Skip to content Skip to navigation


You are here: Home » Content » Understanding the Promotion and Tenure Process


Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.


(What is a tag?)

These tags come from the endorsement, affiliation, and other lenses that include this content.

Understanding the Promotion and Tenure Process

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: Presentation in the 2008 Rice University NSF Advance Conference entitled “Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position”. This presentation focused on educating graduate students and post-docs who aspire to academic faculty positions regarding the university promotion and tenure process, and was authored by Jason Hafner (Physics & Astronomy), Kathleen Matthews (Natural Sciences), and Jennifer West (BIOE).

Note: You are viewing an old version of this document. The latest version is available here.


  • Institution
    • Tenure is a life-long commitment by the university to you
    • Successful faculty – innovators, leaders, producers
    • Research objectives in line with institutional directions
  • You
    • Faculty position that meets your own research and career objectives
    • Member of functional, innovative and forward-looking department and institution
    • Security offered by tenure

What can I do now?

Think about your steps all along the way

  • Consistently evaluate your own progress
    • Goals
    • Mechanisms to get there
    • Ways to learn from others and engage them
  • Keep data on all your activities
  • Ask for feedback
    • Grant writing
    • Papers
    • Teaching
    • Research program organization and development

This process is the accumulation of years of effort! THINK AHEAD!!

Understand the general process

  • Learn about the promotion and tenure process at your institution
    • Ask about the process at every stage if you have questions
  • Request a copy of the policy
    • Be sure when you are interviewing that the policy is consistent with your personal goals
  • Understand the balance of teaching, research, and service that the institution AND the department will expect
  • Understand the audience(s) for the materials

The Dossier

  • Summary of your independent career at institution
  • Information on all aspects of your career
    • Research summary (publications, grants, citations, awards)
    • Teaching summary (courses, evaluations, awards)
    • Service summary (activities, awards)
  • Inside reviews/letters
  • Outside letters****
    • Writers identified by department
    • Also usually writers identified by individual

Dossier Components

  • Summary of career
    • Education
    • Honors
    • Teaching/advising/mentoring
    • Citations
    • Grants
    • Publications
    • Research/teaching summary written by candidate
  • Outside letters

What happens after dossier is prepared?

  1. Department review
    • Tenured faculty generally involved in decision to recommend or deny tenure
    • Department chair writes letter
      • Some schools have subcommittee
  2. School review
    • Often school-level committee reviews and makes recommendation to dean
    • Dean makes recommendation
  3. Promotion/Tenure Committee (Provost)
    • Makes recommendation to President
  4. President sometimes makes final decision

Multiple levels of review — no one person makes the decision! Many voices are part of the process.

General process

  • Understand the timing of preparing the dossier, what you should submit and when
    • Think carefully about names for Outside Letters
  • Understand the process completely
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your materials
    • Think about your research/teaching summary
    • Ensure that your papers are submitted in a timely way
  • Ask QUESTIONS if you do not understand

Outside letters

  • Highly influential in decision process
  • May have opportunity to suggest names
    • Develop relationships - create a network
    • MARKET yourself!
  • Post-decision: Ask about possibility for feedback from the letters (can be useful)

Anticipate whom you would want to write letters and get to know those individuals

Factors considered

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Service

These factors combine to reach a decision, BUT the specific combination varies widely across institutions



  • Used to assess your productivity
    • Numbers vary widely among disciplines
    • Type of publications expected also vary widely
    • Different expectations at different promotion points
  • Used to assess the quality of work produced
    • Citations, H-factor, Impact on the field
  • Demonstrate your contributions
  • Provide evidence of your unique contributions, particularly in collaborative/cross-disciplinary activities
    • Issues of collaborators: How many? How much of your time?
    • Issues of cross-disciplinarity: Why did this matter? What did you and your discipline contribute?


  • Important national review of work
  • Demonstrate ability to secure funding for research


  • Invitations reflect status in the field


  • Present at multiple conferences
  • Engage the leaders at those conferences
  • Invite leaders to your institution via department events
  • Reflect on level of focus in work and, if broad, engage multiple communities


  • Effectiveness
    • Often evaluated by students
    • Ask assigned or selected mentor to provide review
  • Innovation
    • Think about ways to do it better/more effectively
    • Engage students
  • Range/breadth
    • Assignments may be focused or broad
    • Be prepared to teach beyond your comfort zone
  • Enthusiasm
    • Convey why you love what you do
    • Occasionally volunteer for something extra
  • Develop a portfolio of your teaching
    • Syllabi
    • Handouts, other notes on courses developed
    • Problem sets
    • Other written materials
    • Computer-based materials, notes on courseware
    • Copies of software developed for courses
    • Examinations
    • Copies of graded papers where there is a significant writing component
    • Evaluation by a colleague
    • Student evaluations


  • Department
    • Help your department accomplish the faculty’s goals University
  • University
    • Engage in the broad community, but wisely — most P/T committees are broad
  • National Organizations
    • Choose wisely for visibility with minimum time
  • Civic/K12/Outreach Opportunities
    • Choose wisely, but make a difference

Keep your CV up to date

  • Include students mentored at all levels (primary and secondary mentoring)
    • Undergraduates
    • Graduate Students
    • Post-doctoral Associates
  • Include advising responsibilities at all levels
  • Refereed publications
    • Some institutions request an evaluation of % effort on each
    • Citations — check your “h-factor”
  • Abstracts / Conference Proceedings / Presentations
    • Seminars/Workshops/Panels/etc.
    • Posters
    • Invited talks at meetings
  • Service within university, in community, at (inter)national level

P/T versus Performance Reviews

Ask your institution about frequency and nature of performance reviews

  • Can be very helpful in guiding activities
  • Opportunity for mid-term feedback
  • Provide an internal view of accomplishments
    • Some may have external letters
    • Dossier can be similar to promotion dossier

Are there answers to my questions?

  • How many publications do I need?
  • How much grant funding?
  • How many graduate students? Postdocs?
  • How many committees? Which ones?
  • How good must my teaching be? Does it matter?
  • How do I know if I’m doing enough?

There are no “right” answers to these questions, because the process is a composite of all of these and varies from place to place:


Content actions

Download module as:

Add module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens


A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks