According to the proposals, published in last month’s Gazette Supplement, both new and existing lecturers would be able to take the new title, with anyone who had not previously held an independent academic appointment becoming lower ranking assistant professors.
The University’s Personnel Committee Task Force launched the consultations, which have been considered since 2010, in the hope that the change would make the seniority of academics more easily understood.
In a statement from the University, a spokeswoman said: ”It has been argued that a potential benefit of replacing the grade of ‘lecturer’ with the new grade of ‘associate professor’ is that it would make the seniority of the University’s main academic position more easily understood across the globe and thereby bolster its ability to recruit internationally.”
She added: ”The Personnel Committee is holding an open consultation on the matter”.
If the proposals go through, Oxford will be following in the footsteps of similar initiatives by the Universities of Warwick and Nottingham, which adopted the new title in 2006.
The consultation document states that the current classification of academic titles “means that many suitably qualified candidates worldwide assume that [lectureships] are junior positions and do not even consider applying”.
It also claims that recruitment of staff from other British universities is currently being hindered, as suitable individuals frequently hold apparently more senior professorial positions already.
Responding to the suggestion that the proposals could mark a transition to a North American model of academic rank, the document suggested that the University is instead attempting to be “better understood” across the world, and trying to reflect the high quality of those currently in lecturer positions.
As well as the proposals relating to changing the title of ‘lecturer’, the document issued by the University Personnel Department also requests opinions on whether the University should bring in a pay rise for all non-medical professors.
It is suggested that a pay rise of £2,600 a year, dubbed ‘merit pay’, should be introduced, as professors without endowed professorships do not at present receive any supplementary benefits over lecturers.
All University staff will have until 22nd April to comment on both proposals.