In my country (Vietnam), the professor title is bestowed by a national council. In Korean or USA, it is bestowed by the university. What about other countries (e.g. Japan, France, Germany, Australia, England, Russia)? And if the title is bestow by the university, is it still recognized when the person who hold the title move to other university?

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    I think your first question is very broad. We can't answer it for every country. – scaaahu Sep 18 '15 at 5:01
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    @ff524 In Taiwan, only the Department of Education has the authority to bestow the professorship. One needs to present his/her diploma and thesis/research papers to the government and then they determine if that person is qualified to teach at a university as an assistant/associate/full professor. You can't just declare yourself as a professor without government approval. If you do so, it's criminal offense. – scaaahu Sep 18 '15 at 5:22
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    Then the usage in Vietnam is different from the most common one. Typically, "professor" is used as a job title, like "chief executive officer", "secretary", or "assistant to the regional manager". Some university teachers are professors, some are not, but it is ultimately just a job rank distinction. – Federico Poloni Sep 18 '15 at 6:51
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    Adding to the mentioned problems with this question, there is a translation problem here. For example, the German word Professor is not the same as the English word professor: There are people in Germany who would (correctly) call themselves professor but cannot call themselves Professor. And that’s not even talking about this. So, we would not only need an answer for each country, but you would also need to define professor in a language- and system-independent way. – Wrzlprmft Sep 18 '15 at 8:15
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    @ff524: "And who has the right to tell me I don't have the right to do that?" - this is indeed a country-dependent matter, as scaaahu already alluded to. For instance, in Germany, the title "Professor" mentioned by Wrzlprmft is legally classified as an "academic title"/"employment title" that may be granted by certain institutions of tertiary education. Consequently, German criminal code applies, which declares that pretending to be a "Professor" without properly being granted the title is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment. ... – O. R. Mapper Sep 18 '15 at 12:54

In the United States, personal titles are almost never legally protected or regulated by the government. This is a strong cultural tradition going back through the origin of the nation, and is in fact encoded in the US Constitution, in the "Titles of Nobility" clause:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

In the US, then, in general anybody can call themselves any title they feel like, including Professor, Doctor, President, and Emperor. The title, per se, is only a matter of social convention and will be respected or disrespected based on whether other people believe a person deserves it. The law typically only gets involved from a perspective of fraud, false advertising, public endangerment, etc. if a person uses such a title to give a false impression of your skills and certifications. To illustrate the distinction: Dr. Dre is perfectly within his rights to use that name, but if he tried to give somebody a prescription, he could be arrested for practicing medicine without a license.

Thus, the US government does not name people professor (except incidentally, if it happens to be running the university, e.g. NWC). Typically universities name people "professor" as a job title, but in fact, anybody can call themselves a professor or set up their own fake university to be a professor at.


In France, the title of Professeur des Universités (as well as the lesser Maître de Conférences, another tenure-like position comparable to a lecturer) is defined by a decree of the President of the Republic. Both Professeurs and Maîtres de Conférences are State civil servants and depend on the Ministry of higher education, rather than on their university. They are officially named by a decree of the President of the Republic, but the actual decision process lies with academia:

  • A university advertises a professor's position when one of their professors retires, or when the government grants them a new position (pretty rare);
  • Prior to the selection process, candidates must be listed as "qualified" for the title of Professor in a given field by an official body, the national council of universities (Conseil National des Universités, CNU). Typically, it means that the candidate is a Maître de Conférences with enough experience, reputation and publications;
  • Candidates for each position are selected by a committee, which includes academics from said university, academics from other institutions and non-academics (of course this is France - and academia, so there are a lot more rules about the composition of those committees);
  • The president of the university elects a candidate based on the selection made by the committee (the first ranked is usually chosen, but politics may interfere in the process);
  • The next nomination decree lists the chosen candidate among the newly appointed Professeurs des Universités.

The process is the same for the Maîtres the Conférences, except that the conditions for the initial qualification are not the same (typically, a few publications and some teaching experience).

  • I suspect that many continental European countries may also have highly nationalized systems (though with many differences in details) due to the influence of the Napoleonic code on systems of government in continental Europe. Can people from other continental national confirm? – jakebeal Sep 18 '15 at 15:42
  • This process looks similar to my vague idea of what goes on in Spain. Professors are employees of a public entity, and thus the hiring is subjected to these procedures. – Davidmh Sep 18 '15 at 16:03

In Taiwan, you need to pass the Screening of Qualification on Teachers of Junior Colleges and Higher Levels by Ministry of Education to earn the title. In the page it says,

Assistant professors:

Those who apply for the screening of teacher qualification ... shall submit: Doctoral Award(s) or other equivalent certificate(s), transcripts and specialized publications ...

Assistant professors

Those who apply for the screening of teacher qualification ... shall submit: Doctoral Award(s) or other equivalent certificate(s), transcripts and specialized publications. ...


Those who apply for the screening of teacher qualification ... shall submit: Doctoral Award(s) or other equivalent certificate(s), relevant certificate(s) of seniority, transcripts and either one of the important contributions their creations, inventions have made to academia and their important specialized publications.

Those who apply for the screening of teacher qualification ... shall submit: Certificate(s) of Associate Professor, relevant certificate(s) of seniority, transcripts and specialized publications.


Those who are employed by schools and do the actual teaching are entitled to apply for the screening ...

The full-time teachers shall send the applications via the schools they serve ...


and then

Those who pass the screening of teacher qualification shall be conferred the teacher certificates; the format of the certificates shall be prescribed by the Ministry. The recognition of the seniority listed on teacher certificates shall be prescribed by the Ministry.

I could not find the document in English for moving to other universities at the moment. To the best of my knowledge, the title is transferable when you move to other universities.

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