The University of Oxford is consulting on whether to abolish the lecturer grade and replace it with that of “associate professor”.
Under the plans, new and existing tenured lecturers would be able to take the title, with anyone who had not previously held a substantive academic appointment becoming assistant professor. Oxford has no senior lecturer position.
The university’s personnel committee hopes the move (which would follow in the footsteps of universities including Nottingham and Warwick) would make the seniority of its main academic grade more easily understood and bolster its ability to recruit internationally.
A consultation document on the proposals, published on 30 January, says that the current nomenclature “means that many suitably qualified candidates worldwide assume that [lectureships] are junior positions and do not even consider applying”.
It also argues that recruitment in the UK is hampered because staff suitable for lecturer roles frequently already hold professorial positions.
The consultation suggests that Oxford is not moving to a US model but is rather attempting to be better understood “across the globe”.
However, according to Linda Evans, professor of leadership and professional learning at the University of Leeds, this claim “doesn’t really wash” as many European academic titles equate to those still prevalent in the UK.
Professor Evans also questioned whether Oxford would regret losing out on applications from people who had not shown “the intelligence and initiative” to investigate what its academic titles actually represent.
“And if [that were a problem], then wouldn’t a simple asterisked explanation on job adverts do the trick?” she added.
In the same document, the committee also calls for views on whether the university should introduce a pay rise of £2,600 a year for all professors from 2014-15. Currently, professors without endowed or statutory professorships receive no additional benefits over lecturers.
Staff have until 22 April to comment on both proposals.