You've undoubtedly heard the word "tenure" multiple times during your time in college.  Some professors have tenure; some professors don't have tenure; some professors have been denied tenure (and then often leave campus); some professors are up for tenure. All of this lingo can become quite confusing in case you're not sure what exactly tenure is, however. So, in the context of a college or university, what is "tenure" exactly? Although some of the high school teachers and other educators also have a form of tenure, it is something relatively unique to higher education. A traditional path for someone who wants to teach at a college or university is to get a Ph.D. (or other advanced degree) and then get a job as a professor on a campus. These non-tenured professors -- often working under the formal title of "Assistant Professor" -- are often in what's considered a tenure-track position for the first six years or so that they are teaching. This means that they are focusing on teaching, doing research, getting published, and contributing to the campus community.  The professor is then granted tenure, usually at the end of the academic year (spring semester) in case all goes well.

 

What is tenure

Earning tenure is equivalent to ensuring one's job on a campus. It means you have someone who has been at the school for a while and been judged, by a committee of their peers and the academic dean to be an essential member of the faculty and campus community in case you have a tenured professor teaching your class. Although the final decision often rests with the dean of the faculty, usually a committee and/or academic department recommends someone for tenure. Professors are evaluated on their research, how much they publish, how often they publish, where they publish, their teaching quality, and what they contribute to the campus community. Some campuses value certain areas more than others (e.g., research more than teaching or vice versa). The end-of-course professor evaluations you fill out at the conclusion of each semester can often play a role in someone's tenure decision. To teach courses instead of offering new Ph.D.'s tenure-track positions, there has been some controversy because many campuses are using adjunct faculty. Ph.D.'s tenure-track positions. In essence, adjuncts are only offered short-term positions as professors and are not eligible for tenure. Just like having an adjunct professor doesn't mean you're receiving any lesser quality of instruction while having a tenured professor often means that he or she is a high-quality instructor, it isn't always the case. Tenure has been a staple of American higher education for quite a long time; consequently, it likely plays a big role at your college or university. As budget restrictions, campus culture, and other factors come into the mix, however, tenured professors are becoming much less common than they were a generation or two ago. These are some of the most important things about what is tenure.