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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.
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
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,
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 professor.
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 open-ended lecturers in the UK have a
According to the Times Higher Education, the
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
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.