Comparative honorary professorship

I’m consulting some other universities’ policies as stated on their websites.

The one at Cardiff is interesting:

2.16    Honorary Professor

The title is awarded to an individual who is making a substantial commitment of a non-transient kind to the teaching and research activities of the University at a level deemed to be worthy of this title when assessed against the criteria for promotions to personal chairs and following the consideration of two external assessors.

Persons nominated could be senior academics at other Universities (that is to say those already in possession of a Chair), Professors who have left the University to undertake work of an essentially academic nature outside of Higher Education, or recent retirees who are not eligible for conferment of the title of Professor Emeritus by virtue of their continued contribution to the University’s activities.

Category B [which is the relevant category]

3.3       The normal period of tenure for all titles in Category B will be five years, though this may be less for those with the “Visiting” title.

All awards in both categories are subject to regular review to ensure that the award continues to be merited.  The University reserves the right to cancel an award where there is a sufficient justification.

Heads of Schools should write to the HR Division with a justification for the renewal of the award, which should be based on a continuing contribution to the University.  The HR Division may ask for further justification where this is deemed to be appropriate.


All involvement with the University should be agreed with the Head of the relevant School.

Honorary staff will be required to abide by University policies in so far as they are applicable; and in particular those relating to the Financial Regulations and Human Resources and Health and Safety polices.

[several paragraphs about safety and intellectual property]

At all times Honorary staff will be expected to maintain the good reputation of the University.

It’s pretty clear that at Cardiff, at least, an honorary professorship is not at all like, say, the Booker prize – it’s not something you get as an honor and then get to keep forever because you won it. It’s something Cardiff can renew or not renew, as it decides, and can withdraw if it decides that.


  1. guest says

    Interesting that their rules seem to indicate that it has to be positively confirmed that someone should maintain the title, rather than having to justify removing it.

  2. chris61 says

    @15 Ophelia Benson
    We appear to be talking about two different statements. The first statement published on the UCL website said:

    Sir Tim Hunt’s personal decision to offer his resignation from his honorary position at UCL was a sad and unfortunate outcome of the comments he made in a speech last week. Media and online commentary played no part in UCL’s decision to accept his resignation.

    Sir Tim held an honorary position at UCL. He was not, and never has been, employed by UCL at any stage of his career and did not receive a salary from UCL.

    UCL sought on more than one occasion to make contact with Sir Tim to discuss the situation, but his resignation was received before direct contact was established.

    UCL accepted his resignation of his honorary position in good faith, and in doing so sent a clear signal that equality and diversity are truly valued at UCL. We continue to be open to engagement and dialogue on how we can best deliver on our commitment to these values.

    I’m not questioning that an honorary position can be withdrawn at any time for any reason but to accompany the announcement with the last paragraph of this statement is to me clearly “casting aspersions”. It implies that Tim Hunt doesn’t value equality and diversity. When I say by all accounts he’s got a reputation of promoting young scientists, I mean by all accounts that I have seen made by people who have worked with him. If you’ve seen something else, I’d be interested in the link.

  3. Al Dente says

    Chris61 @2

    But Hunt doesn’t value diversity or equality. If he did, he wouldn’t make unfunny, sexist “jokes” when talking to a group of women.

  4. chrislawson says


    I have no doubt that Tim Hunt believes in diversity in the abstract and I am sure he has been very helpful to many of his female colleagues and students, but his jokes and subsequent “clarifications” make it abundantly clear that his specific beliefs and behaviours are anything but constructive with regards to diversity or, frankly, professional conduct in the laboratory.

  5. chris61 says

    chrislawson @5

    We obviously disagree. I think he told a joke that was inappropriate to the venue but I don’t think it says anything at all about whether his beliefs and behaviors are constructive with regards to diversity or conduct in the laboratory. I prefer to listen to the voices of those who have worked with him or been mentored by him.

  6. says

    No. That’s no good. It’s no good being supportive of the women you know personally but also doing your bit to perpetuate a hostile work environment. The “joke” was way beyond “inappropriate to the venue.” Imagine he had made such a “joke” about Asians or Koreans in that venue. Would you brush that off as merely “inappropriate”? Maybe you would, but I doubt it – I think it would be obvious what a grotesque thing that would be for a senior academic to do at a conference.

    This is all so childish. One of the things we’re supposed to learn as we approach adulthood is that “jokes” can be and often are put-downs, and that put-downs are what they are. Excusing away this kind of superior-caste bullying as just “jokes” is like being back in grade school.

  7. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Chris61 was told all of this numerous times on the various Pharyngula threads, so it’s not as if they are not aware of why Hunt’s comments are such a problem.

  8. chris61 says

    I just don’t see how a few off the cuff comments at a luncheon (accompanied apparently by other comments supporting women in science) perpetuates a hostile work environment. However, I’ll refrain from commenting further on the matter as it is clear that you disagree.

  9. says

    Again…it wasn’t “a luncheon” – it was a lunch hosted by an official group of women scientists at a conference. It perpetuates a hostile work environment by expressing casual disdain for women scientists at their own event. That’s really not all that hard to figure out. As I said, I think you would see it if he’d talked that way about Asians or Koreans rather than women. Disdain for women is normalized.

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