The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Tenure is a category of academic appointment existing in some countries. A tenured post is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances, such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure is a means of defending the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views.
Under the tenure systems adopted by many universities and colleges in the United States and Canada, some faculty positions have tenure and some do not. Typical systems (such as the widely adopted "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure" of the American Association of University Professors) allow only a limited period to establish a record of published research, ability to attract grant funding, academic visibility, teaching excellence, and administrative or community service. They limit the number of years that any employee can remain employed as a non-tenured instructor or professor, compelling the institution to grant tenure to or terminate an individual, with significant advance notice, at the end of a specified time period. Some institutions require promotion to Associate Professor as a condition of tenure. An institution may also offer other academic positions that are not time-limited, with titles such as Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, or Research Professor, but these positions do not carry the possibility of tenure and are said to not be "tenure track." Typically, they have higher teaching loads, lower compensation, little influence within the institution, few if any benefits, and little protection of academic freedom.
The modern conception of tenure in US higher education originated with the American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Jointly formulated and endorsed by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the 1940 Statement is endorsed by over 250 scholarly and higher education organizations and is widely adopted into faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements at institutions of higher education throughout the United States. This statement holds that, "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition" and stresses that academic freedom is essential in teaching and research in this regard.
The original form of academic tenure was removed in the United Kingdom in 1988. In its place there is the distinction between permanent and temporary contracts for academics. A permanent lecturer in UK universities usually holds an open-ended position that covers teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities.
Research lecturers (where they are permanent appointments) are the equivalent in rank of lecturers and senior lecturers, but reflect a research-intensive orientation. Research lecturers are common in fields such as medicine, engineering, and biological and physical sciences.
Academics are divided into two classes: On the one hand, professors (W2/W3&C3/C4 positions in the new&old systems of pay grades) are employed as state civil servants and hold tenure as highly safeguarded lifetime employment; On the other hand, there is a much larger group of "junior staff" on fixed-term contracts, research grants, fellowships and part-time jobs. In 2010, 9% of academic staff were professors, 66% were "junior staff" (including doctoral candidates on contracts), and 25% were other academic staff in secondary employment. Permanent research, teaching and management positions below professorship as an "Akademischer Rat" (a civil service position salaried like high school teachers) have become relatively rare compared to the 1970s and 1980s and are often no longer refilled after a retirement. In order to attain the position of Professor, in some fields, an academic must usually complete a "Habilitation" (a kind of broader second PhD thesis), after which she or he is eligible for tenureship. This means that, compared to other countries, academics in Germany obtain tenure at a relatively late age, as on average one becomes an Academic Assistant at the age of 42. In 2002 the "Juniorprofessur" position (comparable to an assistant professor in the US, but not always endowed with a tenure track) was introduced as an alternative to "Habilitation". However, the degree of formal equivalence between a "Habilitation" and a successfully completed "Juniorprofessur" varies across the different states (Bundesländer), and the informal recognition of having served as a "Juniorprofessur" as a replacement for the "Habilitation" in the appointment procedures for professorships varies greatly between disciplines.
Due to a university system that guarantees universities relative academic freedom, the position of professor in Germany is relatively strong and independent. As civil servants, professors have a series of attendant rights and benefits, yet this status is subject to discussion. In the W pay scale the professorial pay is related to performance rather than merely to age, as it was in C.[circular reference]
Many argue, among other things, that the job security granted by tenure is necessary to recruit talented individuals into professorships, because in many fields private industry jobs pay significantly more. Tenure also protects teachers from being fired for personal, political, or other non-work related reasons. Tenure prohibits school districts from firing experienced teachers to hire less experienced, less expensive teachers as well as protects teachers from being fired for teaching unpopular, controversial, or otherwise challenged curricula such as evolutionary, theological, biology and controversial literature.
Some have argued that modern tenure systems diminish academic freedom, forcing those seeking tenured positions to profess conformance to the level of mediocrity as those awarding the tenured professorships. For example, according to physicist Lee Smolin, "...it is practically career suicide for a young theoretical physicist not to join the field of string theory."
Economist Steven Levitt, who recommends the elimination of tenure (for economics professors) in order to incentivize higher performance among professors, also points out that a pay increase may be required to compensate faculty members for the lost job security.
Some U.S. states have considered legislation to remove tenure at public universities.
A further criticism of tenure is that it rewards complacency. Once a professor is awarded tenure, he or she may begin putting reduced effort into their job, knowing that their removal is difficult or expensive to the institution.