Cambridge University is facing protests from some leading dons about the recent tripling in the number of readerships.
They fear that the policy of raising the proportion of readerships to the national average of readerships and senior lectureships is tantamount to introducing senior lectureships by the back door.
Senior academics told the vice chancellor this week that "the policy" to increase the number of readers from eight to 30 had been approved undemocratically and without the authority of the university at large.
Anthony Edwards, a reader in biometry since the 1970s, condemned the university's main executive committee for having "acted ultra vires".
He said the new policy was debasing the readership, causing it to lose its international status. Abroad "the lack of a professorial title was irrelevant to the standing of the individual because no one was made a reader in Cambridge whose name was not internationally known already," he said.
Dr Edwards also said Cambridge's policy was the latest "indignity" suffered by readers following the "shameful" erosion of the stipends, and the widespread use of the term in the former polytechnics.
University secretary general David Livesey said: "It has never been the intention of the university to introduce the senior lectureship by increasing the number of readers. The number of readers has been increased to take account of the number of scholars being proposed that merit promotion."