Endowed professorship is very common, but the financial endowment normally comes from external sources. Is it also common that a professor/research endow his/her position to establish a research group in the target university?

It should be an excellent approach for mid-level professors/researchers who can establish a research group in a top university (where it is normally hard to get that position) and get research fund from external sources such as industry and funding agencies.

This is of mutual benefit for both the university and professor, but I have not heard about such positions. Is it uncommon or just through private contracts?

UPDATE: Apparently, I confused endowed and named chair with research professor. I asked the question about research professor here. However, I still do not see a contradiction between research professor and self-endowed professor. Does a endowed chair must be necessary result of a huge donation to university? or a foundation can merely fund a professor position. If it is the latter case, one should be able to fund his own endowed position too.

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    As for your update. An endowed position must by definition be based on an endowment. Technically, one could create an endowed position with many small contributions (I think I might have a go at crowdfunding an endowed chair). – StrongBad Sep 13 '13 at 16:47

Endowed professorship typically are the result of a large donation of money to the university that allows them to fully fund a position in perpetuity based on the earnings on the initial donation. This is generally much larger than what an individual can bring in from external sources. If you manage to bring in that type of income, you will likely have little problem obtaining a permanent position.

I am aware of one independently wealthy individual who made a large enough donation to establish his own professorship. Basically he spent a small fraction of his wealth (which would be a large fraction of the wealth of most academics) to become a full professor with minimal teaching and service duties. His research was funded from his charitable foundation and I believe the foundation paid the standard overhead rates. He was reasonably productive throughout his entire career and probably could have obtained a professorship without using his personal wealth, but given the competitive nature of the job market and limited availability of positions, probably not at the institution of his choosing.

  • Oh, I interpreted the question differently (due to “get research fund from external sources such as industry and funding agencies”). – F'x Sep 13 '13 at 9:40
  • Regarding “one independently wealthy individual who made a large enough donation to establish his own professorship”, I think it creates somewhat of an ethical dilemma for the university… – F'x Sep 13 '13 at 9:40
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    @F'x I read it the same as you, but think it is a misuse of the term endowed chair. As for the ethical dilemma, it presents a big one, but individuals with a reasonable publication and teaching records and an outstanding record of bringing in grant money tend to be looked at favourably. – StrongBad Sep 13 '13 at 9:47
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    Just to put a dollar figure out there: It looks like it will run you about $2.5M to endow a chair for a full prof, $5M for a dean at Duke University. So, you too can be a Prof at Duke if you're willing to shell out 2.5 million bucks for it. dukeforward.duke.edu/ways-to-give/endowment/endowment-giving – user10636 Sep 6 '14 at 14:06
  • @shane I'd be very surprised if any reputable university would accept an endowment gift that comes with a stipulation that a particular individual be given the endowed chair, independently of the university's normal criteria for faculty appointments. (Indeed, if a university did allow such a stipulation, I'd probably stop thinking of it as reputable.) In other words, if I had a few million dollars to give away, I could endow a professorship, but I couldn't endow a professorship for myself. – Andreas Blass Mar 13 '15 at 15:28

What you describe sounds like a research professor in the US system:

A professor who does not take on all of the classic duties of a professor, but instead focuses on research. At most universities, research professors are not eligible for tenure and must fund their salary entirely through research grants, with no regular salary commitment from internal university sources. In parallel with tenure-track faculty ranks, there are assistant and associate research professor positions.

The obvious drawback is that it puts enormous pressure on grant finding, with no tenure and thus no job security.

  • This is exactly what I meant, but I was thinking that research professors have institutional salary, but the university does not allocate fund for their research. Instead, they need to earn it externally. – Googlebot Sep 13 '13 at 14:53

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