In the United States, we use the title Professor or Prof. (in writing) for all faculty at the assistant, associate and full professor levels.

In the United Kingdom, we use the title only for the most senior level of faculty.

So, if an assistant or associate professor from the United States moves to the United Kingdom, should they stop using the title? What if it is for a short time (like a semester sabbatical?)

I can see an argument for both sides. On the one hand, if you use that title in the United Kingdom (especially in writing) others will assume you are a full professor, which could be considered misleading. On the other hand, other titles are kept: in the United States, people still say "Sir Patrick Stewart" even though the "Sir" doesn't have any official meaning in the United States.

There is a related question here but it doesn't address the issue of moving from one place to another.

  • 4
    Anecdotally, I'm not sure how standard it is to use the 'Prof' honorific in writing if you're not a full professor in the US. In a quick skim of a half dozen recent e-mails from US colleagues, none of the associate or lower professors signed their e-mail "Prof X". Typically it's "Dr X, Associate Prof in Y" or similar. Aug 2 at 12:04
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    'Sir' doesn't have much official meaning in the UK either!
    – Laurence
    Aug 3 at 11:28
  • 1
    For a sabbatical, you would usually keep the title, but it would be made clear that you are a professor elsewhere and not at the university you are doing your sabbatical at. Aug 3 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


Assuming you want to avoid confusing people I'd suggest using local terminology. This will also avoid the possibility of charges of inflating your qualifications.

There is a formal "title" of professor, granted by a university. There is also informal usage meaning "university teacher". They are conflated in the US, but not elsewhere. Don't assume that all will be well.

The knighthood designations, on the other hand, are generally understood in the US for what they are. It is also generally recognized that they confer no privilege here. It is quite different going the other way with the formal title of professor. Just. Say. No.

  • I have seen email signatures from UK academics with the American equivalent (e.g. "Associate Professor", definitely not just "Professor") appended in brackets. Maybe that's because "Reader", the one I'm thinking of, really doesn't mean anything out of context ("Senior Lecturer" is probably clear enough).
    – Chris H
    Aug 3 at 10:53
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    (Detail: knighthoods don't actually confer any privilege in the UK, either, but are 'what a good boy/girl you are!'. For arts and sciences, they confirm you're actually part of The Establishment, Sir Patrick; for very senior civil servants, they confirm a lack of major screwups (and you've never heard of any of these folk); for senior military, not too substantial a career death-toll (or at least not on our side); for politicians, they indicate you crawled to the right folk (yes, I'm looking at you, 'Sir' Jacob Rees-Mogg)). Aug 3 at 11:00

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