The London School of Economics has become the latest UK university to replace the lecturer grade with the US-style title “associate professor”.
From this term, teaching staff will have the option to move to a new academic career structure, in which they will be known as an associate, assistant or full professor.
Most of those moving to the scheme – which is already in place at the universities of Warwick and Nottingham – will receive an automatic pay rise, but will no longer receive annual incremental pay rises.
Staff can choose to remain on the old structure, but will not be eligible for promotion within that system.
There are concerns that the system could open up a pay gap between teaching staff and researchers, who will remain on the old career structure.
A review is taking place to examine a suitable replacement for them.
“Research staff want an equal career structure and the same status as teaching staff – they don’t want to be left behind,” said Mike Cushman, secretary at the LSE’s University and College Union branch.
And placing academic-related staff, such as librarians, on a different pay structure could lead to resentment and internal divisions in the long term, he added.
“The idea of having a common salary spine for everyone has been thrown out,” Mr Cushman said.
Teaching staff moving to the US-style structure had been disappointed to learn what the pay rises would be, he claimed, adding that the LSE had managed to increase its wage bill and demoralise its workforce at the same time.
Staff were also concerned that lack of awareness of the new titles within the UK would cause problems, Mr Cushman added.
“Assistant professors are seen as relatively junior roles and their chances of gaining research funding could be significantly reduced,” he argued.
Mr Cushman also said that proposals to extend the maximum period before academics’ positions are reviewed to eight years would make it harder for them to secure permanent jobs, although the LSE said it “affords junior academics the flexibility to undergo review at the right time for them”.
Thank you, Mr President
Following the appointment of the American sociologist Craig Calhoun as the LSE’s director, the institution this year has adopted a more US-style leadership structure, with Stuart Corbridge, former pro-director of the university, filling the newly created role of provost and deputy director.
Professor Calhoun has also been introduced as LSE president on foreign trips because the term is better understood overseas, the university said.
The LSE added that the structural reforms, which were under development in consultation with the unions before Professor Calhoun’s arrival, would help “to improve the recruitment, development and remuneration of career academic staff”.
Some 83 per cent of non-professorial academics have moved to the structure, along with 56 per cent of professors, an LSE spokesman said. He argued that 74 per cent of the former group moving to the new structure would receive salary increases, “with proportionately more female members of faculty benefiting”.
“The structure also offers greater flexibility and support to faculty members who are balancing a developing academic career with parental responsibilities,” he added.