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UK Grad Student

The Lecturer -> Senior Lecturer -> Professor progression in the UK is comparable to the Assistant Professor -> Associate Professor -> Professor progression in the US. But I gather that a growing number of British institutions are replacing the former with the latter.


Oxford doesn't have Assistant Professors so 'entry level' is Associate Professor. 'Lecturers' at Oxford are college tutorial teachers and are fixed term teaching contracts.

Swedish postdoc

I'm Swedish. Swedish titles don't map neatly at all onto either Angloamerican system. I see Norway was discussed in the earlier thread, but I don't know a lot about their system, so I will focus on Sweden here.

Basically there are are two kinds of permanent positions: lektor ("lecturer") or professor ("full professor"). A lektor can however either be qualified as a "docent" (cf. the German "dozent") or not, depending on the extent of their scientific output post-PhD. This means you will have two kinds of lektors: those are docents and those who are not, where those who are not are roughly the equivalent of (non-senior) lecturers or assistant professors, whereas those who are docents are roughly the equvalent of readers or associate professors.

What has started to happen is however that lektor positions have been translated as senior lecturer or associate professor positions in English, even though I don't think they should qualify as either. It's a kind of title inflation or concept creep.

Harold Norwal

I see why the UK lecturer>senior lecturer>(reader)>professor cycle might look analogous to the US assistant>associate>professor cycle, and take the point about ‘docent’ being a possible way of distinguishing assistant-equivalent Swedish jobs from associate-equivalent. I’m not sure either analogy quite holds up in the way OP is after, though. (I’d think ‘biträdande lektor’ would be the best analog for ‘assistant professor’, with ‘lektor’ being ‘associate’, ‘docent’ not having a counterpart (or being ‘reader’ in UK terms), and ‘professor’ meaning the same.)

The thing I imagine people most care about is whether a job comes with the equivalent of tenure. In that sense, UK and Swedish lecturer positions both count. I have seen many people hired to UK lecturer positions right out of graduate school, and without a very extensive publication record. I don’t know how common this is a fraction of all lecturer hires in the UK, though, and I can think of many other cases in which people have been hired at that level with quite a few publications.

My sense is that to be competitive for a ‘lektor’ position in Sweden, i.e., a position that is permanent from the start, a candidate will likely have to have something like 3 papers in top-4 journals or 10 in top-20. Of course this is super rough, and committees take account of time since PhD, quality of the work (typically at least some members of a committee will read all of a candidate’s work, or 10 selected papers), trajectory, etc., but it seems to me from some experience working in Sweden that there’s less room for a committee to say ‘ah, so-and-so clearly has ‘star’ written on them, we should hire them immediately’ than in the UK, and much less than in the US.

Another UK

Whilst the UK Lecturer, Senior lecturer, Professor progression is similar to the U.S. Assistant/Associate/Full Professor progression I think it is worth noting that the UK doesn't (usually) have a tenure system in the way the U.S. has. As a result, UK lecturer is a far more secure position (closer to having tenure in the U.S.). Although there are exceptions to this, it is normal for people securing jobs in the UK to have some postdoctoral experience (either via a postdoc or a teaching fellowship) before landing a lectureship. The exceptions are usually people with U.S. PhDs who have spent a long time in grad school (compared to e.g. UK grads) meaning that their teaching and research records are often equivalent (or even better) than people with UK/EU PhDs+postocs.

As UK Grad student points out, a lot of UK institutions are adopting the U.S. nomenclature. My impression was that this is just a terminological change and that really a UK assistant professor is the same as a UK permanent lecturer (in terms of job security, salary, responsibilities etc.). But I could be wrong, I did see somebody in the UK tweeting about getting tenure the other day so maybe things are changing at some institutions.


@Swedish postdoc Thanks for this info!

I've seen Swedish positions for "Associate Lecturer" and "Assistant Lecturer". Can you shine any light on what those mean by UK/US standards?

Swedish postdoc

@Harold Norwal: I had thought 'biträdande lektor' meant (roughly) tenure track? I recall I've seen some position advertised as that which later was supposed to be turned into a permanent job. Whereas, on the other hand, lektor (without qualification) means you're tenured without additional assessments. But I admit I may be wrong here, 'biträdande lektor' is not a commonly advertised position in philosophy (unless I've missed a lot of ads!), so I'm not sure what all universities might mean with it.

@Postdoc: I can't say with full certainty without seeing the details of the ads, but given the above, I'd guess that assistant lecturer might mean biträdande lektor (i.e. tenure track-ish assistant prof) whereas associate lecturer could mean tenured lektor. But I don't know for certain.

(And, what's worse, to add to the confusion there is also 'vikarierande lektor', which is roughly VAP/Teaching Fellow except also including some reserach time, and 'gymnasielektor'. which means high school lecturer.)

Harold Norwal

@Swedish postdoc: Yes, precisely, I'm assuming 'assistant professor' typically means tenure track in the US system, and 'associate' means tenured, so that 'biträdande lektor' and 'lektor' line up well. But I haven't seen many of these, either, so it may not be super relevant for OP. But in case it comes up, it seems similar in that it'd be a possible line into a permanent job, but which isn't guaranteed permanent at the outset.

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