A lecturer is, in the broadest sense, a person who gives lectures or other public speeches. However, this article concerns lecturer as an academic rank.
In the United Kingdom a lecturer is usually the holder of an open-ended position at a university or similar institution, often an academic in an early career stage, who teaches and also leads or oversees research groups.
This contrasts with the practice in North America: the United States, Canada and other countries influenced by their educational systems, where the term is used differently. It generally denotes academic experts without tenure in the university, who teach full- or part-time but who have few or no research responsibilities within the institution where they teach. In most research universities in the United States, the title of lecturer requires a doctorate or equivalent degree.
In the Church of England, the position of lecturer can also refer to a junior clergyman.
A lecturer in UK universities usually holds an open-ended position that involves carrying out both teaching and research. After a number of years, a lecturer may be promoted and become a senior lecturer. This position is below reader and professor.
It is also common for temporary lecturers to be appointed to cover specific short-term teaching needs; these positions are by-definition fixed-term and non-renewable, and are distinguished from open-ended lectureships. Some universities also refer to graduate students or others, who undertake ad-hoc teaching for a department, as lecturers or sessional lecturers. Some are very low paid (as little as £6000 p.a. in 2011-12). This can cause confusion, especially for academics from outside the British system. Thus it is important to define exactly in which sense the term lecturer is used.
In addition, in the UK certain positions such as research lecturers, when open-ended, are the equivalent in rank of full lecturers and senior lecturers, but reflect the research-intensive orientation often seen in fields such as medicine, engineering, biological and physical sciences. Lecturers/ University Lecturers are more common in fields where faculty distribute their time equally between teaching and research. Teaching fellows may also sometimes be referred to as lecturers - for example, Exeter named some of that group as education and scholarship lecturers (E & S) to recognise the contribution of teaching, and elevate the titles of teaching fellows to lecturers. All this causes immense confusion for non-UK academics.
The position of open-ended lecturer does not map easily into the North American system. In terms of responsibilities and recognition, the position of a newly appointed lecturer is similar to that of an adjunct professor in the United States, for instance. But, many lecturers in the UK are experienced researchers with many publications, and their position is more equivalent to that of an assistant professor in the North American universities and those modelled on them without the guarantee of tenure.
In brief: if a person at a UK university is a lecturer then they have an open-ended position; can lead a research group; can apply for external funding for research as principal investigator; and teaches – then, that person broadly corresponds to an adjunct or assistant professor (non-tenured) in the North American systems.
Historically in the UK, a senior lectureship reflected prowess in teaching or administration rather than research, and the position was much less likely to lead direct to promotion to professor.In the early 21st century, promotion to senior lecturer is based mainly on the demonstration of significant research achievements, at least in research-intensive universities, and is an integral part of the promotion path to a full chair. Promotion to reader is sometimes still necessary before promotion to a full chair; however, some universities no longer make appointments at the level of reader (for instance, the University of Leeds and the University of Oxford). Senior lecturers and readers are sometimes paid on the same salary scale, although in many departments, readers are comparatively senior staff. Readers in pre-1992 universities are generally considered at least the equivalent, in terms of status, of (full) professors in post-1992 universities. Many academics consider it more prestigious to have been a reader in a pre-1992 university than a professor in a post-1992 university.
Many open-ended lecturers in the UK have a doctorate (50.1% in 2009-2010) and often have postdoctoral research experience. In many fields a doctorate is now the prerequisite, although historically this was not the case. Some academic positions could have been held on the basis of research merit alone, without a higher degree.
The new universities (that is universities that were until recently termed polytechnics) have a slightly different ranking naming scheme from that just described. Their grades are lecturer, senior lecturer, and principal lecturer, with the last corresponding to senior lecturer in the pre-1992 institutions in the beginning.Meanwhile, the position of Principal Lecturer is seen as being analogous to reader.
According to the Times Higher Education, the University of Warwick decided in 2006 "to break away from hundreds of years of academic tradition, renaming lecturers 'assistant professors', senior lecturers and readers 'associate professors' while still calling professors 'professors'. The radical move will horrify those who believe the "professor" title should be reserved for an academic elite." Nottingham has a mixture of the standard UK system, and the system at Warwick, with both lecturers and assistant professors. At Reading, job advertisements and academic staff web pages use the title associate professor, but the ordinances of the university make no reference to these titles. They address only procedures for conferring the traditional UK academic ranks.
There is no US-style concept of tenure or faculty in the UK. Lecturing staff on open-ended contracts can be made redundant like employees of any other organisation, making them similar to adjunct professors. In 2012 lecturers began to be fired, notably at Queen Mary university. It now has a stated policy of firing and replacing underperforming open-ended teaching staff. As a result of the 2008 Ball vs Aberdeen tribunal decision, the distinction between teaching and research staff is blurring. Many researchers do occasional lecturing work and also secure legally equivalent open-ended contracts at some institutions. It is noted although select UK institutions (Oxford is a prominent example) have the use of the word "tenure" for lecturers who are "reappointed to the retiring age". This is essentially similar to a US tenure decision - references are sought from world-leading academics and a committee meets to decide the "tenure" case. There is normally no title elevation is such instances - tenure and title are independent - however, lecturers who are not reappointed to the retiring age can be taken off payroll with a short notice (unlike the 5-6 year period in US Universities).
In the Church of England, a lecturer is typically an assistant curate serving in a parish. It is a historic title which has fallen out of regular use. Several churches in the UK have clergy identified by the ancient title lecturer, including many London churches, St. Mary's Church, Nottingham and Carlisle Cathedral.
In India one can appear for interviews for a post of a lecturer after passing the competitive exam of National Eligibility Test conducted by the University Grants Commission.
The position is equivalent to Assistant Professor in the US system. The term is not universally applied, with some universities preferring the Lecturer / Reader / Professor titles, while others work with the Assistant Professor / Associate Professor / Professor title.
As such, most lecturers' position can be considered tenure track.
In many states of India the term Lecturer or Post Graduate Teacher (PGT) is also used for the Intermediate College Teachers. The Intermediate Colleges are equivalent to Higher Secondary Schools. Such Lecturers are Subject experts specifically engaged to teach a subject in higher classes.