Tenure & Promotion

Academic Basics
Academic Roles
Tenure & Promotion
Planning Your Career

The Tenure and Promotion Process

Be sure to carefully review the Faculty Code or Faculty Handbook at your institution.  There are often differences based on your specific institution's mission and focus that you should know in detail.

All new faculty should have one or more mentors.  At least one should be in your institution to help you understand the tenure and promotion process as it is practiced in your institution.  Mentors may be assigned to new hires (but are not always).

Review Timelines

For new tenure track Assistant Professors, there is (typically) an annual review with the Dean or Associate Dean to review progress and identify strengths, concerns and areas for additional attention.  In reality the way this is done, its depth and its perceived helpfulness vary widely.  These reviews are as much formulative and guiding as summative. Of course, the faculty member may play a part in this Ė we may not hear what we donít want to hear, or assume criticism when guidance is intended. 

A 3rd year review (at the end of the first contract or half way to tenure) is very common.  This process is summative of achievement and also of future potential, as well as formulative in guiding future work.  (Some schools give year four as sabbatical to do scholarship and research prior to coming up for tenure.)  Grants obtained may be an important part of this deliberation.

During the 5th year one (usually) begins to prepare a dossier including 1) an updated CV, 2) a statement of teaching philosophy,3) a list of faculty assignments (course taught, other academic roles), 4) course evaluations (which may be left to the faculty member to complete or may be compiled by the Deanís or Registrarís office), 5) copies of funded grants - and in some cases promising but (as yet) unfunded grant applications, 6) copies of all publications (in print and accepted; some want copies of manuscripts under review but these will (usually) have less weight than those accepted or better in print already). 

Some institutions will also want syllabi the faculty member has developed, materials used for teaching, and perhaps materials from conference papers (such as handouts of PowerPoint slides).  One should add materials that make the best case.

Some institutions use a portfolio approach where faculty create summaries of selected works that represent various aspects of their contributions and achievements.  Of course, at a meta-level, the materials the institution traditionally requires one to prepare amount to a sort of portfolio Ė but most portfolios allow more variety and more selectivity.

Most institutions also ask the faculty member to prepare a list of potential external reviews who must be faculty at other institutions (but ideally not close friends or anyone who will be perceived as unduly biased toward the candidate).  These will be 4 to 8 names.  The tenured faculty, Dean or Provost will also prepare a list of external reviewers.  These people will be contacted until a final list of reviewers (about 4) is finalized Ė half from the candidateís list and half from the faculty list.  These reviewers are ideally PhD level, well known and senior academics.  These reviewers are (usually) asked to appraise the candidateís research and scholarship (and sometimes teaching).  They are asked to rate the candidate in comparison to the institutionís written promotion and tenure criteria as well as to address future potential and sometimes comparable experiences at their own institutions.

All of these materials are appraised by faculty members in oneís school or department who hold the rank one seeks or higher rank.  (That is, no people early on in their own careers review other newcomers.)  The criteria used are specified in the institutionís Faculty Code.  After faculty review, an administrative review by the Dean takes place using the same criteria.  (If the institution has a graduate school, the graduate school faculty and Dean may also do a review.)  Finally, the institutionís Provost and President do the final review. 


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text by James Drisko © June 7, 2008 - last updated 8/14/12