I have been an full time appointed research professor most of my career (until 2017) in UK and Australia. I still work in a small business as CEO working exclusively with academic clients. I also have one 'staff' university based appointment but at senior Lecturer level to do a particular part time role. I have also been appointed Visiting Professor at 3 UK universities and adjunct professor at one Australian university. All 4 of these are current and official. Can I use the term professor across all of my roles? Is there anywhere that verifies or precedents? Be glad of all and any advice.

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    "Can I use the term" -- you need to specify the context. Can you call yourself professor when ordering at MC Donald's? Can you call yourself professor to apply for full-time tenure-track job? Feb 22 at 22:20
  • Thanks for those details and in which role(s)are you not a legitimate professor? Feb 26 at 21:21
  • thanks everyone. - considering my work roles not personal Throughout my academic long career I have been 'full professor' (not used in the Uk but I understand what it means) - through the ranks and legitimately appointed, last post was (full) professor A I now have several visiting Professor posts (appointed appropriately ways-sponsorship and committee decisions. Now I also have an internal appointment not professorial - the job description ( doctoral supervision and examination) how do people use VP titles in that situation. no real agreement, ? maybe some custom and practice Mar 1 at 11:04
  • really appreciate the discussions and views thanks everyone. Mar 1 at 11:09

5 Answers 5


The traditional etiquette is that Professor is a Rank or title, not a job. Once you have that rank, it stays with you for life, the same way military titles or royal honors stay with you for life.

The difficulty is that in recent years, universities have muddied the water by giving people job titles with the word professor in them, when the person themself is not a full professor in rank, in order to more closely mirror the situation in the US.

Prof is also a title that is entirely based on etiquette - it is not legally protected in any way, so in theory, any one is free to use it.

I would look at it it this way:

  • You can still be a professor, even if you currently hold a contract as a Senior Lecturer at a university. This is not relevant.
  • While you might call yourself a professor on the basis of a visiting professorship (and I know people who do), I think many people would look down on this.
  • So really it comes down to the status of your "research professorship". I'm not really sure that I know what the status of a research professorship is, it's not really a title I've come across before. If you think this was a "full" professorship, then I would feel free to use the title. Things you might think about is whether you were entitled sit on the academic senate of your university? did you have an inauguration? Would you have been entitled to emeritus status if you had stayed? If it is something that you feel was equivalent, then I'd feel free to continue to use the title. If not I wouldn't. I'd note that there is no real right or wrong answer here, and it will be a judgement call.

If in doubt, its probably worth considering @MaartenBuis's advice that its better to undersell than oversell.

  • @trunk I didn't say it wasn't a real title, just that it wasn't one of come across before. No one walk around referring to David Strutt as "research professor". He's just 'professor'to everyone here. That probably does answer the question about the status of research professors, but I'm not sure what the purpose of that tone is. Feb 22 at 23:37
  • I suppose it indicates Prof Strutt and the like, while they may well have some lecturing responsibilities (unlike their US counterparts), their main function is their research and management of research in their fireld. The rank/pay/governance/etc implications I have no knowledge of. The purpose of my "tone" is humour.
    – Trunk
    Feb 22 at 23:46
  • It is perhaps also relevant in today's academia - particularly in the sciences - that those worthy professors not involved with campus technology transfer start-ups are not made to feel inferior for not doing so. The according of the title Research Professor to the ones getting write-ups in the local paper for their start-ups in a way protects the others from unfair comparison: the success of the former group is just what they are there to do, in a sense.
    – Trunk
    Feb 22 at 23:58
  • @trunk as DanielHatton notes elsewhere, I'm pretty sure Prof Strutts title is in part in recognition of the fact that his salary is entirely paid for by the Wellcome trust, and the uni makes no claim in his time for teaching because they don't pay him. It will be interest to see what happens as the Wellcome Trust have discontinued their senior fellows program, i expect he will revert to being just "professor". Feb 23 at 0:28
  • @trunk interestingly everyone i know locally that has a start up, is a traditional Research & Teaching staff, who have their teaching load, same as the rest of us. Feb 23 at 0:30

Many Universities appoint Assistant Professors (~Lecturer in the UK) and Associate Professors (~Senior Lecturer in the UK), but if you hold such posts you normally do not put Prof Surname on your card, as this title is reserved for (full) Professors.

Similarly, a role of a Visiting Professor normally does not compare with actually being a Professor.

There are surely people working in industry who try to impress their peers with a fancy title, but it is quite easy to verify whether it is deserved or self-proclaimed.

  • But what about someone with the title Research Professor?
    – Dawn
    Feb 22 at 16:00
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    I never heard of rank, post or title of Research Professor before. I have no idea what this particular job involved and how does it compare to a traditional full Professor at a University. Feb 22 at 16:19
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    @DmitrySavostyanov I think it usually means a full professor who has external funding to buy them out of all or almost all teaching and management duties: see, e.g., here. Feb 22 at 17:15
  • @DanielHatton In this case one can be a Research Professor in the UK for the duration of their Research Fellowship (1-5 years). One normally can't be appointed as a Research Professor indefinitely. Feb 22 at 17:44
  • A research professor is what is formally called "Professor (ASR)", i.e. a professor with primarily research responsibilities, see here
    – Luca Citi
    Feb 23 at 4:01

I would look at it from the point of view of what happens if you get it wrong.

  • If you choose not to use the professor title and someone finds out that you are entitled to use it, then pretty much nothing happens.
  • If you choose to use the professor title and someone finds out that you are not entitled to use it, then that is embarrassing.

I was in a situation where it was unclear whether or not I could use a professor title. I chose not to, and a colleague in the same situation chose to use the title. A couple of years later, the situation was clarified and the colleague had to remove all mentions of her/him as a professor. Consensus among colleagues is that (s)he acted in good faith; the law was just unclear. Still it is embarrassing and I am very happy about my choice not to use the professor title.


It's not a protected title... Ronnie Pickering could call himself Prof Pickering if he wanted to.

Tradition would dictate that once you've held a full profressorship in any role, you keep the title for life regardless of what role you currently hold.

However, in my experience, using this title in a non-academic context would be a bit of a faux pas and just come off as pretentious. Most people with doctorates don't insist on being called Dr Jones in a professional context anymore, they just use their name and that is an actual, protected, title.


We are all forgetting the obvious solution to OP's "problem".

In UK/IRL you have two kinds of professor.

(1) A departmental chair - meaning an appointment to certain positions, e.g. Head of Department or any other endowed professorship within the department, which automatically carry an academic rank and salary of Professor and will entitle one to have Professor A.N. Other printed on his/her door and stationary.

(2) A special chair - meaning an attainment of distinction (usually for research and/or teaching) over a period of 10 - 20 years within a field of their department and which entitle an attainee to use the title Professor before their name but which does not automatically give them any increase in academic rank or salary.

As OP has attained some distinction in his career, I am surprised that he/she did not "negotiate" a special chair for themselves when being appointed to Senior Lecturer rank in the UK university. As the SL job is the main one, use of Professor with their name would then be free of problems, I think.

So, OP, please have a word with your HoD at the main job.

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    This is simply untrue; I'm not aware of any such distinction between "departmental chairs" and "special chairs" -- I hold a UK university professorship myself and I am genuinely unable to work out which of your supposed categories I fall into. Feb 22 at 22:00
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    Seconding @DavidLoeffler's comment: colleagues in England and Scotland don't report this structure. I don't know about Wales. Conceivably Trunk's experience in Ireland is different. Feb 22 at 22:37
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    At most UK universities I am familiar with, becoming a professor does include a salary increase as you come off the fixed payscales. Feb 22 at 22:37
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    @Trunk Your unflappable confidence that you know my the details of my employment contract better than I do is ... interesting. (Is it possible that your information is a little out of date? What you describe would have been reasonably accurate in UK universities maybe 30-40 years ago, but academia has changed a great deal since then.) Feb 23 at 7:10
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    @Trunk I think this particular structure of chairs/honorary roles is quite specific to a few UK universities (e.g. Oxford as mentioned above). At my university, "Professor" is, for all intents and purposes, simply the staff grade above Reader. Progression to the grade is effectively the same as at lower ranks (albiet with a little more documentation) and they have an defined payscale. But there's not e.g. restrictions on being a HoD or holding specific pre-existing 'chairs' as in some places, and there's no honorary structure to be a Professor while also being a Senior Lecturer. Feb 23 at 13:38

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