Warwick University is to become the first higher education institution to adopt a US model of calling all lecturers "professor".

 The move is fuelled by a desire to raise the Coventry-based institution's profile on the international stage.

 All 850 academics at Warwick will be affected by the title change in a radical departure from centuries of tradition in Britain's higher education sector.

 Lecturers will become "assistant professors" and senior lecturers and readers will be "associate professors".

 Existing professors who have received their title under the existing nomination system will remain as they are.

 David VandeLinde, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, predicted other higher education institutions would follow the lead.

 "It gives us instantly internationally recognisable titles and provides us with a unique offer to our academic teaching staff in which all can share in the title of professor.

 "It will inevitably be copied, but Warwick will be remembered as having the foresight to lead that change."

 Other UK universities have experimented with US titles including the London Business School and Nottingham University.

 But Warwick will be the first institution to use the title of professor for all academic staff.

 Conditions of pay and contracts will not be affected by the change, the university said.

 "We pride ourselves on the fact that the vast majority of our staff are research active. This undermines that," said a spokesman.

 "We think a few universities will follow us, but obviously Oxford and Cambridge, with 600 years of history, will be a bit squeamish."