Looking at the list of academic ranks on Wikipedia shows that the same academic rank/title can mean quite different things in different countries. For instant, a "research assistant" in the US can stand for an undergrad student doing an internship, while in the UK it can stand for a postdoc. Similarly, the term "lecturer" might stand for a permanent position (e.g. in the UK) or for a teaching assistant position, open to graduate students.

However, when thinking about it, there are not so many kind of possible positions (permanent or not, with teaching or not, with research or not, with PhD supervision or not, with team responsibility or not, etc), and having a clear title could help a lot (for instance, in my case, I've been working in four different countries, with a different job title each time!).

  • Is there some kind of official taxonomy that one could refer to?
  • If not, who could be in charge to create it? (the EU, if only for intra-Europe mobility?)
  • An ontology would be even nicer than a taxonomy. The domain seems to be complex enough to need an ontology.
    – Trylks
    Jun 26, 2016 at 12:25
  • C. S. Lewis was for several decades a "tutor" in English literature at Oxford, where that title was considered to belong to persons who had permanent positions. In English universities the title of "professor" seems to be more exalted than that of respected academics who have permanent positions, and Lewis got that title by leaving Oxford for Cambridge. Understanding the word "tutor" is not unrelated to understanding the word "tuition". In the U.S., it seems as if it may have been a century or more ago that the word "tuition" came to mean money paid by a student to a university in.... Sep 3, 2019 at 5:10
  • .....consideration for the privilege of being a student. (I use the word "consideration" in the lawyers' sense of that word). Sep 3, 2019 at 5:11
  • But I have the impression that the older meaning of "tuition" persists in some parts of the English-speaking world. Sep 3, 2019 at 5:11
  • . . . . . . . and what sort of academic position does "Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben" refer to? Sep 3, 2019 at 5:25

2 Answers 2


In general, the answer is negative.

Not only there are different systems in different countries (and same-spelled degrees may have different requirements), but even if a degree seems to be the same, it is not necessary considered equivalent.

Often universities and institutes have some freedom in the interpretation of degrees earned in other countries. Common sense can be a good guide but in case of doubt you need to check if university (or institute) X accepts a foreign academic title Y instead of their Z.

For example, when I obtained degrees licencjat (3 years undergraduate, 180ECTS) and magister (5 years undergraduate, 300ECTS) from a Polish university, they refused to translate it into anything else (stating explicitly that it is not equivalent to anything else). However, some other Polish universities do translate it into Bachelor of Science and Master of Science, respectively. Nevertheless, my new institute didn't have problem to find them qualifying me for their PhD program.

  • 2
    If I'm not mistaken, your answer seems to be more on academic degrees rather than "job" title or ranks. But that's a very good example actually, since there has been in Europe a real effort to standardize all the degrees, for instance to follow the Bachelor/Master/PhD structure. So, even if it doesn't translate, at least you have the ECTS, which are enough if you want to move around.
    – user102
    Feb 25, 2012 at 17:29
  • I understood your question. However, I've shown even that in the beginning the titles are not completely equivalent (and in the EU it may be matter of naming/bureaucracy, but UE->US and even in (UE->UK) sometimes different instituted do have different translations). In the later stages it gets even more complicated, as often there are positions, or titles, which have no direct counterpart in other country. Feb 27, 2012 at 8:34
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    One should note that in the EU there is now the Bologna Process which precisely aims to eliminate the distinctions. The success and the reception of that process, however, is a completely different matter of discussion. Feb 28, 2012 at 10:17
  • @WillieWong I know, so I was even more surprised. However, I am not into law/regulations and there may be between degrees being equivalent and degrees being sufficient to continue education in other countries. Feb 28, 2012 at 11:20
  • WRT the example, it is a sensible issue. E.g. Titles in Spain were Licenciado and Diplomado for 5 and 3 years respectively. With Bologna, Bachelor is 4 years, and Master is 1 more year, at first they equated Licenciado with Bachelor, and after 5 years of "consideration" they decided to equate Licenciado with Bachelor + Master.
    – Trylks
    Jun 26, 2016 at 12:23

As the answer of Piotr Migdal says, there is not really a generally accepted consensus on this.

However, the OECD defines certain grades to rank academic positions/titles in their 2015 Frascati Manual (on page 275). They give some examples of titles that fit in these grades. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics apparently also recommended these grades to be used and added some additional examples of titles, these I've italicized below.

  • Category A: The single highest grade/post at which research is normally conducted. Examples: “Full professor” or “Director of research”
  • Category B: Researchers working in positions not as senior as top position (A) but more senior than newly qualified doctoral graduates. Examples: “Senior researcher” or “Associate professor” or “Principal investigator”
  • Category C: The first grade/post into which a newly qualified doctoral graduate would normally be recruited. Examples: "Assistant professor” or “Post-doctoral fellow” or “Researcher” or “Investigator”
  • Category D: Either doctoral students who are engaged as researchers, or researchers working in posts that do not normally require a doctorate degree. Examples: “PhD students” or “junior researchers”

Obviously, these are not very widely used (at least in my experience), but at least it gives you some feeling of the relative levels and something to fall back on in case someone questions the seniority grade you claim.

It also clearly shows the large discrepancy between the U.S., where even a post-doctoral level could have a title with "professor" in it, and Europe, where "professor" is usually the highest or almost highest academic title you can have.

  • Why the downvote?
    – Lu Kas
    Jan 19, 2021 at 15:13

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