Hundreds of tenured staff are taking early retirement deals on offer at US universities, Times Higher Education reported last week. Universities are offering incentives of up to two years’ salary in a move that some see as a way to further reduce the proportion of tenured positions in academia, according to the report.
John Curtis, director of research and public policy at the American Association of University Professors, says that although the incentives are not targeted at tenured staff, they may be contributing to tenure’s continuing decline. “Many of the tenured faculty members who are retiring, or who depart a particular university for a different reason, are not being replaced by a tenure-track colleague,” he told Naturejobs.
The proportion of faculty members in the tenure stream in the United States has been dropping for the past 40 years, falling from around three-quarters in 1970 to around 30% in 2007 (see ‘The changing face of tenure’). Curtis says that faculty members in limited-term or part-time positions are essentially ‘at-will’ employees, referring to the mode of employment that basically means staff can be fired at will without good cause, and are therefore wary of pushing their students too far or speaking out on controversial topics. He says universities moving away from the tenure system are failing to invest in their core mission of teaching and research.
What do you think? Have you been affected by the early retirement of a tenured colleague or professor? Are you struggling to find a tenure-track position? Do you live in a country where there is no tenure system? Post a comment to let us know your thoughts.