More readers for Cambridge

Cambridge's annual quota of readers - a senior research-oriented post just below the level of professor - is to rise 30 per cent in an effort to enhance the university's position in the 1996 research assessment exercise.

Two years ago, the university decided to increase the annual number of new ad hominem readers from 25 to 30. But this year, the number is to shoot up to 39.

Nine professorships are also to be awarded. The university said the increase "amounts to an acceleration of promotions that were likely to be proposed in the near future".

The promotions, which are made to individuals as a recognition of personal distinction and are not tied to established posts, have been made principally for research. But this annual increase is the first to take account of a lecturer's teaching, examining and administrative abilities.

The promotions will cost an estimated Pounds 364,000 a year. This is half the amount Oxford would need to make similar promotions. Oxford recently calculated that while it costs Cambridge an extra Pounds 10,000 to promote a lecturer to professorial status, it costs Oxford Pounds 20,000.

David Livesey, general secretary of the faculty, said that the promotions "send a clear signal that Cambridge does recognise distinction".

The university was concerned that it would lose some key staff in the run up to the research assessment exercise next year.

Cambridge did better than Oxford in the last assessment exercise, and much of the extra funding it received was channelled into a programme for increasing the number of ad hominem readerships. The university is expected to promote half of its staff to the post of reader or professor by the year 2000.

Dr Livesey said the changes to the Oxford promotions system announced earlier this week were not likely to lead to a brain drain from Cambridge. But he did acknowledge that the university might conduct "a review with a small r" of its own promotions system.

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