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In the United Kingdom a lecturer is usually the holder of a permanent position at a university or similar institution, often an academic in an early career stage, who teaches and also leads or oversees research groups. However in the United States, Canada and other countries influenced by their educational systems, the term is used differently and generally denotes academics without tenure who teach full or part time but who have few or no research responsibilities.
A Lecturer in UK universities usually holds a permanent position that involves carrying out both teaching and research. After a number of years, a Lecturer may be promoted and become a Senior Lecturer. This position is below Reader and Professor.
It is also common for 'temporary lecturers' to be appointed to cover specific short-term teaching needs; these positions are by-definition non-permanent and non-renewable and should be clearly distinguished from permanent lectureships. Some universities also refer to graduate students or others who undertake ad-hoc teaching for a department as 'lecturers' or' sessional lecturers'. In Oxford and Cambridge colleges the term lectureship always refers to such temporary positions (to be distinguished from 'university lectureships', which are permanent); some are very low paid (as little as £6000 p.a. in 2011-12). This can cause confusion, especially for academics from outside the British system, since it is important to understand in exactly which sense the term lecturer is being employed.
The position of permanent Lecturer does not map easily onto the American system. In terms of responsibilities and recognition, the position of a newly appointed Lecturer is similar that of an assistant professor, but many Lecturers are experienced researchers with many publications and their position is more equivalent to that of an associate professor in the North American universities and international universities that are modelled on the US higher-education system.
Traditionally a Senior Lectureship reflected prowess in teaching or administration rather than research and was far less likely to lead direct to promotion to professor. In recent years a Senior Lecturer has also had to demonstrate strong research prowess as well as sound teaching and administrative skills, but promotion to Reader is usually necessary before promotion to Professor. However Senior Lecturers and Readers are paid on the same salary scale and in many departments Senior Lecturers are comparatively senior staff.
Most permanent lecturers in the UK have a doctorate and often have postdoctoral research experience. In many fields a doctorate is now the prerequisite although historically this was not the case and some academic positions could have been held on the basis of research merit alone without a higher degree.
The New Universities (that is universities that were until recently termed polytechnics) have a slightly different naming scheme than that just described, in which the grades are lecturer, senior lecturer and principal lecturer, with the last corresponding to senior lecturer in the pre-1992 institutions.
The University of Warwick decided in 2006 to use the terminology assistant professor for lecturer, and associate professor for senior lecturers and readers. It was claimed that this was to make it easier to appoint staff from the US despite the fact that assistant professor generally refers to a non-tenured position in the US while at Warwick it is a permanent position (subject possibly to probation)., and that both readers and professors in the UK would correspond to professors in the US Nottingham has also adopted the same convention. At Reading job advertisements and academic staff web pages use the title associate professor, but the Ordinances of the university makes no reference to these titles and gives only procedures for conferring the traditional UK academic ranks.
The term lecturer is used in various ways across different US institutions, sometimes causing confusion. On a generic level, however, the term broadly denotes one who teaches at a university but is not eligible for tenure and has no research obligations. At non-research schools the latter distinction is of course less meaningful, making the absence of tenure the main difference. Unlike the adjective "adjunct" (which can modify most academic titles, from professor to lecturer to instructor, etc.), the title of lecturer itself at most schools does not address the issue of full-time v. part-time status. Lecturers almost always have at least a masters degree and quite often a doctorate. Sometimes the title is used as an equivalent-alternative to instructor but schools that utilize both titles tend to provide relatively more advancement potential to their lecturers.
It is becoming increasingly common for major research universities to hire full-time lecturers, whose responsibilities are primarily undergraduate education, especially for introductory/survey courses that involve large groups of students. These tend to be the courses that tenure-track faculty do not prefer to teach, and are unnecessarily costly for them to do so (at their comparatively higher salary rates). When a lecturer is part-time, there is little practical distinction from an adjunct professor, since neither has the prestige of being on the tenure-track. For full-time lecturers, many institutions now incorporate the role quite formally with performance reviews, promotional tracks, administrative service responsibilities, and many faculty privileges (e.g. voting, use of resources, etc.).
One emerging alternative to the use of full-time lecturers at research-heavy institutions is to create a parallel professorship track that's focused on teaching, which may or may not offer tenure, with a title series such as teaching professor. This would be analogous to how some universities have research-only faculty tracks with title series' such as "Research Professor/Scientist/Scholar."
It should also be noted, however, that the title is sometimes, paradoxically, used in just the opposite sense: in some institutions, a lecturer especially "Distinguished Lecturer" may also refer to a position similar to emeritus professor. Also, in some schools it's a temporary post for visiting academics of considerable prominence—e.g. a famous writer may serve for a term or a year, for instance. When confusion arose about Barack Obama's status on the law faculty at the University of Chicago, the institution stated that although his title was "Senior Lecturer," that school actually uses that title for notable people such as federal judges and politicians who are deemed of high prestige but simply lack sufficient time to commit to a traditional tenure-track position.
In Australia, the term lecturer may be used informally to refer to anyone who conducts lectures at a university or elsewhere, but formally refers to a specific academic rank. The academic ranks in Australia are similar to those in the UK but there is one additional rank. The academic levels in Australia are Associate Lecturer (academic level: A), Lecturer (B), Senior Lecturer (C), Associate Professor (D), and Professor (E).
In India one can appear for interviews for a post of a lecturer after passing the competitive exam of National Eligibility Test conducted by the University Grants Commission.
In other countries usage may vary unpredictably. For example, in Poland the related term lektor is a term used for a teaching-only position, generally for teaching foreign languages.
In France the title maître de conférences ("Lecture Master") is the lowest academic rank.
In German-speaking countries the term Lektor historically denoted a teaching position below a professor, primarily responsible for delivering and organizing lectures. The contemporary equivalent is Dozent or Hochschuldozent. Nowadays the German term Lektor exists only in philology or modern-language departments at German-speaking universities, for positions that primarily involve teaching a foreign language.
In Norway a Lektor is an academic rank, usually reached after three or five years of education, which enables a teacher to lecture at Ungdomsskole (Secondary school) or Videregående skole (high school) level.
In South Korea the term "Gangsa" is the literal translation of "Part-time lecturer". A Gangsa is usually part-time, paid by the number of hours of teaching. No research or administrative obligation is attached. In most disciplines Gangsa is regarded as a first step in one's academic career. In Korea the tenure position started from "Full-time Lecturer". The tenure position in South Korea is composed of "Full-time Lecture(JunImGangSa)", "Assistant Professor(JoKyoSu)", "Associate Professor(BuKyosu)" and "Professor(KyoSu)". Therefore "Full-Time Lecturer" is the same position as "Assistant Professor" in other countries, including the USA.
In Sweden a Lektor is an academic rank similar to senior lecturer in Great Britain and Associate Professor in USA. The Lektor holds the position below Professor in rank.
- University of London, Academic Promotion to Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor, Accessed 5th June 2011, 
- Times Higher Education - The rise and rise of PhDs as standard. www.timeshighereducation.co.uk. URL accessed on 2011-03-04.
- For example David Fowler retired as a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Warwick in 1990 without a doctorate. See obituary in The Independent.
- Graham Webb, Making the most of appraisal: career and professional development planning for lecturers, Routledge, 1994 (page 30) ISBN 0-7494-1256-9
- Lee Elliot Major, "Get the drinks. It's professor all round", Times Higher Education, 31 March 2006
- Georgina Copeland, Warwick Mathematics Institute Vacancies (web page), Last revised 2 Jun 2011, Accessed on 5th June 2011
- Section XI Election and Appointment to Professorships or Readerships or Senior Lecturerships. Ordinances of the University of Reading (2010-11). URL accessed on 18 December 2011.
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