crafty fellow


A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. Historically, the term fellow was also used to describe a man, particularly by those in the upper social classes. Nowadays, it is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of knowledge or practice.


Research fellow

The title of research fellow is used to denote an academic research position at a university or similar institution.

Emeritus title in the UK

The title fellow might be given to an academic member of staff upon retirement who continues to be affiliate to a university institution in the United Kingdom.

Oxford, Cambridge, and other Colleges

At Colleges of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and Trinity College, Dublin, full fellows form the governing body of the College, although they may elect a Council to handle day-to-day management. All fellows are entitled to certain privileges within their College, which may include dining at High Table (free of charge) and possibly the right to a room in College (free of charge).

There are a number of types of fellow:

  • Research fellows are researchers, whose salaries or stipends are paid by a College from the income of its endowment. Some of the less affluent Colleges do not pay their research fellows a salary, instead award fellowships to researchers already employed by the University.
  • At Oxford, college tutors are fellows, who are paid to provide small-group teaching to a college's undergraduates. The position is typically a joint appointment (there are a variety of types) with the University.
  • At Cambridge, teaching officers (lecturers, readers, and professors) are entitled to a college fellowships. For lecturers and readers, the process is competitive – generally the most able academics get fellowships at the richest and most prestigious Colleges. Professors are allocated to Colleges by a centralised process to ensure fairness. These fellows may or may not provide small-group teaching to undergraduates in the College, for which they would be paid by the hour. College fellows at Cambridge (except for research fellows) have no duties as such and are not paid. They will typically have a salaried post either with their College or the University.
  • At Cambridge, a praelector is a fellow of a college, who formally presents students during the matriculation and graduation ceremony.

Most Cambridge Colleges grant fellowships for life after a qualifying period. Retired academics may therefore remain as fellows. In Oxford on retirement a Governing Body fellow would normally be elected a 'fellow emeritus' and would leave the Governing Body. Distinguished old members of the college, or its benefactors and friends might also be elected 'Honorary Fellow', normally for life; but beyond limited dining rights this is merely an honour. Most Oxford Colleges have 'Fellows by Special Election' or 'Supernumerary Fellows' who may be members of the teaching staff, but not necessarily members of the Governing Body.

US Medical Training

In US medical institutions, a fellow refers to someone who has completed residency training (e.g. in internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, etc.) and is currently in a 1 to 3 year subspecialty training program (e.g. cardiology, pediatric nephrology, transplant surgery, etc.).

Graduate school fellowships

In the context of graduate school in the United States and Canada, a fellow is a recipient of a fellowship. Examples are the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Presidential Management Fellowship.

Academia administration

Harvard University

At Harvard and some other universities in the United States, "fellows" are members of the Board of Trustees who hold administrative positions as non-executive trustee rather than academics.

Cambridge and Oxford Colleges

Some senior administrators of a college such as bursars are made fellows, and thereby become members of the governing body, because of their importance to the running of a College.

Secondary Education

Teaching fellows in the US

The term used, in the United States, the high school and middle school setting for students or adults that assist a teacher with one or more classes .

Learned or professional societies

Fellows are the highest grade of membership of most professional societies (see for example, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Lower grades are referred to as members (who typically share voting rights with the fellows), or associates (who may or may not, depending on whether "associate" status is a form of full membership).

How a fellowship is acquired varies for each society, but may typically involves some or all of these:

  • A qualifying period in a lower grade
  • Nomination by two existing fellows who know the applicant professionally
  • Evidence of continued formal training post-qualification
  • Evidence of substantial achievement in the subject area
  • Submission of a thesis or portfolio of works which will be examined

Exclusive learned societies such as the Royal Society have Fellow as the only grade of membership, others like the Faculty of Young Musicians (now defunct) have members holding the post of Associate and posts Honoris Causa.


Large corporations in research and development-intensive industries (IBM or Sun Microsystems in information technology, and Boston Scientific in Medical Devices for example) appoint a small number of senior scientists and engineers as fellows. Fellow is the most senior rank or title one can achieve on a technical career, though some fellows also hold business titles such as vice president or chief technology officer.

Notes and references

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