Academic Ranks in the United Kingdom

Academic ranks in the United Kingdom are the titles, relative importance and power of professors, researchers, and administrative personnel held in academia.

In the United Kingdom, like most Commonwealth countries (excluding Australia and Canada), as well as in Ireland, traditionally a professor held either an established chair or a personal chair. An established chair is established by the university to meet its needs for academic leadership and standing in a particular area or discipline and the post is filled from a shortlist of applicants; only a suitably qualified person will be appointed. A personal chair is awarded specifically to an individual in recognition of their high levels of achievements and standing in their particular area or discipline. In most universities, professorships are reserved for only the most senior academic staff, and other academics are generally known as 'lecturers', 'senior lecturers' and 'readers' (in some Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the title 'associate professor' can be used instead of 'reader'). In some countries, senior lecturers are generally paid the same as readers, but the latter is awarded primarily for research excellence, and traditionally carries higher prestige. Traditionally, heads of departments and other senior academic leadership roles within a university were undertaken by professors.

During the 1990s, however, the University of Oxford introduced Titles of Distinction, enabling their holders to be termed professors or readers while holding academic posts at the level of lecturer. This results in a two-tier professoriate, with statutory professors - or named chairs - having higher status than the relatively recently created category of titular professors. Similar hierarchies among the professoriate exist in a small number of other UK universities. The University of Exeter, University of Reading, University of Warwick and Kingston University have adopted the style of 'associate professor' in lieu of 'reader'. The varied practices these changes have brought about have meant that academic ranks in the United Kingdom and in Australia are no longer quite as consistent as they once were. The same trend to move towards the North American system is also observed in the former British colony of Hong Kong. Academic ranks there are now becoming more consistent again, with The University of Hong Kong, the oldest university in the territory, having switched to the North American system.

In general in the UK the title of 'professor' is reserved for full professors; lecturers and readers are properly addressed by their academic qualification (Dr for a PhD, EdD etc. and Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms otherwise). In New Zealand and Singapore associate professors are by courtesy addressed as "Professor". In official functions, however, associate professors are addressed as doctor or associate professors and not professors. As in the USA, the title of 'professor emeritus' may be awarded to a retired or former professor, who may well retain formal or informal links with the institution where the chair was formerly held.

Named professorships
Many professorships are named in honour of a distinguished person or after the person who endowed the chair. Some chairs have a long history and considerable prestige attached, such as the Gresham professorships, which date back to the 16th Century, Regius professorships or the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Some academic societies and professional institution also award or designate certain post holders or members as 'professor' usually being personal awards. The College of Teachers, formerly the College of Preceptors, is a long-standing example of this as are the amalgamated bodies included in the Society of Teachers in Business Education.

Professors of music - music teachers
Somewhat confusingly, instructors at many music conservatoires in the UK are known as professors; for example 'professor of violin'. This designation is quite different from the standard British use of the term and has more in common with the American usage, where the term is applied to any instructor at a college or university. Related to this usage, small-town music teachers, even if they held no degrees, were sometimes called "professors" in years past in the United States.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland the term 'professor' is properly and in formal situations given to singing and instrumental tutors in the music colleges / conservatories of music, usually the older and more august ones: The Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Trinity College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire. The expression has become almost obsolete for singing and instrumental tuition in the universities. The same convention applies throughout Europe in the National Colleges of Music.

Research and teaching career pathway (academic staff whose responsibilities encompass both research and teaching)
Reader (it is noted that Oxford has abolished this grade with no new appointments to this title) (associate professor in some institutions)
Senior lecturer (or principal lecturer in some post-1992 institutions) (not all universities have this title)
Lecturer, clinical lecturer (lecturer or senior lecturer in post-1992 inst.)
Assistant lecturer, demonstrator, seminar leader, associate lecturer, graduate teaching assistant, departmental lecturer

Research career pathway (academic staff whose main focus is research)
Professor or professorial research fellow/research professor; equivalent of professor
Senior research fellow; equivalent of senior lecturer or slightly higher, sometimes also encompassing the reader level
Research fellow; equivalent of lecturer
Research associate, research assistant; equivalent of associate lecturer

Teaching career pathway (academic staff whose main focus is essential teaching, educational needs, and for senior grades, often pedagogic research)
Professorial teaching fellow
Senior teaching fellow
Teaching fellow
Teaching associate

Emeritus ranks
Emeritus professor
Emeritus reader
Senior fellow

Visiting ranks (common titles for visiting academics)

Administrative ranks: England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
Chancellor (titular)
Pro-chancellor (titular)
Vice-chancellor (sometimes provost; increasingly 'vice-chancellor and chief executive officer' )
Deputy vice-chancellor
Deans of faculties
Heads of departments/schools
Department/school directors of studies

Administrative ranks: Scotland
Chancellor (titular)
Rector (ancient universities only)
Principal (who is also vice-chancellor)
Deputy principal
Deans of faculties
Heads of departments/schools
Department/school directors of studies, or personal tutors