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Tenure is a category of academic appointment existing in some countries. A tenured post is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances, such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure is a means of defending the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views.

By country

United States and Canada

Under the tenure systems adopted by many universities and colleges in the United States and Canada, some faculty positions have tenure and some do not. Typical systems (such as the widely adopted "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" of the American Association of University Professors[1]) allow only a limited period to establish a record of published research, ability to attract grant funding, academic visibility, teaching excellence, and administrative or community service. They limit the number of years that any employee can remain employed as a non-tenured instructor or professor, compelling the institution to grant tenure to or terminate an individual, with significant advance notice, at the end of a specified time period. Some institutions require promotion to Associate Professor as a condition of tenure. An institution may also offer other academic positions that are not time-limited, with titles such as Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, or Research Professor, but these positions do not carry the possibility of tenure and are said to not be "tenure track." Typically, they have higher teaching loads, lower compensation, little influence within the institution, few if any benefits, and little protection of academic freedom.[2]

United States

The modern conception of tenure in US higher education originated with the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.[3] Jointly formulated and endorsed by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the 1940 Statement is endorsed by over 250 scholarly and higher education organizations and is widely adopted into faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements at institutions of higher education throughout the United States.[4] This statement holds that, "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition" and stresses that academic freedom is essential in teaching and research in this regard.

United Kingdom

The original form of academic tenure was removed in the United Kingdom in 1988.[5][6] In its place there is the distinction between permanent and temporary contracts for academics. A permanent lecturer in UK universities usually holds an open-ended position that covers teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities.

Research lecturers (where they are permanent appointments) are the equivalent in rank of lecturers and senior lecturers, but reflect a research-intensive orientation. Research lecturers are common in fields such as medicine, engineering, and biological and physical sciences.[7]


Academics are divided into two classes: On the one hand, professors (W2/W3&C3/C4 positions in the new&old systems of pay grades) are employed as state civil servants and hold tenure as highly safeguarded lifetime employment; On the other hand, there is a much larger group of "junior staff" on fixed-term contracts, research grants, fellowships and part-time jobs. In 2010, 9% of academic staff were professors, 66% were "junior staff" (including doctoral candidates on contracts), and 25% were other academic staff in secondary employment.[8] Permanent research, teaching and management positions below professorship as an "Akademischer Rat" (a civil service position salaried like high school teachers) have become relatively rare compared to the 1970s and 1980s and are often no longer refilled after a retirement.[9] In order to attain the position of Professor, in some fields, an academic must usually complete a "Habilitation" (a kind of broader second PhD thesis), after which she or he is eligible for tenureship. This means that, compared to other countries, academics in Germany obtain tenure at a relatively late age, as on average one becomes an Academic Assistant at the age of 42.[10] In 2002 the "Juniorprofessur" position (comparable to an assistant professor in the US, but not always endowed with a tenure track) was introduced as an alternative to "Habilitation". However, the degree of formal equivalence between a "Habilitation" and a successfully completed "Juniorprofessur" varies across the different states (Bundesländer), and the informal recognition of having served as a "Juniorprofessur" as a replacement for the "Habilitation" in the appointment procedures for professorships varies greatly between disciplines.

Due to a university system that guarantees universities relative academic freedom, the position of professor in Germany is relatively strong and independent. As civil servants, professors have a series of attendant rights and benefits, yet this status is subject to discussion. In the W pay scale the professorial pay is related to performance rather than merely to age, as it was in C.[11][circular reference]


Tenure does not exist in Denmark, although Danish universities in advertisements for faculty positions usually state that professor positions are tenured. The lack of formal tenure had no significant implications until Denmark abandoned democracy at the universities in the early 2000s. Since the opening of University ofCopenhagen in 1479[12] rectors, deans and heads of department were elected by the employees and decisions on hiring and dismissal were taken in institute/faculty boards. Since the change, all managers are employed as managers without academic responsibilities, and they all refer to the manager directly above themselves without obligation to hear the opinions of their employees, also in cases of hiring and dismissal.

This new system was introduced by parliament on proposal by the Minister of Science, Technology and Development, Helge Sander based on his vision that Danish universities in the future should compete about funding in analogy to football clubs. Mr. Sander's professional background, before entering politics, was as sports journalist and director of a football club[13].

The lack of tenure in Denmark was most clearly demonstrated by University of Copenhagen in 2016, when the university illegally sacked the internationally renowned professor, Hans Thybo, after 37 years of employment in academic positions[14]. A later court decision ruled the dismissal illegal after a court hearing demonstrated that the university's reasons for the dismissal were false accusations by managers, but the university did not reinstall Thybo in his position[15]. The reasons for the dismissal were that Thybo had been using his gmail for work purposes and that he allegedly should have put unacceptable pressure on a postdoc for making him criticize management. The accusation for pressure was based on statements from management, including two of Thybo's former colleagues, who for long had expressed deep envy about his scientific successes, as well as a former colleague to one of them, who recently had become head of department, and who had never met Thybo beforehand. The university maintained the dismissal after having received written statement from the postdoc that the accusation was false, and that Thybo never put pressure on him to do anything. University of Copenhagen has carried out other similar dismissal after Thybo case.

The implications are that any professor in Denmark can be dismissed based on personal grudge and envy by any new management taking office, and that tenure does not exist in Denmark.

Arguments in favor

Many argue, among other things, that the job security granted by tenure is necessary to recruit talented individuals into professorships, because in many fields private industry jobs pay significantly more. Tenure also protects teachers from being fired for personal, political, or other non-work related reasons. Tenure prohibits school districts from firing experienced teachers to hire less experienced, less expensive teachers as well as protects teachers from being fired for teaching unpopular, controversial, or otherwise challenged curricula such as evolutionary, theological, biology and controversial literature.[]

Arguments against

Some have argued that modern tenure systems diminish academic freedom, forcing those seeking tenured positions to profess conformance to the level of mediocrity as those awarding the tenured professorships. For example, according to physicist Lee Smolin, "...it is practically career suicide for a young theoretical physicist not to join the field of string theory."[16]

Economist Steven Levitt, who recommends the elimination of tenure (for economics professors) in order to incentivize higher performance among professors, also points out that a pay increase may be required to compensate faculty members for the lost job security.[17]

Some U.S. states have considered legislation to remove tenure at public universities.[18]

A further criticism of tenure is that it rewards complacency. Once a professor is awarded tenure, he or she may begin putting reduced effort into their job, knowing that their removal is difficult or expensive to the institution.[19] Another criticism is that it may cause the institution to tolerate incompetent professors if they are tenured. Gilbert Lycan, a history professor at Stetson University, writing in respect of a fellow professor he deemed unacceptable, stated that "the dean ... would not tolerate ineffective teaching by a non-tenured teacher who was making no effort to improve,"[20] thereby tacitly admitting or at least leaving open the fair inference that ineffective teaching is tolerated so long as the professor is tenured.

See also


  1. ^ http://aaup.org/report/1940-statement-principles-academic-freedom-and-tenure; this statement has been adopted by more than 200 scholarly and academic groups (http://aaup.org/endorsers-1940-statement). The American Association of University Professors also publishes "Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure".
  2. ^ "The Status of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty | AAUP". www.aaup.org. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure - AAUP". Aaup.org. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ "What is academic tenure?". Aaup.org. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ "Education Reform Act 1988". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ Enders, Jürgen. "Explainer: how Europe does academic tenure". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "United Kingdom, Academic Career Structure". European University Institute. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ "buwin2013keyresults.pdf -- BuWiN 2017". www.buwin.de (in German). Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ "Prekäre Arbeitsverhältnisse an Universitäten nehmen zu" (in German). Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ "Explainer: how Europe does academic tenure". 6 February 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ "W Besoldung (pay scale)". Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "University of Copenhagen".
  13. ^ "Helge Sander".
  14. ^ "Nature: Sacking of prominent geoscientist rocks community".
  15. ^ "Sacking of top geologist Hans Thybo was unjustified".
  16. ^ Lee Smolin (2008). The Trouble with Physics. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-101835-5.
  17. ^ Levitt, Steven. "Let's Just Get Rid of Tenure (Including Mine)". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ Flaherty, Colleen. "Killing Tenure". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "Study links tenure criteria to long-term professor performance". Insidehighered.com. Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ Lycan, Mountaineers Are Free at 297 (Stone Mountain, Georgia: Linton Day Publishing Co. 1994).

Further reading

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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