I am curious to know how the tenure granting process works in the US. How much weight is given to research, teaching, and service. I have heard that a lot depends on your relationship with your peers - department colleagues. If they feel you are a good fit, you can be granted tenure even though you have less than a stellar record.

Is there a minimum requirement for number of publications. Do publications before joining the institution count? I would appreciate your inputs.

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    I would bet this is highly country/field/university dependent. I don't think there will be one single answer, but maybe I'll be surprised! Let's see :-)
    – darthbith
    Feb 12, 2015 at 20:08
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    Policies and the actual implementation of those policies varies dramatically between institutions and even within institutions. Because institutions have a great deal of autonomy in the US system of higher education there's no governmental policy or regulation that controls this. Informally, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has guidelines on the tenure process, but these are not very specific and aren't binding on institutions in any case. Feb 12, 2015 at 20:49
  • I understand that it depends from institution to institution, but was hoping someone would shed light on what factors are generally taken into account.
    – Sam Jones
    Feb 12, 2015 at 21:21
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    Relative weights are wildly variable at different institutions, primarily by class of institution. Research weighs very heavily at research-focused institutions, teaching weighs very heavily at some primarily-undergraduate institutions, and there's a wide range in between. Service is probably rarely as important as the others, though.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 12, 2015 at 22:10
  • Usually there is no fixed requirement for the number of publications (total or since joining the institution), but sometimes there is (I've heard of departments where the rule was simply "publish 1 book for tenure"), and sometimes there's an informal expectation which can be bent if you have few but exceptional publications. In any case, you should ask the department in question.
    – Kimball
    Feb 13, 2015 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


The two most important considerations are publications and teaching: you have to have enough good publications, and you have to be not horrid at teaching. This assumes a typical teaching, research and service obligation -- research won't matter in a teaching-only position, and vice versa. Although teaching is usually considered to officially take up more of your time, research is usually given greater weight in a research institution, and teaching in teaching-oriented schools. Teaching tends to matter less than research in sciences, and teaching tends to be more important in humanities.

Officially, collegiality is in last place and is in some institutions forbidden as a criterion. However, likeability can influence people's subjective evaluations of other criteria. There is a growing trend to require departments to have explicit criteria, for instance stating that a book is required, or that the norm is 3 peer-reviewed publications per year. I understand it to be the normal case that all of your publications are part of the tenure package.

The external evaluations are, in my opinion, more important as a measure of your research productivity than the raw number of publications, so a huge number of crappy papers will do you no good, unless you can get a lot of crappy referees too.

  • I don't agree about all publications being counted. In the areas I am familiar with, you would only get credit for work that you've started in your current position. Even papers published after arriving on e.g. postdoctoral work do not count. The exception is the case in which someone moves from one tenure-track job to another pre-tenure.
    – Corvus
    Feb 13, 2015 at 2:52
  • That is what I have heard as well. I know someone who had a publication in Nature journal as a postdoc and wanted it to be counted for his tenure review, but it was not accepted.
    – Sam Jones
    Feb 13, 2015 at 4:54

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