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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have their position terminated without just cause.


Academic tenure

Under the tenure systems adopted as internal policy by many universities and colleges, especially in the United States and Canada, tenure is associated with more senior job titles such as Professor and Associate Professor. A junior professor will not be promoted to such a tenured position without demonstrating a strong record of published research, teaching, and administrative service. Typical systems (such as the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure[1]) allow only a limited period to establish such a record, by limiting the number of years that any employee can hold a junior title such as Assistant Professor. (An institution may also offer other academic titles that are not time-limited, such as Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, or Research Professor, but these positions do not carry the possibility of tenure and are said to be "off the tenure track.")

Academic tenure is primarily intended to guarantee the right to academic freedom: it protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Thus academic tenure is similar to the lifetime tenure that protects some judges from external pressure. Without job security, the scholarly community as a whole might favor "safe" lines of inquiry. The intent of tenure is to allow original ideas to be more likely to arise, by giving scholars the intellectual autonomy to investigate the problems and solutions about which they are most passionate, and to report their honest conclusions. In economies where higher education is provided by the private sector, tenure also has the effect of helping to ensure the integrity of the grading system. Absent tenure, professors could be pressured by administrators to issue higher grades for attracting and keeping a greater number of students.

Universities also have economic rationales for adopting tenure systems. First, job security and the accompanying autonomy are significant employee benefits; without them, universities might have to pay higher salaries or take other measures to attract and retain talented or well-known scholars. Second, junior faculty are driven to establish themselves by the high stakes of the tenure decision (i.e., lifetime tenure vs. job loss), arguably helping to create a culture of excellence within the university. Finally, tenured faculty may be more likely to invest time in improving the universities where they expect to remain for life; they may also be more willing to hire, mentor and promote talented junior colleagues who could otherwise threaten their positions. Many of these rationales resemble those for senior partner positions in law and accounting firms.

One cost of a tenure system is that some tenured professors may not use their freedom for the common good. Tenure has been criticized for allowing senior professors to become unproductive, shoddy, or irrelevant. Universities themselves bear this risk: they pay dearly whenever they guarantee lifetime employment to an individual who proves unworthy of it. Universities therefore exercise great care in offering tenured positions, first requiring an intensive formal review of the candidate's record of research, teaching, and service. This review typically takes several months and includes the solicitation of confidential letters of assessment from highly regarded scholars in the candidate's research area. Some colleges and universities also solicit letters from students about the candidate's teaching. A tenured position is offered only if both senior faculty and senior administrators judge that the candidate is likely to remain a productive scholar and teacher for life.

It has also been suggested that tenure may have the effect of diminishing political and academic freedom among those seeking it - that they must appear to conform to the political or academic views of the field or the institution where they seek tenure. For example, in 'The Trouble with Physics', Lee Smolin says " is practically career suicide for young theoretical physicists not to join the field [of string theory]."[2] It is certainly possible to view the tenure track as a long-term demonstration of the candidate's political and academic conformity. Patrick J. Michaels, a controversial part-time research professor at the University of Virginia, wrote: "...tenure has had the exact opposite effect as to its stated goal of diversifying free expression. Instead, it stifles free speech in the formative years of a scientist's academic career, and all but requires a track record in support of paradigms that might have outgrown their usefulness." [3]

In North American universities and colleges, the tenure track has long been a defining feature of employment. However, it is becoming less than universal.[4][5] Many colleges and universities—particularly those that do not seek a world-class research reputation—have taken advantage of the large supply of academic job applicants to reduce their tenure commitments. In North American universities, positions that carry tenure, or the opportunity to attain tenure, have grown more slowly than non-tenure-track positions, leading to a large "academic underclass".[6] For example, most U.S. universities currently supplement the work of tenured professors with the services of non-tenured adjunct professors, academics who teach classes for lower wages and fewer employment benefits under relatively short-term contracts.

For these, and other reasons, academic tenure was officially restructured in public universities in the United Kingdom by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. It is no longer offered in Australia, New Zealand and in most of Europe. Note that most European university systems do not allow any teaching by young researchers, postgraduates, post doctoral fellows, or residents. This is especially the case in Germany, where practice in universities (but not Advanced technical colleges) often differs from theory. In principle, teaching duties in German Universities are restricted to tenured faculty and a few non-tenured staff members paid for research and teaching. In reality, much teaching is done by non-tenured research students and adjunct faculty. In France, tenure is granted early in academic ranks as well as to CNRS and other researchers. In Italy tenure is granted in early academic ranks as well as to Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche researchers.

Outside the United States and Canada, it is still common to offer a long contract to candidates who pass a less stringent review or confirmation, but with somewhat less job security than in lifetime tenure systems. Moreover, tenure is under attack in state universities in the United States. New Zealand offers "Confirmation" which is similar in effect to tenure, except that all university lecturers in New Zealand have a duty, enshrined in law, to act as a critic and conscience of society, whether their position is permanent or not.

In certain jurisdictions, tenure is also granted to schoolteachers at primary and secondary schools, following a probationary period.

History in the U.S.


Tenure in the 19th century

In the 19th century, university professors largely served at the pleasure of the board of trustees of the university. Sometimes, major donors could successfully remove professors or prohibit the hiring of certain individuals; nonetheless, a de facto tenure system existed. Usually professors were only fired for interfering with the religious principles of a college, and most boards were reluctant to discipline professors. The courts rarely intervened in dismissals.

In one debate of the Cornell Board of Trustees, in the 1870s, a businessman trustee argued against the prevailing system of de facto tenure, but lost the argument. Despite the power retained in the board, academic freedom prevailed. Another example is the 1894 case of Richard Ely, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor who advocated labor strikes and labor law reform. Though the Wisconsin legislature and business interests pressed for his dismissal, the board of trustees of the university passed a resolution committing itself to academic freedom, and to retaining him (without tenure):

"In all lines of investigation the investigator should be absolutely free to follow the paths of truth, wherever they may lead. Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless winnowing and sifting by which alone the truth can be found."

The notorious case of the dismissal of G. B. Halsted by the University of Texas in 1903 after nineteen years of service may have accelerated the adoption of the tenure concept.

Tenure from 1900 to 1940

In 1900, the presidents of Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago each made clear that no donor could any longer dictate faculty decisions; such a donor’s contribution would be unwelcome. In 1915, this was followed by the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) declaration of principles—the traditional justification for academic freedom and tenure.

The AAUP's declaration of principles recommended that:

  • Trustees raise faculty salaries, but not bind their consciences with restrictions.
  • Only committees of other faculty can judge a member of the faculty. This would also insulate higher administration from external accountability decisions.
  • Faculty appointments be made by other faculty and chairpersons, with three elements:
    • (i) Clear employment contracts
    • (ii) formal academic tenure, and
    • (iii) clearly stated grounds for dismissal.

While the AAUP pushed reform, tenure battles were a campus non-issue. In 1910, a survey of 22 universities showed that most professors held their positions with "presumptive permanence". At a third of colleges, assistant professor appointments were considered permanent, while at most colleges multi-year appointments were subject to renewal. Only at one university did a governing board ratify a president’s decisions on granting tenure. Finally, there were approximately 20 complaints filed in 1928 with the AAUP, and only one merited investigation. Colleges slowly adopted the AAUP’s resolution; de facto tenure reigned; usually reappointments were permanent.

Tenure from 1940 to 1972

In 1940, the AAUP recommended that the academic tenure probationary period be seven years; still the current norm. It also suggested that a tenured professor could not be dismissed without adequate cause, except "under extraordinary circumstances, because of financial emergencies." Also, the statement recommended that the professor be given the written reasons for dismissal and an opportunity to be heard in self-defence. Another purpose of the academic tenure probationary period was raising the performance standards of the faculty by pressing new professors to perform to the standard of the school's established faculty.

The most significant adoption of academic tenure occurred after 1945, when the influx of returning GIs returning to school led to quickly expanding universities with severe professorial faculty shortages. These shortages dogged the Academy for ten years, and that is when the majority of universities started offering formal tenure as a side benefit. The rate of tenure (percent of tenured university faculty) increased to 52 percent. In fact, the demand for professors was so high in the 1950s that the American Council of Learned Societies held a conference in Cuba noting the too-few doctoral candidates to fill positions in English departments. During the McCarthy era, loyalty oaths were required of many state employees, and neither formal academic tenure nor the Constitutional principles of freedom of speech and association were protection from dismissal. Some professors were dismissed for their political affiliations, but of these, some likely were veiled dismissals for professional incompetence. During the 1960s, many professors supported the anti-war movement against the war with Vietnam, and more than 20 state legislatures passed resolutions calling for specific professorial dismissals and a change to the academic tenure system.

Tenure from 1972 to the present

Two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases changed tenure in 1972: (i) Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 US 564; and (ii) Perry v. Sindermann, 408 US 593. These two cases held that a professor’s claim to entitlement must be more than a subjective expectancy of continued employment. Rather, there must be a contractual relationship or a reference in a contract to a specific tenure policy or agreement. Further, the court held that a tenured professor who is discharged from a public college has been deprived of a property interest, and so due process applies, requiring certain procedural safeguards (the right to personally appear in a hearing, the right to examine evidence and respond to accusations, the right to have advisory counsel).

Later cases specified other bases for dismissal: (i) if a professor’s conduct were incompatible with his duties (Trotman v. Bd. of Trustees of Lincoln Univ., 635 F.2d 216 (2d Cir.1980)); (ii) if the discharge decision is based on an objective rule (Johnson v. Bd. of Regents of U. Wisc. Sys., 377 F. Supp 277, (W.D. Wisc. 1974)). After these cases were judged, the number of reported cases in the matter of academic tenure increased almost twofold: from 36 cases filed during the decade 1965–1975, to 81 cases filed during the lustrum 1980–1985.

During the 1980s there were no notable tenure battles, but three were outstanding in the 1990s. In 1995, the Florida Board of Regents tried to re-evaluate academic tenure, but managed only to institute a weak, post-tenure performance review. Likewise, in 1996 the Arizona Board of Regents attempted to re-evaluate tenure, fearing that few full-time professors actually taught university undergraduate students, mainly because the processes of achieving academic tenure underweighted teaching. However, faculty and administrators defended themselves and the board of trustees dropped its review. Finally, the University of Minnesota Regents tried from 1995 to 1996 to enact 13 proposals, including these policy changes: to allow the regents to cut faculty base- salaries for reasons other than a university financial emergency, and included poor performance, and firing tenured professors if their programs were eliminated or restructured and the university was unable to retrain or reassign them. In the Minnesota system, 87 percent of university faculty were either tenured or on the tenure track, and the professors vehemently defended themselves. Eventually, the president of the system opposed these changes, and weakened a compromise plan by the Dean of the law school that failed. The board chairman resigned later that year.

The period since 1972 has seen a steady decline in the percentage of college and university teaching positions in the US that are either tenured or tenure-track. United States Department of Education statistics put the combined tenured/tenure-track rate at 56% for 1975, 46.8% for 1989, and 31.9% for 2005. That is to say, by the year 2005, 68.1% of US college teachers were neither tenured nor eligible for tenure; a full 48% of teachers that year were part-time employees.


Tenure is not usually given immediately to new professors. Instead, open jobs are designated eligible for tenure, or "tenure-track", during the hiring process. Typically, a professor hired in a tenure-eligible position will then work for approximately five years before a review commences to determine whether tenure will be granted.

The professor's academic department will then collect information about the professor's record in teaching, research, and service, and will vote on whether to recommend the candidate for tenure. The weight given to each of these areas varies depending on the type of institution the individual works for; for example, research intensive universities value research most highly, while more teaching intensive institutions value teaching and service to the institution more highly.

The department's recommendation is given to a tenure review committee normally comprising faculty members from outside the department as well as deans. It may be a standing committee or an ad hoc committee, depending on the institution. If this committee in turn recommends that the professor be awarded tenure, their action must be approved by the institution's top officer (usually a president, chancellor, or provost) or by its governing board (usually a Board of Trustees or Board of Regents).

A candidate denied tenure is sometimes considered to have been dismissed, but this is not entirely accurate: the tenure review commonly takes place in the sixth year of a seven-year contract, so that a candidate who is denied tenure will have a year to search for new employment. Also, a few prestigious universities and departments in the U.S. award tenure to their junior faculty so rarely that being denied it is scarcely an insult.

A department may also make "senior hires" directly into tenured positions such as Professor or Associate Professor. Offering such a position usually requires submitting the candidate to the same lengthy tenure review that would be required for an internal promotion. Generally speaking, senior positions are offered only to established academics who have already received (or are under consideration for) tenure at their current university. Senior positions are also occasionally offered to distinguished researchers who are currently employed outside academia, for example at research labs in government or industry.

Outside the US and Canada, a variety of contractual systems operate. Commonly, a procedure is used to move staff members from temporary to "permanent" contracts. Permanent contracts, like tenure, may still be broken by employers in certain circumstances: for example if the staff member works in a department earmarked for closure.


Tenure can only be revoked for cause, normally only following severe misconduct by the professor. Revocation is usually a lengthy and tedious procedure. In Colorado, where the question of what constitutes grounds for dismissal of a tenured professor arose as the result of the controversial comments of Ward Churchill regarding the victims of the 9/11 attack, grounds for dismissal are "professional incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination, conviction of a felony or any offense involving moral turpitude… or sexual harassment or other conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity."

In 1994, a study in The Chronicle of Higher Education found that "about 50 tenured professors nationwide are dismissed each year for cause".[7] A study in the Wall Street Journal published January 10, 2005 estimated that 50 to 75 tenured professors (out of about 280,000) lose their tenure each year.

While tenure protects the occupant of an academic position, it does not protect against the elimination of that position. For example, a university that is under financial stress may take the drastic step of eliminating or downsizing some departments.

See also the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) website.[8]

Criticisms of the tenure process

The AAUP (American Association of University Professors) has handled hundreds of cases where tenure candidates were treated unfairly. The AAUP has censured many major and minor universities and colleges for tenure abuses.[9][10]

Tenure at many universities depends solely on research publications and research grants although the universities' official policies are that tenure depends on research, teaching and service.[11] Even articles in refereed teaching journals and teaching grants may not count towards tenure at such universities.

At some universities, the department chairperson sends forward the department recommendation on tenure. There have been cases where the faculty voted unanimously to tenure an individual but the chairperson sent forward a recommendation not to grant tenure despite the faculty support.

Tenure decisions can result in fierce politics. In one tenure battle at Indiana University, an untenured professor was accused of threatening violence against those who opposed his promotion, his wife briefly went on a hunger strike, and many called for the entire department to be disbanded. [12]

As more academics publish research in Internet and multimedia formats, some university departments have revised their promotion and tenure criteria to reflect the increasing importance of networked scholarship.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure from the American Association of University Professors
  2. ^ The Trouble with Physics, Lee Smolin
  3. ^ Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming, Patrick J. Michaels, Chap. 11 p. 229
  4. ^ "White Paper #1 - Tenure" Illinois State University’s AAUP
  5. ^ "Transient professors: How important is tenure?" Evelyn Shih (2003) The Yale Herald
  6. ^ "Tenure in the new millennium: Still a valuable concept" James T. Richardson (1999) National Forum (see section on "Split labour theory in academe")
  7. ^ Carolyn J. Mooney, "Dismissals for Cause", The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 7, 1994, page A17
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Boyer, E.L. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  12. ^ Alleged Death Threats, a Hunger Strike, and a Department at Risk Over a Tenure Decision Courtney Leatherman (2000). Chronicle of Higher Education.
  13. ^ "New Criteria for New Media" Joline Blais, et al. (2009) Leonardo (Cambridge: MIT Press).


  • Amacher, Ryan C. Faulty Towers: Tenure and the Structure of Higher Education. Oakland: Independent Institute, 2004.
  • Chait, Richard P. (Ed.). The Questions of Tenure. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2002.
  • Joughlin, Louis (Ed.). Academic Freedom and Tenure. Madison: U. of Wisc. Press, 1969.
  • Rudolph, Frederick. American College and University: A History (Reissue Edition). Athens: Univ. of Ga. Press, 1990.
  • Haworth, Karla. "Florida Regents Approve Post-Tenure Reviews for All Professors." The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 11, 1996, A15.
  • Magner, Denise K. "Minnesota Regents' Proposals Stir Controversy With Faculty." The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 20, 1996, A11.
  • Leatherman, Courtney. "Alleged Death Threats, a Hunger Strike, and a Department at Risk." The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 4, 2000, A12.
  • Wilson, Robin. "A Higher Bar for Earning Tenure." The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 5, 2001, A12.
  • Wilson, Robin. "Northeastern Proposal for Post-Tenure Review Goes Too Far, Critics Say." The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 11, 2001, A14.
  • Whiting, B.J. Delegate to the ACLS of the Medieval Academy of America, in 1953 (Speculum 28[1953] 633–34). The Council was alarmed at the thought that a national academic faculty of 50,000 would have to grow to 90,000 by the year 1965 in order to keep up with the demographic demand. This news was reported as staggering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that "Postsecondary teachers held nearly 1.6 million jobs in 2004", at least a quarter million of them undeniably humanistic.
  • Wilson, Robin. "Working Half Time on the Tenure Track." The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 25, 2002, A10.
  • Fogg, Piper. "Presidents Favor Scrapping Tenure." The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 4, 2005, A31.
  • Duke University (2005) News and Communications. "How Tenure Lines Brought Change to Women's Studies: Faculty see structural, intellectual change in program".
  • Gonzales, Evelina Garza, "External Funding and Tenure at Texas State University-San Marcos" (2009). Applied Research Projects. Texas State University. Paper 315.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TENURE (Fr. tenure, from Lat. tenere, to hold), in law, the holding or possession of land. The holding of land in England was originally either allodial or feudal. Allodial land was land held not of a superior lord, but of the king and people. Such ownership was absolute. It possibly took its origin from the view that the land was the possession of the clan; that the chief was the leader but not the owner, and was no doubt strengthened by the temporary and partial occupation by the Romans. Their withdrawal, followed by the Saxon invasion, tended, without doubt, to re-establish the principle of common village ownership which formed the basis of both Celtic and German tenure. In the later Saxon period, however, private ownership became gradually more extended. Then the feudal idea began to make progress in England, much as it did about the same time on the continent of Europe, and it received a great impetus from the Norman conquest. When English law began to settle down into a system, the principle of feudalism was taken as the basis, and it gradually became the undisputed maxim of English law that the sovereign was the supreme lord of all the land and that every one held under him as tenant, that there was no such thing as an absolute private right of property in land, but that the state alone as personified by the sovereign was vested with that right, and conceded to the individual possessor only a strictly defined subordinate right, subject to conditions from time to time enacted by the community (see also Feudalism). Feudal tenure was divided into free and non-free. Free tenures were frankalmoign, knight service, serjeanty and free socage. These tenures are dealt with under their separate headings. Base or non-free tenure was tenure in villenage and copyhold, and see also Manor.

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Simple English

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

Tenure is normally used for jobs, usually academic high-ranking jobs like professors. It is to protect professors who are teaching something that their employer, the university, might not agree with. Tenure means that these people cannot be fired without a very good reason- the job is for life. The reason for tenure is to help professors be bold about what they teach and research, so that new ideas will be developed.

Sometimes judges also get tenure. This is so that they can make decisions based on the evidence, even if this means saying that the government, which is their employer, is wrong.


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