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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lecturer is a term that denotes an academic rank. In the United Kingdom, lecturer is a position at a university or similar institution, often held by academics in their early career stages, who lead research groups and supervise research students, as well as teach. However, in the United States, Canada, and other countries influenced by their educational systems, the term is used differently.


United Kingdom


Academic usage

A lecturer in UK universities often holds a permanent position, which involves carrying out both teaching and research. This position is below reader and professor.

Traditionally, a senior lectureship was theoretically equivalent to a readership and demanded the same salary, but reflected prowess in teaching or administration rather than research, and was far less likely to lead directly to promotion to professor. However, in recent years a Senior Lecturer has also had to demonstrate strong research prowess, as well as sound teaching and administrative skills. Some consider Senior Lecturers as a rank between Lecturers and Readers in many universities, whether their promotion was achieved through teaching or research, and they will normally be promoted to Readerships before reaching Professorships. Senior Lecturers and Readers, however, remain on the same payscale and in many departments still are comparatively senior staff.

Post 1992 also known as "New" British universities (that is, universities that were until recently termed polytechnics) have a slightly different naming scheme than that just described in which the grades are Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Principal Lecturer, with the latter corresponding to Senior Lecturer in the pre-1992 institutions. Also, a few UK universities have recently begun using the Australian terminology

The UK has largely given up the tenure system[citation needed]. This means on the one hand that lecturers have permanent positions as soon as they pass a probation (which normally requires no more than three years and is much less arduous than tenure), but on the other that a University can decide to make an entire department redundant (e.g. Exeter University 1990 and 2005), laying off even senior academic staff such as professors. UK academics can spend their entire careers as Senior Lecturers or below.

Most lecturers in the UK have a doctorate (Ph.D., DPhil etc.). In many fields this is now a prerequisite of the job, though historically this was not the case --- even senior academic positions such as readerships could be held on the basis of research merit alone without formal doctoral qualification[1]

In the UK, in some fields, before a candidate is appointed to a lectureship, it is often the case that candidates will spend some time as a postdoctoral researcher. However, some universities (e.g. the University of Aberdeen) also have an alternative path whereby staff who spend their time doing mostly teaching and administration are known as Teaching Fellows. These individuals usually have the same rank and status as a Lecturer, but their salaries may start off at a slightly lower level. In this career structure, Teaching Fellows may be promoted to the rank of Senior Teaching Fellow, which carries the same salary, rank and status as the traditional Senior Lecturer/Reader position. Senior Teaching Fellows may also eventually reach the rank of Professor. Teaching Fellows under this system are not primarily employed to do research, but may do so for a small fraction of their time if they wish and if it does not interfere with their teaching and administrative duties. This research may relate to the original discipline in which they completed their higher degrees or it may be pedagogic (e.g. educationally-related) in nature.

In the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge it is important to distinguish between University Lecturers, who hold a position equivalent to lecturers in other UK universities, and college lecturers. Lectureships at the College level are typically part-time, temporary positions involving teaching duties alone; usually their holders are graduate students or have recently completed a PhD. Those who hold permanent positions in Colleges are Fellows, a position which is usually combined with a University Lectureship, Readership or Professorship. Colleges also appoint Junior Research Fellows, whose position is full-time but limited in tenure (typically three years) and non-renewable.

Ecclesiastical usage

A lecturer is typically an assistant curate serving in a Church of England parish. It is an historic title which has fallen out of regular use, but several churches in the UK still have clergy with the ancient title Lecturer including many London churches, St. Mary's Church, Nottingham and Carlisle Cathedral.

United States

The term "Lecturer" is used in various ways across different US institutions, sometimes causing confusion. On a generic level however, the term broadly denotes one who teaches at a university but is not eligible for tenure, and has no research obligations. At non-research schools, the latter distinction is of course less meaningful, making the absence of tenure the main difference. Unlike the adjective "Adjunct" (which can modify most academic titles, from Professor to Lecturer to Instructor, etc.), the title of Lecturer itself at most schools does not address the issue of full-time vs. part-time status. Lecturers almost always have at least a Masters Degree, and quite often a Doctorate, although there is a bit more variation on the issue of credentials/qualifications than in the tenure-track market. Sometimes the title is used as an equivalent-alternative for "Instructor," but schools that utilize both titles tend to provide relatively more advancement potential to their Lecturers. Note that the term "Instructor" can sometimes apply to graduate students who teach part-time for their institution, whereas the title "Lecturer" is rarely given to such personnel.

It is becoming increasingly common for major research universities to hire full-time Lecturers, whose responsibilities are primarily undergraduate education, especially for introductory/survey courses that involve large groups of students. These tend to be the courses that tenure-track faculty do not prefer to teach, and are unnecessarily costly for them to do so (at their comparatively higher salary rates). When a Lecturer is part-time, there is little practical distinction from an "Adjunct Professor", since neither has the prestige of being on the tenure-track. Depending on the field, many Lecturers or Adjunct Professors are recently-graduated graduate students seeking to get teaching experience while looking for a tenure-track position. Others are people who intend to remain permanently in their full-or-part-time teaching role. For full-time Lecturers, many institutions now incorporate the role quite formally with performance reviews, promotional tracks, administrative service responsibilities, and many faculty privileges (e.g. voting, use of resources, etc).

One emerging alternative to the use of full-time Lecturers at research-heavy institutions is to create a parallel professorship track that's focused on teaching, which may or may not offer tenure, with a title series such as "Teaching Professor." This would be analogous to how some universities have research-only faculty tracks with title series' such as "Research Professor/Scientist/Scholar."

It should also be noted, however, that the title is sometimes, paradoxically, used in just the opposite sense: in some institutions, a "Lecturer" (and/or variation such as "Distinguished Lecturer") is actually a higher rank than Professor: a sort of "grand old man" of the university. Also, in some schools it's a temporary post 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 Barack Obama's status on the law faculty at the University of Chicago, the institution stated that although his title was "Senior Lecturer," that school actually uses that title for notable people such as federal judges and politicians who are deemed of high prestige but simply lack sufficient time to commit to a traditional tenure-track position.[1]


In Australia, the term "lecturer" may be used informally to refer to anyone who conducts lectures at a university, but formally refers to a specific academic rank. Unlike in the US, even relatively senior academic staff are referred to as lecturers. In recent years, however, titles have been changed at several universities, including the University of Western Australia [2] to bring academic titles - and perceived status - more into line with the United States. Consequently, the term "Associate Lecturer" has been replaced with "Lecturer", "Lecturer" with "Assistant Professor", and "Senior Lecturer" has become "Associate Professor".

Other countries

In other countries, usage may vary unpredictably. For example, in Poland lektor is a term used for a teaching-only position, generally for teaching foreign languages. In France, the term lecteur is the name of the lower category of teaching in university and other higher-level education structures, mostly in literary and foreign languages courses. Samuel Beckett's first job in Paris was as lecteur of English at the École Normale Supérieure.

In German speaking countries, the term Lektor historically denoted a teaching position below a professor, primarily responsible for delivering and organising lectures. The contemporary equivalent is called Dozent or Hochschuldozent. Nowadays, the German term Lektor only exists at philology or modern language departments at Germany speaking Universities, for positions that primarily involve teaching a foreign language.

See also


  1. ^ For example David Fowler retired as a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Warwick in 1990 without a doctorate . See obituary in The Independent.
  2. ^ "New titles for UWA academics". Retrieved 25 February 2010. 


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