theories and Settlement
Systems of India. Concept Publishing Company. p. xii.
ISBN 9788180697395. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
^ Gore, C. S. Professional Preparation in Physical Education and
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Academic ranks overview
North American system
Adjunct professor (non-tenure track)
Instructor (non-tenure track)
Reader or Associate professor