This question is a follow-up on a comment at a recent question, where Dave Clarke mentioned that an acquaintance of his has "3 professorships and 2 doctorates".

  • How does a faculty member get appointed simultaneously by two or more universities? Are all except one honorary posts?
  • Can any faculty member work with a second university with the consent of his present employer? What are the conflicts of interests that come into play usually?

The situation I've seen most often is that a professor will hold a primary appointment at school A, where they have a lab and complete their research. Often for reasons related to collaboration, school B will then give the professor an appointment in a related if not identical department. If the professor also teaches a few courses at school C, they will likely be granted an adjunct position there as well.

This was my setup when I was in graduate school; I was a grad student in bioengineering at U Pitt, and I had a secondary appointment at CMU due to both lab collaborations and my being registered in a certificate program there.

  • Harvard/MIT/BU/Broad/Whitehead/MGH comes to mind. – bobthejoe Jun 13 '12 at 22:06
  • How about the salary? Paid in full at all univs? Or is the pay suspended at the primary univ? – Bravo Jun 14 '12 at 4:13
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    @Bravo - Most joint appointments are honorary/convenience titles, and do not come with pay (unless the faculty member takes on responsibilities, such as teaching). Adjunct teaching positions pay their own (typically pretty low) salary. – eykanal Jun 14 '12 at 11:23

Another common scenario happens when a professor leaves university X for university Y, but still has grants and PhD students at university X. In that situation, it's fairly common for university X to keep the faculty member on the books without pay, possibly with the word "adjunct" added to their title, so that the students and the grants that pay them don't have to move from X to Y. (And to simplify the paperwork if the professor changes their mind and moves back to X.)

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    "changes their mind" ? yikes. – Suresh Jun 13 '12 at 15:39
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    Maybe it would be more politic to say "in case, when the professor finally makes up their mind, they decide to stay". – JeffE Jun 13 '12 at 19:26
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    Yes, singular "they". If it was good enough for Shakespeare.... – JeffE Jun 13 '12 at 19:26
  • No I was merely surprised that people change their minds. Faculty moves are painful. – Suresh Jun 13 '12 at 20:02
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    It's not unusual for very highly sought after researchers to take a job for a year to try it out and then possibly keep the old job. It's not something that should be abused, or done often, but it's hardly the worst thing ever. – Noah Snyder Jun 19 '12 at 17:55

Here in the Netherlands it is relatively common to appoint somebody as a professor for one day a week. For instance, one of the colleagues is 4 days a week at our university and 1 day a week at a different university. Another colleague is 4 days a week working for a company, and works at the university only on Mondays.


A common scenario I've observed is where University A offers a job to a professor at University B, a far less prestigious and well-connected institution, but the professor and his/her family wish to remain in the location of University B for personal reasons. If the professor is good enough, University A may agree to a half-time or similar arrangement, where the professor is only on-campus for one semester per year (usually 4 months).


In addition to the excellent answers given above, here are some reasons I've seen for professors to get an appointment at a different university (or to retain an appointment when they moved):

  • They're a major part of a center at University A, and University A really doesn't want 'Co-Director of the A Center for Really Important Research' to be listed as a faculty member elsewhere.
  • Weird university tradition. For example, my university automatically gives all outside readers on a dissertation committee an appointment at the school. It's utterly meaningless, but technically its a thing.
  • Collaboration, grants, etc. are sometimes easier if everyone is technically faculty at the same school, and schools will sometimes bring in a professor from another nearby university to "shore up" a program, allow for easier mentorship if a professor keeps appearing on grad student committees, etc.

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