Tenure system

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The tenure system provides faculty member stability and a form of lifelong employment. Getting tenure gives a person access to certain financial and social benefits. Moreover, it gives a number of freedoms and possibilities in the academic sphere.

From the start, the attitudes toward tenure were controversial. Hems et al (2001) gnaws at the issue of tenure from two different directions. On the one hand, the authors saying that this system “harbors unproductive faculty” (p.322), while, on the other hand, they did not discover any connection between “decreasing productivity and tenure and even concluded that those faculty members possessing tenure were working more efficient” (p.322).

Nowadays, the prevailing attitude towards tenure is positive because it provides more “freedom for the faculty” (Bess, 1998, p.4), through lifelong employment, which gives the possibility for professional development and innovations. At the same time, the fear of faculty members becoming “deadwood” (Bess, 1998, p.4; Hems et al, 2001, p.322) and neglecting their obligations remains. Moreover, there is a belief that tenure slows down and even restrains the process of academic development. Therefore, changes are being proposed to the system such as “limited tenure at Tohoku University or changes to the tenure policy at the University of Minnesota” (Hems et al, 2001, p.323).

Wood & Johnsrud (2005) call tenure “an artifact of the values and assumptions of academic culture” (p.394). According to this definition culture of the faculty has a significant place in the process of getting tenure.

Attitudes towards tenure and approaches

While studying attitudes towards tenure and approaches, one should take two points of view towards culture and socialization in general and its place in the academic society in particular, modernist and postmodernist viewpoints. According to the modernist point of view, “an organization's culture teaches people how to behave, what to hope for, and what it means to succeed or fail” (Tierney, 1997, p. 4), in this case an individual adopts stable rules, which exist in a society (faculty). However, the postmodernist view of culture is a “give-and-take” (p.6), one, which means that a person entering a group and adopts its rules and patterns contributing to the group's culture.

In the sphere of attitudes towards tenure the foregoing approaches shapes two different points of view. Modernist approach towards tenure is the most common one and is mainly expressed in the way people describe their work, e.g., “the competition about the amount of working hours” or “the number of publications one should have in order to get tenure” (Tierney, 1997, pp. 8-9). On the other hand, postmodernist attitudes towards tenure can be seen through personal an interest, which shapes the work of those willing to be granted tenure.


Making a conclusion for the research Tierney (1997), understanding that the majority of “individuals were able to subsume personal inclinations in favor of the modernist goal of assimilating to the culture to which they were being socialized” (p.13). Two main spheres define either modernist or postmodernist attitudes of the faculty towards tenure. The modernist approach dominates in cases where research work, which is seen through the amount of publications, is the main criterion for granting tenure. Conversely, the postmodern sphere places emphasis on teaching. Faculty is most comfortable with tenure but understands that there is room for additional modification to the system; however, post-tenure review has led to a number of intense disagreements.

Post-tenure review

Post-tenure review is a “systematic, comprehensive process, separate from the annual review, aimed specifically at assessing performance and/or nurturing faculty growth and development” (Wood & Johnsrud, 2005, pp. 394-395). This is one of the methods to avoid “deadwood” (Bess, 1998, p.4; Hems et al, 2001, p.322) faculty members; the institution must preserve the highest level of efficiency to those being granted tenure. The new system of reviews can be efficient only if they are conducted frequently. The research conducted after the “implementation of post-tenure review shows that productivity did increase” (Hems et al, 2001, p.324). Still, the new system is a very debatable subject and has gained negative attitudes from the academic society.

The discussion of post-tenure reviews is concentrated on a number of topics: the level of freedom which faculty has with the review, the impact of tenure on efficiency of faculty's work, and those responsible for reviewing faculty. Outsiders conduct post-tenure reviews, in turn; the faculty considers this as an interruption of their academic work, and sees this as a limitation of their academic. The type of review supported by academics is “peer-to-peer” (Wood & Johnsrud, 2005, p.410). The negative influence of tenure is argued, and, it is stated that not tenure itself but some characteristics of the system are more influential. The influence of post-tenure reviews on the entire academic world is the topic being discussed the most. These reviews works as restrictions of the freedom of teaching, and therefore, academics are being deprived from the main advantage granted by the system.

Generally, tenure and post-tenure reviews have their advantages and disadvantages, which give a place for the discussion of their efficiency. Tenure, which is an old system, and is being blamed for the reduction of the faculty's work efficiency; those with tenure are blamed for losing productivity and general neglect of their duties. Nevertheless, tenure itself, as a system, maybe the cause of the problem, at the same time, the modernist approach towards tenure may be the reason of the system's criticism for the motivation. Understanding, not the tenure system itself but some of the qualities within the system are responsible for the decreasing efficiency of academic society.

Post-tenure reviews, though, on the one hand, are able to “remove non-performing faculty” (Wood & Johnsrud, 2005, p.413) and, on the other hand, it is a threat to the academic world. Post-tenure reviews can be the means of the interference in the educational process, therefore, ruining the freedom of teaching. While tenure provides the faculty with additional support benefits, post-tenure reviews are able to annihilate them. The inefficiency of the tenure system has led to creation of post-tenure reviews. Still, as the reviews have led to a heated debate, alternative ways of curbing those with tenure should be further studied.


Bess, J. L. (1998, January/February). Contract systems, bureaucracies, and faculty motivation: The probable effects of a no-tenure policy. Journal of Higher Education, 69(1), 1-22.

Helms, M. M., Williams, A. B., & Nixon, J. C. (2001). TQM principles and their relevance to higher education: The question of tenure and post-tenure. The International Journal of Educational Management, 15(6/7), 322-331.

Wood, M., & Johnsrud, L. (2005, Spring). Post-tenure review: What matters to faculty. Review of
Higher Education, 28(3), 393-420.

Tierney, W. G. (1997, January/February). Organizational socialization in higher education.
Journal of Higher Education, 68(1), 1-16.