Get the drinks. It's professor all round

March 31, 2006

All 850 academic staff at Warwick University will from next year be able to call themselves "professor" following a decision to adopt the US system of academic titles.

Warwick is the first UK university 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. But David VandeLinde, Warwick's vice-chancellor, predicted that other UK universities would follow suit.

He said: "It gives us instantly internationally recognisable titles and provides us with a unique offer to our academic teaching staff in which all can share in the title of professor. It will inevitably be copied, but Warwick will be remembered as having the foresight to lead that change."

In fact, the London Business School already uses US titles, while Nottingham University has adopted the "associate professor" title on a voluntary basis for recently promoted senior lecturers and readers.

But Warwick will be the first university to adopt US titles for all academic staff. The system will be used for new appointees and adopted by existing staff by the start of the 2007-08 academic year.

Andrew Oswald, a professor in Warwick's department of economics, conceded it would "fractionally" devalue the professor title, but said: "The British system is out of date. People don't understand it."

Sandra Chapman, professor at its Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, said: "It makes it easier to hire from the US."

Officials at Warwick stress that the new system will not affect the pay and tenure of academics. One added: "If academics want to call themselves 'associate professor (reader)', then that's fine."

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