BOX 5-8

Creating Flexibility in Tenure-Track Faculty Careersa

On March 22, 2005, the American Council on Education (ACE) released the report, An Agenda for Excellence: Creating Flexibility in Tenure-Track Faculty Careers, which concluded that “higher education leaders urgently need to examine and proactively address the institutional climate that governs the entire career cycle of faculty, from entry-level to tenure-track positions to retirement.”

The panel reports that, for a variety of reasons, an increasing number of new PhDs are leaving academe or opting for careers outside the traditional tenure-track path. To achieve a better balance between personal and professional life, some faculty, especially women, choose adjunct and non-tenure-track positions, despite low pay, minimal or no benefits, and potential lack of job security. The ACE report argues that in many fields, especially science and engineering, the United States cannot afford to lose its potential academic workforce, and US institutions of higher learning should “act immediately to attract the best faculty to the tenure-track professoriate.”

The report makes the following general recommendations:b

  • Allow colleges, schools, and departments in a university to establish their own agreed-on guidelines for interpreting criteria for promotion and tenure, taking into account heavy teaching loads, professional service activities, and student advising.

  • Create flexibility in the probationary period for tenure review without altering the standards or criteria. Longer probationary periods should not be required for all faculty, but flexible timeframes of up to 10 years, with reviews at set intervals, should be offered. This option could benefit faculty who may need to be compensated for lost time or given additional time to prepare because of unanticipated professional or personal circumstances.

  • Examine and actively address the work-life issues and professional climate of faculty members throughout the entire career cycle.


aAmerican Council on Education (2005). An Agenda for Excellence: Creating Flexibility in Tenure-Track Faculty Careers. Executive Summary,


bACE Web site. An Agenda for Excellence: Creating Flexibility in Tenure-Track Faculty Careers,

driven approach to examining those concerns lends credibility to and enables a less confrontational discussion of the issues.77

Tips for Academic Leaders to Accelerate the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering,; Harvard University (2005). Report of the Task Force on Women Faculty,


Harvard University (2005), ibid.

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