Tenure Track

Career strategies for young European scientists
by Bettina Dupont, Labtimes 06/2014

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One Name, Several Career Paths

Tenure track at European universities complements existing career paths to a professorship. In a currently published advice paper, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) defined tenure track as a fixed-term contract advertised with the perspective of a permanent position at a higher level. Promotion is dependent on positive evaluation; no renewed advertising and application are required.

Three models are currently in use at LERU universities. The first tenure track model allows promotion of successful candidates from fixed-term Assistant Professor to permanent Associate Professor. A second model implies performance-dependent promotion from fixed-term Assistant Professor to permanent Full Professor. Within the framework of a third model, candidates are appointed as permanent Full Professor after having successfully completed fixed-term positions as Assistant and Associate Professor. All universities chose an up-or-out system. Either candidates meet the expectations related to the tenure track position, or they are asked to leave. The programmes are in the early trial or implementation stage.

The UK, France and Spain do not have tenure track systems. However, many universities and funders in the UK offer career paths for researchers, with five year ‘academic fellowships’ providing an anticipated, but not guaranteed, route to a higher academic position. In France, the “legal framework dictates unbiased competition for all positions without exception,” leaving no room for the implementation of tenure track. “To date, tenure track is seen more as a barely beneficial temptation than as an opportunity,” the LERU advice paper states. In Spain, postdoctoral researchers can apply for the fixed-term Ramón y Cajal qualification programme for an academic career. However, after positive evaluation, a permanent position is not guaranteed. Control over positions, evaluation and the accreditation of academics lies in the hands of the national and local governments, not in the hands of academic institutions.

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Last Changed: 20.11.2014