I am interested in the differences between levels of professorships in the countries:

  • USA
  • UK
  • China
  • Germany

I read the Wikipedia Article about Professorship in United States but as far as I can tell - in the end - both take up the position of a professor:

  • for a (short) time - but tend to stay for quite a while, even if that is not the idea (both possibly receiving bad contracts)
  • which is non-tenure track,
  • are not involved in administrative tasks,
  • might come from a different university, but don't have to.

In an international context: What is the difference between an "adjunct professor" and a "visiting professor"?

Additionally: Which one is more prestigious?

  • Depends on the country, but it'd be clearer if you specified the actual terms and countries.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 9:00
  • @virmaior: I would like to know how it is handled internationally. If it is handled differently in different countries - I would like to know how it is handled in which country.
    – Make42
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 10:38
  • I have voted to close this as unclear because it cannot be answered without more information about the country than "not the US"
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:49
  • Probably "visiting" has a given term of service, whereas "adjunct" normally continues indefinitely. But neither is tenured, so can be fired at any time.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:53
  • @jakebeal: If you must know: Coming from Germany, going to China.
    – Make42
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 14:53

4 Answers 4


In the United States, "Adjunct Professor" is essentially an academic temp worker. They are typically paid very poorly, have no job security, and often live near or below the poverty line. They are often not well respected, particularly as many faculty perceive them as either a threat (administrators often use adjuncts to avoid making tenure-track appointments) or as a source of cheap labor.

A "Visiting Professor" on the other hand, typically means somebody who has a position elsewhere and is temporarily associated with the faculty, e.g., while on sabbatical or as a courtesy appointment for a person from industry who is teaching a course. A visiting professor might or might not draw any salary from the university, depending on the particulars of their appointment. Their status and degree of respect generally depend on their main position.

Note, however, that this vocabulary is not legally protected, and so some US institutions may change these titles around, particularly if they are seeking to camouflage the nature of an poorly paid post.

  • 1
    (Speaking for math) FYI, I've had several jobs as a "visiting professor" and I have had quite a few more interviews for these positions, and all of these had roughly beginning tenure track pay and teaching duties, although the teaching tended to be lower level courses. At more prestigious universities these tend to be filled by faculty on sabbaticals with research interests similar to someone there. However, at less prestigious colleges and universities, most of the applicants are those not in a tenure track position and most of the openings are due to unexpected and/or late faculty shortages. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 16:13
  • 2
    (continued) Almost all of the visiting positions I've applied to (all in the U.S.) were situations where the department felt it was too late to conduct an extensive search for an appropriate "best" candidate (e.g. someone left, died, or retired unexpectedly in April or May), so they would conduct a shorter search for someone to come for one year, and the proper tenure track replacement search would begin in the Fall. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 16:23

In Japan, "adjunct" and "visiting" might serve as translations for hijyoukin and tokunin or shouhei (https://iss-intl.osaka-u.ac.jp/supportoffice/eng/housing/navi/status/) respectively. Adjunct means part-time in this case. "visiting" meaning "specially-appointed" (i.e., not tenure track).


In India: Adjunct faculty refers to professionals from industry who engage part-time for a few hours/modules/courses in a College/University. Visiting faculty belong to another Institution/Industry who on sabbatical/leave engage for a few days/weeks/months in another institution. Guest faculty is appointed on ad-hoc/temporary basis until a regular faculty is appointed


As far as I know most these terms are not used in the UK. I know of no adjunct professor.

A visiting professor is just an honorary title, usually with little or no stipend or remuneration. They may get paid expenses when they visit. They may sometime teach a guest course; that's about it. It is not a job.

There is no tenure track in the UK. No one has tenure. We are all dismissable.

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