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 who is hired to teach on a full- or part-time basis. They may also conduct research.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the term lecturer is ambiguous and covers several academic ranks. The key distinction is between permanent/open-ended or temporary/fixed-term lectureships.

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 sciences.

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”.'[1]

Historical use

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 professor.[2]

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.[citation needed] 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.[3] 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 degree.[4]

Current uses

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 (A), Lecturer (B), Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor. Meanwhile, post-1992 grades are normally: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Principal 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 Senior Lecturer in a pre-1992 university is most often equivalent to a Principal Lecturer in a post-1992 university.[5]

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."[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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 conditions.

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.

Other Languages
العربية: محاضر
Cymraeg: Darlithydd
Deutsch: Lecturer
Esperanto: Lektoro
한국어: 강사
Ido: Lektoro
Bahasa Indonesia: Dosen
עברית: מרצה
Basa Jawa: Dhosèn
lietuvių: Lektorius
Bahasa Melayu: Pensyarah
日本語: 講師 (教育)
polski: Wykładowca
português: Lecturer
suomi: Lehtori
اردو: لیکچرر
Tiếng Việt: Giảng viên
粵語: 講師
中文: 讲师