Elevated positions

October 26, 2017

As stated in your leader “A measure of humanity” (Opinion, 19 October): “The US higher education sector is the most diverse in the world.” Nevertheless, in contrast to the situation in the UK, there is a clear-cut and consistent transparency across the sector within the country regarding the hierarchy of titles and ranks among staff.

Some standardisation in titles in the UK’s higher education institutions would avoid the ambiguities and inconsistencies currently present, with their inherent risks of confusing or misleading people.

In particular, it is an absurdity that a holder of the title senior lecturer in one of the newer (post‑92) universities is the equivalent of a lecturer in any of the older universities; a number of UK universities including, for example, Exeter, Nottingham and Warwick, have begun in recent years to award the titles “associate professor” and “assistant professor” to those who are not of full professorial standing, whereas other universities such as Loughborough have not; and vice-chancellors, in addition to their ever-growing remuneration, are increasingly using multiple titles (with one or other of “president”, “provost”, “chief executive”, “warden” or “principal” being added to “vice-chancellor”) in many institutions.

It appears that grade inflation is not only evident in under-graduate examination results.

Richard Wilson
Emeritus professor 
Loughborough University

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