Tenure and Promotion FAQ

Q: What are the criteria for tenure and promotion at UW-Madison?

A:  Tenure criteria are posted by each of the four Divisional Executive Committees (see the top of the sidebar at https://secfac.wisc.edu/tenure/).  In addition, each department has its own more detailed criteria, which should be given to each assistant professor at the time of hire or within the new faculty member’s first few weeks.


Q: How do I know whether I will be put up for tenure by my department?

A: Faculty Policies and Procedures require that every assistant professor be reviewed annually by a review committee and the department’s Executive Committee.  Assistant professors will understand the extent to which they are making good progress toward tenure through the annual review process.


Q: What do I need to do to prepare the tenure dossier for the tenure and promotion process?

A: Assistant professors should maintain records of their accomplishments during the probationary period, including their publication and research record, the syllabi and assignments for courses they have taught and their students’ evaluations of their teaching, and their record of service, governance, and outreach activities.  Much of this material is collected annually for the purpose of annual reviews.  Assistant professors should work with their department chairs to provide the materials necessary for the Divisional Committee review of their cases, and to prepare statements as required on the Divisional Committee’s checklists.


Q: If I need to extend my tenure clock, will this be seen pejoratively by my department or the Divisional Executive Committees?

A: No.  Requests for tenure-clock extensions for childbirth and adoption are routine for faculty members who are parents, and requests for other reasons involves a simple process that can be found here (https://secfac.wisc.edu/tenure/tenure-clock-extensions/).  A recent study by the office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) has found that over 40 percent of both men and women received tenure clock extensions in recent years.


Q: Statistically what are my chances of getting tenure?

A: UW-Madison awards tenure to about three-fourths of all probationary faculty hired, based on a study conducted by APIR in the spring of 2018. (The study examined tenure and attrition of assistant professors hired between 2001 and 2011. See https://apir.wisc.edu/faculty-staff/trends/.) Of all faculty whose cases were sent by their departmental Executive Committees to their respective Divisional Committees, 98 percent received tenure.


Q:  If three-fourths of faculty who started as assistant professors went on to get tenure, does that mean that 25 percent were denied tenure?

A:  No – it’s more nuanced than that. That 25 percent includes those who leave for all kinds of reasons, and includes those who were on track to get tenure and those who weren’t.


Q:  What accounts for the difference between the tenure rates of faculty hired between 2001 and 2011 whose cases are sent to the Divisional Committees (98 percent) and the rates of all assistant professors hired during those years (about 75 percent)?

A: The difference between the two rates is due to attrition among junior faculty for various reasons.  Assistant professors may leave the university prior to having their cases go before their Divisional Committees; those who leave without tenure include those who would have been denied tenure and those who would have been awarded tenure had they stayed.


Q:  Are there differences in tenure rates by Divisional Committee, or by race, ethnicity or gender?

A:   The APIR study found that of all cases sent by the departmental executive committees to the divisional committees, there were virtually no differences in tenure rates by gender, race/ethnicity, or divisional committee. About 98 percent of all cases, regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, or divisional committee, were approved for tenure.


Among all tenure-track faculty, women and men currently receive tenure at similar rates: about 73 percent of women and 76 percent of men hired between 2001 and 2011 earned tenure. Faculty of color and white faculty also earn tenure at similar rates (72 percent and 75 percent, respectively).


There are some differences in overall tenure rates among the divisional committees.  About 80 percent of faculty earn tenure in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Arts and Humanities divisions, compared to 64 percent of faculty in the Social Sciences division.  A larger percentage of faculty in Social Sciences (33 percent) leave prior to divisional committee review than is the case in other divisions (between 18 and 19 percent).