Bournemouth University is introducing associate professor posts - the first time a post-1992 university has done so, writes Melanie Newman.
The university expects to appoint about a dozen staff a year to the new posts for the next four to five years. It is the second UK university, Warwick was the first, to implement the US model of associate professorships.
Nick Petford, Bournemouth's pro vice-chancellor, said the move would boost Bournemouth's research capability and improve the academic career structure. "We have identified three routes to promotion: education, research and enterprise activity, which includes consultancy work," he said. Staff appointed as associate professors will have to apply for full professorships within a maximum of five years.
"Readerships have been seen as a means to an end," Professor Petford said.
"We want to incentivise staff who demonstrate research excellence by providing a career track to a personal chair."
Academics who already hold reader positions are eligible to apply for the posts, although the university expects most applicants to be senior lecturers. "We have a log jam at senior lecturer level," Professor Petford added.
Warwick University gave all its readers and senior lecturers the right to call themselves associate professors last year, but Professor Petford warned that at Bournemouth "there will be a failure rate".
Matthew Bennett, head of Bournemouth's environmental and geographical sciences group, said: "I have four staff on readerships at the moment who will all be aspiring to this route into a professorship.
"There is a huge gap between senior lecturership and professorship, and people tend to think of a readership as being off on one side - it is not seen as naturally part of that progression."
Professor Bennett said the university would provide mentoring and support to help academics with the transition.