What Is an Endowed Chair (or Professorship)?

Learn what an endowed chair or professorship is.

An endowed chair (or professorship) is a faculty position that is privately funded by an endowment.

Here’s how it works: the endowment is a donation that remains locked. The interest from the grant gives the school money to operate on, ensuring sustainable financial support.

The endowment usually covers the professor’s salary, research, travel stipends, and other associated costs.

How much does it cost to endow a professor?

The minimum donation needed to endow a professor has typically been $1M.

This provides about $40k per year in interest.

That’s plenty of money that the faculty uses to pay for part of the faculty member’s salary or research expenses.

Who pays for endowed professorships?

Endowed chairs are financed by:

  • Foundations: Many foundations promote research on cancer and other diseases.
  • Individuals: That’s the reason why so many chairs are named after people. For example, here are some chairs from Harvard: Hollis Professor of DivinitySteven and Maureen Klinsky Professorship of Practice for Leadership and ProgressCarl H. Pforzheimer, Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning, etc.
  • Countries: For example, the Swiss National Fonds promotes scientific research in Switzerland.
  • Private companies: More and more private companies finance academic research. This phenomenon raises important questions about conflicts of interest: can researchers remain impartial if they are paid with corporate money? It’s hard to say yes when some researchers are paid by pharmaceutical companies to confirm its drugs’ effect. On the other hand, some academic research could not be funded without the help of the private sector.

Why are endowed chairs important?

The endowed chair allows the professors to support assistants, earn a higher salary, buy equipment, and travel to conferences. It also provides the opportunity to try out new ideas that are sometimes too risky to get funding through regular proposals but are still worth trying.

Endowments are a great way for the universities to attract esteemed faculty members (that they could not attract otherwise).

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the duties of endowed professors? They have the same responsibilities as other professors; they lecture, conduct research, and supervise doctoral candidates.
  • How prestigious is an endowed professorship? It is one of the most prestigious academic positions. Only honored and esteemed professors get funded by an endowed professorship.
  • What is the difference between an endowed chair and an endowed professorship? An endowed chair exists independently of the person who holds it, and if they leave, the chair can be filled by someone else. An endowed professorship is attributed to a professor.
  • Are endowed professors paid more? Yes, endowed professors are (on average) paid higher than the average full professor. For more information, check out our page about: professor salaries by academic rank, major, and state.

Learn more

Check out this page where I ranked each professors from assistant to emeritus!

I also wrote other articles about academic rankings that might interest you:

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