Junior professing

So here we go, then. Trinity College Dublin is looking for some junior law lecturers. But that’s not what the College is saying: its announcement suggests they are looking for two ‘Assistant Professors’. Anyone studying the further particulars may get a sense that the successful candidate is likely to be nearer the beginning than the end of their career, but then again, there is no explicit statement in there to point out that these ‘professors’ are different from those that might work in other Irish universities.

Of course all this is a consequence of the College’s decision, mentioned here some time ago, that from now on all its lecturing staff will be ‘professors’ of one kind or another. While there are one or two other universities in these islands (Warwick and Nottingham specifically) that have adopted a similar practice, for now most have not. I confess I have no strong views in the matter one way or another, but believe that such changes should be made system-wide, not by individual institutions. No matter how good those institutions think they are. Bless them.

*****

PS. A colleague commenting on this post on Twitter has drawn attention to something even more baffling. Leeds University is converting senior lecturers and Readers to ‘Associate Professors’, but is not allowing holders of these posts to call themselves by that title, internally or externally:

‘As part of this process existing Senior Lecturers or Readers will be allowed to retain their existing title or can choose to switch to the new title.  Grade 9 staff in research focused roles may be able to transfer to the Associate Professor title where they can demonstrate that they have made a sufficient contribution to learning and teaching and teaching focused staff may be able to transfer to the new title where they can demonstrate a sufficient contribution to research or scholarship.

The Associate Professor title is linked to the role and not an individual title.  Individuals will continue to be addressed as ‘Dr X’ or other appropriate title and would not be expected to present themselves as ‘Associate Professor X’ (or ‘Professor X’) internally or externally.’

So what  on earth is the point of that?

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8 Comments on “Junior professing”


  1. “So what on earth is the point of that?”

    Would it affect rankings, perchance? “Last year we have 10 Asst Profs, this year we have 400! Trebles all round for the Governing Body and a bonus for the CEO… ahem… Principal.”

  2. Anna Notaro Says:

    The belief that such changes should be made system-wide, not by individual institutions is quite reasonable, however changes such as this one are not at all surprising given the pressure universities (and their leaders) are under to present themselves as ‘distinctive’ from one another…

  3. cormac Says:

    I wonder do they realise that in Harvard, MIT and most American colleges an Assistant Professor is *really* an assistant, i.e. takes the tutorials and marks the exam papers for the Professor.

    I was offered an Assistant Professorship in the History of Science at Harvard last year – the leader of our research group asked me not to take it up as she saw it as unimportant. Now I wish I had if only to mislead European academia!

  4. otto Says:

    “such changes should be made system-wide, not by individual institutions”

    A recipe for paralysis and conservatism if ever there was one. The fewer decisions that need to be made system-wide, the better. Indeed, if a university can’t make this sort of change unilaterally, you have a very limited view indeed of their appropriate autonomy.

    “I wonder do they realise that in Harvard, MIT and most American colleges an Assistant Professor is *really* an assistant, i.e. takes the tutorials and marks the exam papers for the Professor.”

    No they are not. Assistant Professors at H, MIT and other US universities are tenure-track researchers and instructors, on $50-80,000+/year. I think you are confusing them with Teaching Assistants (who often mark exam papers for Assistant Professors).

  5. kevin denny Says:

    Yes the change should have been system wide as its a mess now. TCD may have reckoned that they may as well steal a march & let the others follow. I suspect UCD will follow soon and then the others will have to tag along.
    I find it both funny and irritating to see fairly junior TCD staff being referred to in the media as “Trinity professor”.
    The problem is that our system of jobs does not match that closely to the North American. A college lecturer is not remotely equivalent to an Assistant Professor. So Americans will be very puzzled to meet Irish academics who are “still” Assistant Professors while apparently well established in their careers.
    The Leeds University approach seems particularly half-assed.

  6. cormac Says:

    Wah! Otto is absolutely right, apologies. I have confused a TA with an Assoc Prof, how could I have forgotten? My mistake

    Re Trinity, I still think it’s a teeny bit cheeky. I presume part of the idea is to attract the best young academics, but they do that anyway…

  7. Kathrin Says:

    I am a univeristy lecturer in Australia – most universities here have 5 academic ‘ranks’ – associate lecturer, lectuer, senior lecturer, associate professor, professor. Some universities here (but only a few) have gone to Assistant Professor / Associate Professor / Professor. On the one hand I think it’s just a title, but on the other hand, a senior lecturer at my uni may be the equivalent of an associate professor somewhere else. So when applying for jobs at a different university, it could make a difference if the university you are seeking a job with doesn’t fully understand what the levels are equivalent to.

  8. video ızle Says:

    UCD will follow soon and then the others will have to tag along.
    I find it both funny and irritating to see fairly junior TCD staff being referred to in the media as “Trinity professor”.


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