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Is it possible that an associate professor in one university be designated as assistant professor after a year in the same university? What could be the consequences of it?

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Within one university this would be a demotion so it is possible but rare, and could happen if the appointment and ensuing titles were given by courtesy, i.e. the appointment is not a regular full-time appointment. Rank associated with this courtesy appointment might then be tied to some specific commitments.

I’ve never seen this happen for a regular position: I would guess that such demotion of a regular faculty member would lead to dismissal or resignation. For courtesy appointments my experience is that these are either renewed or not, but I know of one place where such a “demotion” is technically possible.

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Caveat: This is a view from the US. In other countries with different traditions things may differ.

I think that would be rare. It might be possible (unlikely) if the person changed fields and departments and needed to start over. I've never heard any instance of it. An associate professor in the US has tenure. An assistant does not.

In order for such a thing to work the person would have to give up tenure, which would be very unlikely. There can hardly be any incentive to do so, other than a change of field/department.

If it were forced, the consequences would likely be a lawsuit as it is a civil, not criminal matter. If it were by mutual consent then there are no consequences.

But switching universities is a different matter. It is possible to give up tenure and the rank of associate professor at one place and become an untenured assistant professor at another. But the incentives would need to be pretty strong for a person to want to do this. More commonly a switch would retain the rank but with a probationary period built in, normally a small number of years, before tenure is granted.


Additional caveat. There are a few places in the US that do not have a system of tenure at all. People normally serve on multi year contracts that don't automatically renew. In such a place pretty much anything is possible and there are few consequences other than higher turnover. See, for example: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED424814

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    To be clear, the incentives for giving up tenure when moving to another university are usually that the new university is substantially better than the old one. This might convince someone that going back from Associate to Assistant Prof is a worthwhile move. Oct 12, 2019 at 14:04
  • Since pretty much every school's faculty negotiates their own system, the caveats never stop. I think there are more than a few schools that have a non tenure-track system of ranks alongside the tenure track, I'd presume to allow them to pay better salaries to untenured faculty. Oct 12, 2019 at 18:45
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    Tenure and promotion are distinct processes at several US universities, including my own, at which one is eligible for promotion to associate professor the year before one is eligible to apply for tenure. (US academia even contains instances, albeit fewer, of tenured assistant professors.) Nevertheless I agree with "I think that would be rare." Oct 12, 2019 at 21:25

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