In academia, a fellow is a member of a group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of mutual knowledge or practice. The fellows may include visiting professors, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral researchers. It may also indicate an individual recipient of a graduate-level merit-based form of funding akin to a scholarship.
The title of research fellow is used to denote an academic research position at a university or a similar institution.
Teaching fellow and fellow at a university
The title of teaching fellow is used to denote an academic teaching position at a university or similar institution. The title fellow can be bestowed to an academic member of staff upon retirement who continues to be affiliated to a university in the United Kingdom.
Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin
At colleges of the ancient universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, fellows form the governing body of the college. They may elect a council to handle day-to-day management. All fellows are entitled to certain privileges within their colleges, which may include dining at High Table (free of charge) and possibly the right to a room in college (free of charge).
At Cambridge, retired academics may remain fellows. At Oxford, however, a Governing Body fellow would normally be elected a fellow emeritus and would leave the Governing Body upon his or her retirement. 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.
How a fellowship is acquired varies for each society, but may typically involve some or all of these:
A qualifying period in a lower grade
Passing a series of examinations
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.
Appointment as an honorary fellow in a learned or professional society can be either to honour exceptional achievement and/or service within the professional domain of the awarding body or to honour contributions related to the domain from someone who is professionally outside of it. Membership of the awarding body may or may not be a requirement.
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.).
The title fellow can be used for participants in a professional development program run by a nonprofit or governmental organization. This type of fellowship is a short term work opportunity (1–2 years) for professionals who already possess some level of academic or professional expertise that will serve the nonprofit mission. Fellows are given a stipend as well as professional experience and leadership training.