Universities strive for international excellence in their research and education. One key instrument available to them is career policy, which can provide an impetus for young researchers to develop their talents, obtain suitable posts and maximise their own potential and that of their research. Tenure track policy can be a particularly effective means of attracting and retaining younger talent. Researchers on a tenure track must prove that they are good enough to be appointed to a university's permanent academic staff within a certain period of time. Researchers often move up through the ranks from assistant professor to associate professor and ultimately professor based on proven ability, although this is not always the case.
University tenure track policies can focus on any number of aspects, five of which are highlighted below:
Academic independence and visibility
Academics on a tenure track do independent research under favourable circumstances and as such are not assistants to other researchers. This means that the tenure track researcher has a visible position in the organisation and in the research to which they contribute.
Clear career prospects
A tenure track leads to a permanent position (tenure) either as an assistant professor or an associate professor, with the possibility of promotion to a professorial post. A tenure track does not necessarily culminate in tenure. Effective monitoring throughout the track is crucial to ensure that candidates know what to expect and are supported on their way to the next career step. If a tenure candidate does not perform to the standard required for appointment to a permanent academic post, they will be assisted in searching for a suitable position outside academia.
Tenure candidates receive development support. Such support can include the offer of various courses, mentoring, guidance and so forth.
Mentoring, feedback and evaluation
To develop their full potential, tenure candidates need continuing insight into their stage of development. Clear criteria, interim feedback and regular evaluations can provide this insight.
Workforce diversity strengthens organisational performance. Current measures are intended to contribute to boosting the number of women on tenure tracks, resulting in more women being promoted to higher academic posts. One such measure is to ensure that tenure committees include at least a minimum of female members.