Academic ranks in Norway

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Academic ranks in Norway are the titles, relative importance and power of professors, researchers, and administrative personnel held in academia.

Career pathways

Norway has three academic career pathways, which are roughly similar to those of the United Kingdom:

  • The research and teaching career pathway is the normal academic career pathway at universities, and encompasses both research and teaching with the main emphasis on research. Promotion is based on research merits.
  • The research career pathway is focused exclusively or near-exclusively on research, and is most commonly used at institutes which are only or mainly engaged in research (for example the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs); the research career ranks are in special cases also used at other academic institutions for academics dedicating all or nearly all their time to research. Research career pathway academics are sometimes involved in limited teaching activities and supervision, usually at the highest level, such as supervision of PhD students. Supervision and guidance of younger researchers is also commonly part of their work. Promotion is based on research merits. The research career pathway ranks researcher, senior researcher and research professor are directly equivalent to the research and teaching career pathway ranks assistant professor, associate professor and professor, and the promotion criteria are similar.
  • The teaching career pathway is focused on essential teaching (mainly at the lower level), educational needs and for senior ranks also pedagogic research, and is most commonly used at professional colleges or new universities as an alternative to the research and teaching career pathway. Promotion is based on teaching merits, including pedagogic development and for senior ranks also pedagogic research. However, both the government and the professional colleges are placing increased emphasis on research qualifications, leading to debate over the future of the teaching career pathway.

Professorial ranks

Norway currently has two professorial ranks, the normal rank of (full) Professor, and the more rare rank of Research Professor, which requires similar competence as a Professor. Additionally, Norway has a part-time full professor rank which is designated as Professor II, but which is otherwise identical to the normal full Professor rank.


In Norway, the word "professor" is only used for full professors, i.e. the most senior academics, at universities or scientific institutions at a similar level. The title is protected by law, and may only be used by accredited institutions under certain conditions.[1]

Historically, professors were appointed for life by the king upon the advice of the cabinet, that is, by the King-in-Council. Due to the increasing number of appointments, this changed in 1989 when the institutions received the right to formally appoint professors. Historically there were a given number of professors and each professor was appointed to a specific chair. Currently each institution can establish professorships at will and promote associate professors to full professors if they meet the statutory requirements.[2] All people who are appointed as (or promoted to) professors must have formal professor competence, that is, they must be awarded such competence through an evaluation by a scientific, independent committee.

Appointments are usually for life, although time-limited appointments are possible (especially if the position is externally funded). The mandatory age of retirement in Norway is 70, however. Professors who have turned 70 are required to leave their positions, but by law retain the right to use the professor title. In some cases retired professors may keep their office, and they usually have access to university infrastructure as long as they are still active as researchers.

The traditional position of docent, often translated as reader, applied to people of the same competence as a Professor who did not hold a professorial chair and who formally ranked below Professors, was abolished in 1985, when all docents received the title of professor.

Research professor

Research professor (in Norwegian known as forsker I or forskningsprofessor) is a rank at the full professor level, used mainly at research-only institutes and occasionally at universities for researchers with few if any teaching duties who are exclusively or mainly engaged in research. It is the most senior rank for a researcher without teaching duties, is equivalent to the ordinary full professor rank at universities, and ranks above senior researcher (in Norwegian forsker II or seniorforsker), researcher (in Norwegian forsker III or forsker), postdoctoral fellow (postdoktor), research fellow (stipendiat) and research assistant (vitenskapelig assistent).

Research professors are required to have the same qualifications as full professors at universities, that is formal professor competence, and sometimes hold part-time professor II positions in addition to their main position. Research professors are usually permanent employees, especially at research-only institutes. The position is the equivalent of the British and Commonwealth rank Professorial Research Fellow/Research Professor, and of the French directeur de recherche first and exceptional class ranks.

A research professor frequently heads research groups, and supervision and guidance of junior and mid-level researchers is commonly part of the job. While not normally involved in teaching, research professors regularly supervise PhD candidates.

Professor II

Full professors in Norway with secondary, part-time positions (20% or less) are called professor II. They usually have a different main position (typically as a senior consultant at a university hospital, as a full professor at a different university in Norway or abroad or as a research professor at a research-only institute). While they only hold a part-time position as professor at the institution in question, they otherwise hold the same status as other professors, need to have the same competence as other professors, are styled as simply professor (not professor II) and are sometimes (especially at medical faculties) eligible to be elected deans of their faculty. The numeral "II" merely indicates that it is a secondary position, not that it ranks below other professors. As the title professor is used very restrictively in Norway only for the most senior academics, professor II positions carry the same high prestige as full-time and permanent professorships. Within the field of medicine, most professorships are professor II positions combined with a main position as a senior consultant at a university hospital (full-time professorships in clinical medicine are very rare). Professors II may engage in teaching, supervision (typically of PhD candidates) or research, and the position is often used to strengthen cooperation between academic institutions, as well as attracting prominent academics from more prestigious universities in Norway or from abroad.

Other ranks

The position below professor is called førsteamanuensis ("first amanuensis"), which is translated into English as associate professor, and which requires as a minimum a Norwegian doctoral degree, or similar competence (traditionally, Danish and Norwegian doctoral degrees are considered higher doctorates), and in practice usually additional scientific qualifications.

The position below førsteamanuensis is called amanuensis, universitetslektor or høgskolelektor, which is translated into English as assistant professor (in a US context) or lecturer (in a UK context).

Teaching-based ranks

The rank førstelektor ("first lecturer") is a less scientific alternative to førsteamanuensis, and promotion to this rank is based mainly on teaching qualifications. In practice it ranks between amanuensis/universitetslektor/høgskolelektor and førsteamanuensis. It corresponds to the British and Commonwealth rank Senior Teaching Fellow.

A new rank called undervisningsdosent ("teaching docent") was introduced in 2003, and this rank was renamed simply dosent ("docent") in 2006. It is unrelated to the historical docent rank, and is mainly used at professional colleges as the highest teaching-based rank, as opposed to the research-based professor rank.[3][4] It corresponds to the British and Commonwealth rank Professorial Teaching Fellow.


Senior management positions, which are elected positions at Norway's only ancient university (the University of Oslo) and usually appointed positions at professional colleges and new universities
  • Rektor (rector; one per university; usually assisted by a prorektor as his or her immediate deputy and sometimes one or more viserektor). The rector is the supreme head of the university and traditionally chairs its academic board of governors, especially at the ancient university.
  • Dekan (dean; one per faculty; sometimes assisted by one or more prodekan). Male deans are also called dekanus, and female deans dekana.
Research and teaching career pathway (promotion based on research qualifications)
  • Professor (full professor)
  • Professor II (part-time full professor, usually with a main position at a different academic institution at the full professor level or a position as senior consultant at a university hospital)
  • Dosent (reader; abolished at universities in 1985); not to be confused with the new dosent rank of 2006
  • Førsteamanuensis (associate professor/senior lecturer)
  • Universitetslektor, høgskolelektor or amanuensis (assistant professor/lecturer)
Research career pathway (promotion based on research qualifications)
  • Forsker I or forskningsprofessor (research professor; i.e. a researcher with full professor competence; equivalent to Professor)
  • Forsker II or seniorforsker (senior researcher; equivalent to associate professor)
  • Forsker III or forsker (researcher; equivalent to assistant professor)
Lower temporary ranks (both research and teaching career pathway and research career pathway)
  • Postdoktor (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Stipendiat (research fellow)
  • Vitenskapelig assistent (research assistant)
Teaching career pathway (promotion based mainly on teaching qualifications)
  • Dosent, formerly called undervisningsdosent (teaching docent; introduced in 2003 and renamed dosent in 2006; mostly used in professional colleges, but unrelated to the historical dosent rank; equivalent to Professorial Teaching Fellow in the UK)
  • Førstelektor (first lecturer; equivalent to Senior Teaching Fellow in the UK)
  • Universitetslektor, høgskolelektor or amanuensis (assistant professor/lecturer)
Other titles
  • Professor emeritus or professor emerita (by law all Professors retain the title Professor for life; the term emeritus indicates that they are retired, but is optional and unofficial)
  • Gjesteprofessor, gjesteforsker (visiting professor, visiting scholar; unofficial titles and not pay grade titles per se)


  1. Universitets- og høyskoleloven (Universities and colleges statute of 2005), accessed online March 14, 2014.
  2. Forskrift om ansettelse og opprykk i undervisnings- og forskerstillinger (Promotion statute), accessed March 14, 2014.
  3. Forskrift om ansettelse og opprykk i undervisnings- og forskerstillinger (Regulations concerning appointment and promotion to teaching and research posts, Ministry of Education and Research 9 February 2006), accessed March 14, 2014.
  4. Regulations concerning appointment and promotion to teaching and research posts (English translation) accessed March 14, 2014.