I'm posting to help out a friend. The operational parameters are US + research university + computer science, so I'm looking for information primarily in that context, though the question is not computer science-specific.

He's tenured at one university and applying to another place. The latter has a funny kind of tenure option. In addition to regular tenured hires, they can make a rapid hiring decision based on just a small number of letters (say 3-4) into a quasi-tenured position. When this happens, after the person joins they go through a proper tenure review. So in principle, you could be hired to a "tenured" position but then later find you don't have tenure after all.

It seems to be neither the traditional "enter with tenure" model nor "enter with abbreviated tenure clock" model, but some new thing entirely. Someone I spoke to said this is increasingly common, and he'd heard of other departments that did this too. I have never heard of it before and find it rather strange.

Do you know of departments that do this? How does it work in practice?

  • 1
    This sounds very suspect to me. What would you say if someone told you that they'd loan you money today, but the interest rate will be figured out later?
    – David Hill
    Nov 3, 2014 at 23:31
  • 13
    How is this quasi-tenured, as opposed to an untenured position with a very short tenure clock? I don't understand the distinction. Are they suggesting to your friend that the later tenure review is a formality? Nov 4, 2014 at 0:03
  • 2
    @DavidHill: Well, for one thing, the tenure process is often quite long, requiring approvals and documents at many levels within the institution, and it may be that they can't get through it on the same short time scale that's needed for making job offers. So I can understand why an institution would need to have such a process. Nov 4, 2014 at 2:31
  • 3
    @DavidHill: It's a little harder to see why a candidate who already has tenure elsewhere would put up with it. But in many cases, such a candidate will retain the option to return to her previous job if things don't work out (by being on leave for a year or so), so they may have some insurance anyway. Nov 4, 2014 at 2:31
  • 1
    @AnonymousMathematician, yes, the implication is that the later tenure is essentially a formality, though in a strictly legal sense it is, of course, merely a very short tenure clock. As Nate Eldredge points out, this lets a department that cannot complete the process in a brief period of time convey the message, “We intend to hire you with tenure, we'll just work it out in a while”; in contrast, a short clock is a much weaker statement (in particular, with the implication -- depending on clock length -- that the candidate is truly under probation). Nov 4, 2014 at 3:41

1 Answer 1


I don't see how this is really different from hiring somebody with a very short (i.e. one year) tenure clock. The difference probably has more to do with the hiring institution's internal rules than anything else.

We had a senior hire with a one year clock a while back. It wasn't labeled as "quasi-tenure," but that was basically how it worked. You don't give somebody a one year clock unless you are overwhelmingly sure that the person is going to get tenure. And that seems to be what this position is offering; the hire will start without tenure, but the expectation is that they will be fully tenured in short order.

  • Expectations are irrelevant.
    – o0'.
    May 6, 2015 at 8:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .