There is legislative proposal in our small country (Republic of Latvia, Baltic Country, European Union) that proposes to allow elected associate professors, full professors and provosts of the research universities to be without doctorate (e.g. PhD or MD or other doctorate). The authors of proposal are saying that anglo-saxon and Western European countries have tradition (even Stanford University) to have such positions filled with persons not having doctorate.

I can not believe this. Doctorate degree is so common in academia, I can understand that only junior lecturers and assistant professors can be without doctorate (with mandatory master degree). But starting from associate professors - degree should be a must in science and medical studies.

Is there clarification available under which circumstances the Continental Western European research universities allow associate, full professors and provosts to be without doctorate (e.g. PhD or MD) (I mean specifically doctorate in medicine, and no just the professional qualification).

My question applies specifically to the Continental Western Europe starting from Germany and Austria and going to the West. My question applies to the research and technical universities, not the Tertiary Art education (in which it is fair to have professional degrees). The previous version of this question applied to Anglo-Saxon countries as well but I was reminded about similar US specific question, as well as there were comments about distinct UK traditions. So - there are a lot of information on Academia site about US and UK, so, I narrowed this question to the laws and practices of Continental Western Europe. I edited question once more - I replaced wording "PhD/MD" with "doctorate". Of course, my question is about doctorate generally, not about particular type of doctorate as PhD or MD.

If this question gathers enough proof that such legislative proposal is contrary to the traditions of the Western Universities, then I can bring this proof to the authors of the proposed legislation to question their true intentions.

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    I think a lot of countries have exceptions for art schools and musical conservatories, which in many systems are grouped with universities. But I don't think that is what you had in mind. And in a research university you would never hire anyone without a sufficiently strong research background, which then could be used to grant them a PhD anyway, if you want them desperately enough. Karl Weierstrass would be a good historical example for this.
    – mlk
    Mar 29, 2021 at 10:26
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    Note that in the UK, the terms associate and assistant professor are not commonly used. The "ranks" of permanent academic staff are lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor, and the conversion from one naming convention to the other may not be well-defined. Mar 29, 2021 at 10:40
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    Maybe we should set up a reference question about the mapping(s) between lecturer-senior lecturer-reader-professor and assistant professor-associate professor-professor? Mar 29, 2021 at 15:47
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    @DanielHatton There is at least a UK US comparison here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/48977/… and a bit of an attempt at a broader take here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/428/… Probably others too, these were just my first finds. Of course it's a bit complicated because the mappings will never be 1:1.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 29, 2021 at 17:53
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    Thanks, @BryanKrause. I've added an extra answer with some new data to the first of those two questions. Mar 29, 2021 at 21:05

4 Answers 4


It's pretty rare, but it looks like the University of Cambridge recently appointed someone without a doctorate to the Rouse Ball Professorship of English Law, and I've seen advertisements for associate-professor level vacancies in Engineering (in the UK) that call for either a Ph.D. or Chartered Engineer status, but not necessarily both.

The "Order of seniority of graduates" of the University of Cambridge (which primarily decides who's at the front and who's at the back in ceremonial processions) contains a special category for Professors who are not Doctors, which kind of implies that such people must exist.

ETA: I see the question has now been edited in such a way that this is no longer an answer to it.


In France, in order to be allowed to apply for a "Maître de Conférences" position (~=Associate Professor), one must either have a PhD or have 3 years of professional activity (excluding teaching and research) during the last 6 years. See this link (in french) for more details. There is a similar rule for Professor positions (habilitation or 5 years of professional activity during the last 8 years).

Therefore, in France, there may be Associate Professors or Professors who do not have a doctorate. Note that, however, most of them do.


In certain regions of Germany, you need a habilitation (above a PhD) to get a top-level W3 professorship, though there is wiggle room for "equivalent qualifications". See for example https://inspirehep.net/jobs/1854066.

In the UK, Cambridge is recruiting the Stephen W. Hawking Professor of Cosmology, who must hold "a PhD or equivalent postgraduate qualification": https://inspirehep.net/jobs/1849843.

So it looks like the answer to your question is that it is possible to get such a job without a PhD. In practice, I think it is quite rare.

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    I don't think these are counterexamples, actually. There are valid and accepted research doctorates that aren't called PhD.
    – Buffy
    Mar 31, 2021 at 14:53
  • By "or equivalent qualifications", they mean DPhil instead of PhD. However, DPhil = PhD, so there's no counter-example here.
    – Nik
    Dec 24, 2021 at 21:57

Academia has turned into a meat grinder and generally people who have a PhD will try to keep people without a PhD out purely because they didn't go through the same process.

There continues to be an inflation of qualifications for every area, classically a PhD was not needed not valued- Newton didn't have a doctorate nor did many important scientists in the past that worked at universities.

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    Seventeenth century credentialing isn't relevant to the Q at hand Mar 30, 2021 at 16:14
  • No, but it's worth understanding how requirements have changed and what has driven that change. In many of the other linked answers the same answer is essentially given. Mar 30, 2021 at 16:16
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    This answer unnecessarily assumes ulterior motives where there probably aren't any. In any field, organizations try to hire candidates that have the best and most relevant expertise for the job. In academia, people don't get hired for having a PhD, but for having a strong research profile. That most people with a strong research profile also have a PhD is a byproduct of the fact that a PhD is a 3-5 year research traineeship. Apr 2, 2021 at 7:13
  • Academics have always been more interested in the process and the formalities associated with it than the result. This is why most scientific papers are not reproducible and why the name of the university is generally more important then the specifics of someone's work for hiring. What I wrote isn't even debatable. Apr 2, 2021 at 12:19

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