An academic at Oxford University has proposed that all dons holding permanent posts should be given the title of “professor.”


Nicholas Bamforth, a fellow in law at Queens’ College, put forward the suggestion in response to a consultation by a university task force on an academics promotions scheme. He wants the term to operate as a job-description.


“Give everyone the title”


He claimed last month that “The simplest and fairest way forward, given that our major competitors in North America do so, may simply be to give everyone … the title professor.” He has suggested that statutory or personal chairs could be recognised as posts of special distinction within this title.
For decades academics at Oxford have complained about the promotions policy. The Task Force on Academic Employment has now suggested that personal promotions be introduced for small numbers of people.


However, Dr Bamforth argues that the promotion scheme suggested is too complicated as it results in three types of professor – statutory professors, professors promoted under the new scheme and “titular professors” – all with different teaching responsibilities.


He also asserts that the task force’s proposal is not fair to existing holders of titles, who have already undergone a stringent selection process, requiring them to depend on external referees.


“It is unclear whether his proposal is feasible”


In an article published in the Oxford Magazine last week, he said, “It does not seem fair to require them to reapply with the likelihood that many will be promoted to a grade below the title they currently hold (i.e. reader rather than professor) and many will receive no substantive promotion at all.”


Whilst his proposal has been acknowledged by colleagues, it has been contested. Dr Justine Pila, a University Lecturer in Intellectual Property at St Catherine’s College, said, “Nick Bamforth’s proposal has the principal merit of meeting colleagues’ desire for a system of recognition comprehensible to other institutions, while also reflecting the flat structure of our academic community. It is however unclear whether his proposal for distinguishing statutory/personal chairs (with reference, for example, to the named title of the chair) is feasible. Personally, I am happy as a ‘Dr’.”


The Task Force on Academic Employment’s briefing note says that it “notes with considerable interest” Dr Bamforth’s proposal.