II. Academic Policies

Promotion and Tenure

Promotion and tenure are awarded for academic and professional merit. The criteria for promotion and tenure are described in University Policy HR-23, "Promotion and Tenure Procedures and Regulations." The Administrative Guidelines for HR-23 supplement but do not alter the basic policies set forth in HR-23.

University Criteria for Promotion and Tenure

University criteria for promotion and tenure have deliberately been made general in the expectation that there will be further definition and elaboration by the academic unit. Each college; the University Libraries; the Dickinson School of Law; the Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies; and the School of Nursing have developed more specific criteria statements. Some departments have departmental criteria statements. Faculty members should obtain copies of the pertinent criteria statements so that they are aware of the expectations of their unit.

There are three categories, listed below, in which candidates for promotion and tenure must demonstrate achievement and potential for further progress. The University Libraries and the College of Medicine each has an additional category (Librarianship and Clinical Practice, respectively). The criteria are applied in light of the mission of the academic unit and the professional responsibilities of the faculty member.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Ability to convey subject matter to students; demonstrated competence in teaching and capacity for growth and improvement; ability to maintain academic standards and to stimulate the interests of students in the field; effectiveness of counseling, advising, and service to students.

The Scholarship of Research and Creative Accomplishments: Competence, usually demonstrated through publication, exhibition, or performance, to carry out research or creative work of high quality and scholarly significance; the ability to garner grants or other external support for research or creative activity; evidence of thorough understanding of the field; maintenance of high levels of academic performance.

Service and the Scholarship of Service to the University, Society, and the Profession: Participation in University, college, department or division, and unit affairs; contributions to the University's programs to enhance equal opportunity and cultural diversity; competence in extending specialized knowledge to the University and to the public; service to government, industry, public and private organizations, and professional societies.

Review Process

The review process for promotion and tenure includes both peer reviews by faculty promotion and tenure committees and administrative reviews by appropriate administrators.


Tenure is based on the potential for future advancement in the several areas as indicated by performance during the provisional period. Tenure reviews are made in the second, fourth, and sixth years of the provisional period. In the case of a negative review but without notice of termination, and in other cases where it is deemed advisable, a special third- or fifth-year tenure review may be requested by the department head, campus chancellor, or dean. If the faculty member continues to a sixth-year review, the faculty member is notified before June 30 whether tenure has been granted. When continuing faculty are awarded tenure, tenure status will be effective the following July 1, immediately following the decision.

A first-year faculty member in a tenure-eligible rank whose services will not be retained receives written notice of termination no later than March 1 of the first academic year of service. Thereafter, a faculty member in provisional service receives at least twelve months' notice before the end of an academic year if his or her service is not to be continued.

The decision to award tenure is made by the President after reviews at all previous levels have been completed. If the decision not to recommend tenure is made at the college, school, or University Libraries level of review, the appropriate dean will notify the faculty member of the decision.

A faculty member holding tenure is assured that his or her services will not be terminated except for adequate cause, for retirement, for financial exigency, or for program elimination or reduction.

Length of Provisional Period

Unless specifically stated otherwise in writing, all tenure-eligible appointments are provisional until the appointee has been notified of a change in status. A newly appointed faculty member in a tenure-eligible rank will normally be required to serve a maximum of six years in provisional status, although credit may be granted for full-time service at other accredited institutions or for an earlier appointment at Penn State.

Reduction in Prior Tenure Credit

A reduction in prior tenure credit may be granted upon the written request of a faculty member and subject to the concurrence of the appropriate dean. A request for reduction in prior tenure credit will be considered only once for each faculty member. The request must be made during the first three years of the appointment or prior to the completion of the fourth-year tenure review inclusive of prior credit of tenure-eligible service, whichever occurs first.

Computing Years Toward Tenure

To facilitate the administration of tenure review procedures, there is a common tenure anniversary date of July 1 for all tenure-eligible academic appointments. This tenure anniversary date will not necessarily coincide with the faculty member's date of initial appointment. A year of credit toward tenure is earned in any year in which a tenure-eligible faculty member has full-time active employment status for no less than six months between July 1 and June 30. Since the purpose of the provisional period is to provide an opportunity for observing the faculty member, time spent on leave of absence is not considered part of the provisional period.

Staying of the Provisional Tenure Period

Upon the written request of a faculty member, the executive vice president and provost of the University may grant a temporary staying of the provisional tenure period, if, in his or her judgment, the academic performance of the provisional faculty member would be adversely affected by the responsibility as primary care giver after the birth or adoption of a child, a serious personal illness, the provision of care for a seriously ill family member, or any similar situation. This special exception is for one academic year and is normally granted only once. During this period the faculty member would not be evaluated according to the tenure guidelines, and the year would not be counted toward the provisional period. At the end of the stayed year, the faculty member continues on the tenure track.


The presumption is that a positive tenure decision for an assistant professor is sufficient to warrant promotion to associate professor. Promotion is based on recognized performance and achievement in each of several areas, as appropriate to the particular responsibilities of the faculty member. Decisions on promotion to the ranks of associate professor and professor, or their equivalents, are made by the President after reviews at all previous levels have been completed. Promotions up to and including the rank of assistant professor, or its equivalent, are made by the academic dean of the relevant unit. Promotions take effect on July 1, immediately following the decision.